The German word weltanschauung is usually translated “worldview”. It is a conjunction of the German word welt which translates as “world” and anschauung which translates as “view”. However, the root of anschauung is the Old German word schouwen which means “to look at”. Consequently, we can see that worldview corresponds to the way in which we look at the world, as well as the view we have of it.

Carl Jung, in his essay Analytic psychology and Weltanschauung, provides useful amplification of the notion of worldview. First, he asserts that worldview is in many ways ‘an attitude that has been formulated into concepts’. (p. 358) , and that accordingly, ‘you cannot see the world without seeing yourself, and as a man sees the world, so he sees himself’ (p. 362). Second, and very importantly, ‘we can only speak of a Weltanschauung when a person has at least made a serious attempt to formulate his attitude in conceptual or concrete form, so that it becomes clear to him why and to what purpose he acts and lives as he does’. (p.361) . However, he does acknowledge that even the person who has not made such an effort still has a worldview, albeit an unconsciously constructed one that ‘education and environment have forced on him’ (p. 377). Therefore, given that the operation of a worldview is unconscious, insofar as it is in many ways a complex, every effort should be made to make it’s formation at least partly conscious, and herein lies one of the necessary tasks of individuation.

I am also very attracted to Anthony Wallace’s definition of worldview as ‘not merely a philosophical by-product of each culture like a shadow, but the very skeleton of concrete cognitive assumptions on which the flesh of customary behavior is hung’ and something which is ‘implicit in almost every act’ (Wallace 1970, p. 143). This is totally consistent with Jung’s explication of weltanschauung, and even suggests the unconscious operative nature of worldview.

From this I conclude that worldview is the implicit framework (skeleton) upon which we hang the specific things we believe (concrete cognitive assumptions) and upon which our behaviour is unconsciously predicated.

Jung, C. G., 1969, ‘Analytic psychology and Weltanschauung‘ in The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, vol. 8, Hull, R. F. C. (ed), Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, UK

Wallace, A. F. C., 1970, Culture and Personality, Random House, New York, US

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Posted: March 10, 2017


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