A worldview consists of one’s beliefs about:
- Ontology. What kinds of things exist? Rocks? Organisms? Persons? Neutrinos? Souls? Gods? Properties? Propositions? Numbers?
- Explanation. How do the things that exist work? What are their causes and effects?
- Values. What has value? What is good and bad? Do moral values exist? If so, what makes something morally good or morally bad? What should we do?
- Epistemology. How do we know which things exist, how they work, and what has value? Do we know anything at all?
Below is one possible high-level taxonomy of worldviews. Note that each of the terms used below have several meanings, and I have chosen but one of them. Moreover, each of my divisions could have been made in a different way. For example, my first division could have concerned values instead of ontology.
The First Division
But as it is, the highest level of my taxonomy concerns a disagreement in ontology. Naturalism contends that nothing exists except “the natural things, forces, and causes of the kind that the natural sciences study… and which have mechanical properties amenable to mathematical modeling.”1 (This is an extreme oversimplification of a complex topic,2 as is always the case on this page.) Non-naturalism contends that there are some “extra” things whose existence the naturalist denies – for example, that there are moral properties that do not reduce to natural properties. But if a worldview defends the existence of non-natural minds, we will place it in a third category: Supernaturalism.
Most philosophers are naturalists.3 Because naturalistic science has been more successful in a few centuries than the metaphysical speculations of philosophy have been over several millennia, most philosophers are eager to develop an understanding of all phenomena as natural phenomena, including things like human consciousness and ethics.
Naturalistic worldviews include:
- Religious Naturalism. Some forms of Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism do not invoke the existence of non-natural or supernatural entities. So, too, for so-called ‘secular Jews’ and ‘secular Christians.’ [under construction]
- Conservative Naturalism. [under construction]
- Liberal Naturalism. [under construction]
There are many things about which someone may be a non-naturalist:
- Moral values. Some people think there are non-natural moral facts that are not grounded in supernaturalism and do not reduce to natural facts. Living defenders of this view include: Michael Huemer, Robert Audi, Russ Shafer-Landau, Colin McGinn.
- Universals. Some people think that abstract objects, numbers, and properties (such as the property of ‘being more massive than the Statue of Liberty’) exist, but not physically or supernaturally. Living defenders of this view include: [under construction]
Most people are supernaturalists. They agree with non-naturalists that some things exist beyond the natural world, and in particular they assert that at least one mind exists beyond the natural world. Non-natural minds may include the mind of God, the minds of souls, or the minds of angels and demons and jinn and ghosts.
Supernaturalist worldviews include:
- Abrahamic Religion. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all believe in the God of the ancient patriarch Abraham. Most of them also believe in an afterlife for supernatural souls. Living philosophical defenders include: Alvin Plantinga, Peter van Inwagen, William Lane Craig, [under construction]
- Eastern Religion. [under construction]
- Traditional Religion. [under construction]
- Paranormalism. [under construction]