The two worldviews.
There are two fundamental worldviews by which people discuss ethics. These are theism and atheism. There are also the positions of the agnostic who claims that until they have evidence they can never really know if god exists or not and the evidence they want is sensory and /or reason. The ignostics maintains that it is never possible to know if God exists or not. They are also seeking evidence by sensory means or through reason. Knowing is a stumbling block! There are different types of knowing and people do not all agree on what is knowledge and what is not. The atheists, agnostics and ignostics all seek intellectual knowing, which is gained through the agency of the ego-self. The theists all have, in different degrees, an awareness of some “deeper” level of knowing. This is beyond the intellect and hence outside of reason and logic. We call this type of knowing “faith based”. Ultimately the source of “deeper” knowledge is the mystical experience. It is being criticized, by atheists especially, as subjective, imaginary or self delusional etc., but all of these suggestions are false. The experience is not describable but it is possible to say some things about it. First it is not subjective or imaginary or self delusional as is claimed for the very simple reason that the ego self is not present. In fact the no self experience is the open gateway to mystical experience. Secondly it is an experience of a whole different level of existence, outside of the universes and yet not excluding them. It sounds nonsensical to the intellect. Most theists are only aware of a “deeper” knowing and have not realized their mystical experience as it has been too fleeting. Many people seek to validate their “deeper” knowing or faith through the holy texts. They seek to find them historically accurate and consider their literary styles etc in order to confirm their faith. To overcome all these problems of knowing and not knowing God, as a way of considering a person worldview, it is better to look at how people view reality first.
There are two basic ways in which people view reality. One way is to consider that reality is only physical. They say that the material is all that there is because they seek knowledge through sensory experience or logic and reason. Most scientists fall into this category. The other view of reality considers both a physical and a metaphysical (or non-physical) aspect. It is actually a totality of mental (non-physical) and material (physical) AND spiritual. I will call the two worldviews as separatist and holistic. These need some explaining first before I use them in my discussion of ethics.
The material only reality can be called a separatist worldview because every element within this reality is fundamentally unrelated to all others so individual but fundamentally separate from all others. This is the atheistic, agnostic and ignostic worldview. The material / non-material reality can be called a holistic worldview because every element within this reality is fundamentally related to all other elements so individual but fundamentally connected to all others. This is the theists worldview.
In Figure 2b I have drawn the material / non-material as two separate aspects of the one reality, however they are really intimately one. This does not say that “we are all one” as some new age people are claiming. If you look more closely you will find that New Age scientists believe in a material only reality. The “we are all one” that they talk about is a matter-energy continuum. The non-physical aspect or Mind contains an infinite set of conditions from which selections give rise to physical form. The Mind has two aspects. One is the field of potentiality, which we could describe as void, nothingness or emptiness. The other aspect is familiar, namely the field of manifestation or creation. It is tempting to talk about “Mind and matter” and talk about a duality but there is no real duality. All things are essentially empty.
The two worldview with respect to people’s view of reality.
The separatist /materialist’s view is necessarily a collection of independent parts that are fundamentally unrelated and only become related where there is interaction. Two or more elements of matter, whether inanimate (from fundamental particles to stars) or animate (plants, animals and humans) have to be brought together or come together to interact and form relationship. From this point of view, the whole is an assembly of parts, an aggregate. Thoughts and actions of everyone in a separatist’s universe is essentially unconnected. They treat thoughts as circuitry in the brain or arise as a result of the activity of the brain so mental information or thoughts cannot be perceived by anyone else. Phenomena like psi and ESP are not possible.
People of the separatist worldview do not consider that they bear any responsibility outside of whatever responsibility they choose to exercise. And this mostly involves those with whom they are related. Choosing to be responsible means responsibility is based on personal bias, ie subjective.
Diametrically opposed to this is the holistic position. Here “The Mind” (or “The Mind of God”) underpins everything in existence, thus brings every aspect of the universe into relationship. Through the mental level all elements in the field of manifestation are aware of each other. This point is most commonly accepted by shamans. Most others accept that only sentient living beings may be or are aware of each other. Shared ideas are possible, hence phenomena like psi and ESP are possible and real. So while brain activity may be used to describe thoughts, those thoughts are mental perception (ESP) rather than the result of sensory perception.
People of a holistic worldview see themselves related to all others and everything in existence. Being connected to all others they are both individual and interdependent. They have close relationships with particular others but they are fundamentally related to all others so they bear responsibility to all others for all of their actions. Being responsible is necessary both for the wellbeing of the individual and the collective. Where self and other are interconnected there is no choice. You cannot act responsibly for yourself and your loved ones without acting responsibly for the collective. Choosing to be irresponsible is still possible but it is a violation that carries consequences owing to the interdependence of all elements. Responsibility is not based on personal bias and opinions, ie it is not subjective. Our responsibility, how we act both to ourselves and all others is objective.
Relationship is key to ethics. So we need to appreciate the dynamics of relationship within these two worldviews to appreciate ethics. In the next post I will discus relationship with respect to the two worldviews.