We all dwell within reality, and each of us has a unique experience with reality as we go through life. The fact that we each have a unique experience is one part of the various reasons why some view truth as relative to each individual person. Each of us live “in our own little world.” Even whole cultures will seem to be in a “world” all of their own. Sometimes we catch ourselves making the comment to an aloof friend, “Man, you seem like you are in a whole other world right now.” What is it that we are talking about exactly when we say “World?” World is used in many different ways, from identifying new planets from a sci-fi perspective to talking about starkly differing communities. How we view the world is a major component of philosophy and the major tenets of what we hold to at the Basic level has to do with how we understand “worlds”. I will be introducing a slightly different way of understanding “Worlds,” but let us first review the common definitions of world from Merriam-Webster:
- The earthly state of human existence.
- The earth with its inhabitants and all things upon it.
- Individual course of life.
- The system of created things.
- A part or section of the earth that is a separate independent unit.
The list goes on with a wide variety of contexts within which the term “World” is used. In the context of this article (Properly Basic or First Principles) it is important to identify “World” as something unique within our way of grasping reality. How this term is understood can impact much of the rest of our Worldview, so we need to be sure that we are on the same page when talking about reality and humanity’s perception of it. Please be sure to review the first article in this series which is on reality so you know what is meant by it as it will be used frequently in this article and others. Allow me to introduce this way of defining the term “World” as it will be used in this series:
A World is the total sum of reality of which an individual or group of individuals has experienced and knows, knows about and is aware of, believes in, and is speculated about.
It is the whole body of knowledge about reality that an individual or group of individuals has retained and lives in full awareness of. A person’s World can only be comprised of that amount of reality to which the person has been exposed to and has come to comprehend in at least a basic amount. It is comprised of a certain structure of parts that we can break down in order to better grasp other philosophical areas and a person’s reasons for their beliefs in those areas. These parts are:
- That which is known (or experienced).
- That which is known about (or aware of and understood).
- That which is believed (neither experienced or fully understood but accepted).
- That which is speculated (that which is uncertain but influential).
That Which is Known (or Experienced)
The most significantly impactful part of a person’s World is that which is truly known or which has been personally experienced by the person. One can easily go down the path of psychology from here, so please don’t get distracted by the theories of that field while reading this article (they are addressed separately). As a part of a person’s World, that which a person experiences of reality is what will most significantly influence their perception of the rest of reality. That is because what they experience is total reality for them, while up to the moment of experience, that reality already existed whether the person knows it or not. When I use the term “Know” I mean experienced. To know something is to not only have that “head knowledge” about it, but to also have experience of that thing’s essence and impact. One can “feel” what is known because it has impacted them. This is the bulk of any individual or group of individuals’ World.
While an individual (or group) lives and experiences reality, there will necessarily be other realities about which they know about and understand, things they have not experienced or quite fully understand but accept, and that which they can only but speculate about. Reality remains as it is at any given moment in time, but there is only so much of reality that any individual can know and understand having experienced it. Somethings which are experienced become a reality for the person, though the underlying realities about the experience may remain unknown. All else is either taught to them by those who have experienced it and accepted as taught, or it is speculated about based upon that part of reality which is known. This does not mean that what they have experienced is understood fully, but it is known by the person who has experienced it none the less. As time and life carry forward, a person’s “Known part” of their world can grow as they experience more of reality (if they so choose).
That Which is Known About (or aware of and understood)
The next most influential or impactful part of a person’s World is that part of reality which is known about. This means that the individual (or group) knows about the reality and at least in part understands it, but has not necessarily experienced it. Their ability to know about this reality is based upon how much of that reality can be understood by that which is known or experienced. For example, many of us know about the NASA space program. We’ve seen TV clips of astronauts being launched into space and can learn about the organization from their website. We can talk to those who have been a part of NASA and learn about what all they do. We can even take a tour of their facilities. We know generally that it does exist, that it is real, and we can understand it comprehensively, but perhaps not in specifics. We have not experienced it ourselves. We have not gotten to ride on the shuttle or go into space. But there is enough of an awareness about that reality that we can say we Know about it, and because of our various forms of exposure to it, we can say it is a reality and be true. We are aware of it being a reality, we understand it as such, and we know about it, but we have not experienced it in its fullness or completeness. Though what we do know may be sufficient.
This part of our world is where we are exposed to a greater chunk of reality, and it influences how we view the totality of all reality. There is only a rather subtle difference between this part and the Known part of our World. Philosophically speaking though, there comes a great divide here. While there is little argument (but there are some who still do) regarding the nature of a person’s World in its Known part, whether or not a person “can know” about this part is heavily debated. Can one really, truly know anything about what they have not personally experienced? Is belief or faith to be introduced at this point? Can the example given about NASA be used as justification for a person knowing the truth about NASA? Is a person justified in saying something is true by giving evidence that falls into this part of their World or another person’s World?
For the Christian, there is little argument here. That which is known about, that which a person is aware of and understands, is just as much truth and reality as their Known part. While one does not have to personally jump off of a cliff to know that it is not a good idea, they also cannot say they know what it is like to do so. It is still reality, and is still true, and is still a real part of their world. Such knowledge of reality can be used as justification for accepting something as true, and to say such things are true is not necessarily belief or taken on faith. This is often brought up in arguments regarding Jesus and His historicity or subjects regarding the Bible and what is written in it. If a person is taught about a reality, and they can come to understand it, then it can reasonably be accepted as true. It is a part of their World and is just as valuable as the known part and justifiable. Does one have to ride in the space shuttle to know that people ride in the space shuttle? Of course not. Does one have to be present at the crucifixion to know that someone died on the cross? Of course not. Can one reasonably accept the testimony of others about such an experience and be justified in doing so? Yes, they can. At this point it is not a matter of belief, but is a matter of reality being made known to others who have not personally experienced it themselves.
That Which is Believed (neither experienced or fully understood but accepted)
The next part of a person’s World consists of those aspects of reality which have not been experienced, either by the person or others telling about the reality, and that might not be fully understood, but is accepted as being true. This is the part of a person’s World where they have accepted statements about a reality which has not been experienced by the one making the statement or those who hear it. This is the part where what is Known and Known about are used to support a conclusion about reality that is not experienced by anyone. To accept something as true without having experienced it or fully understanding it is a matter of belief. This is not to say that there is not sound justification for accepting the statement as true. This is why this is identified as its own unique part of an individual’s (or group’s) World. Though no one within the group or the individual has experienced the reality being conveyed, it is reasonable to conclude that the statement is explaining a reality. Once the reality is experienced, it can then be known. However, for the individual (or group) it is accepted to be just as true as that which has been experienced in some form (either part of the Known part or the Known about part).
What known facts are used to explain the conclusion that is believed is sufficient for the individual (or group) to accept it as a part of reality. This, combined with the Known and the Known About parts, makes up the fullness of a person’s World. At this point, it is important to mention again, this does not mean it is actually reality because they believe it. It is that these conclusions are treated as though they were reality and their truth is used in the person’s life. It impacts the way they view the rest of reality. It influences their decision making and how they address reality. This is where Theory becomes a player in influencing a person’s world when it relates to repeatable and experiential realities. Reality is what is regardless of the individual (or group) and their beliefs. So, whether what is believed is actual reality or not has no impact on reality itself. But it does have an impact on the person’s Worldview. As they come to discover more about actual reality, these beliefs will influence how the reality is accepted, and how drastically the newly discovered reality will impact how they view the world they live in. This is where there is much heated debate in the world of philosophy (makes one read that statement in a different way, doesn’t it?). If a person believes that something is true about a yet to be discovered (in other words, experienced) thing, and that which is a falsifier of that belief is discovered instead, it can have a tremendous impact on that person’s life. This is where a Transformation of that person occurs, and is a significant and joyful moment in the Christian world along with many others.
What is unique about this part from the Known About part is that the individual (or group) has not experienced the reality, and does not fully understand it. For matters of reality that are Known About, there is some form of actual exposure to the reality. Like with the NASA example, the individual or group of individuals knows that it is real because it has been shown to them. Though they do not experience NASA as one would being an employee there, (living their daily lives fully involved in it) they still know it is real and they have at least a general comprehension or understanding of it. For the Belief part, those parts of reality which contribute to the reality under study have been experienced or known about, but the grand total of the reality itself has not yet been experienced, and little is truly known about it. What is believed can be true to reality (but not certainly known), be some partial truth of the reality (where the “whole picture” is not known), or might not be reality at all (a false belief). A person can accept that something will happen in the future, and believe that it will for justifiable reasons, and due to the soundness of those reasons, it is likely that it is true. Though the reality has not yet been experienced, because of what is known about the reality, the reality can be known before it comes to fruition.
That which is speculated (that which is uncertain but influential).
This brings us to the last part of an individual’s (or group’s) World. That which is speculated. This is where the realm of Theory really comes into play. This involves those realities which cannot be experienced by anyone. This includes things such as realities of the past, but more specifically, singularities. Where this part separates itself from the other parts is that something is being posited as a possibly true conclusion. While there are premises that are known to be true that are used to argue for the conclusion, they do not do so directly. In Philosophical terms, these conclusion are inductive not deductive. The Belief part is deductive logic applied to understanding realities which have not yet been fully experienced. Once the conclusion is reached, ways to test the conclusion can be developed because of what realities that pertain to it have been experienced and understood and can be utilized in bringing about the reality which is believed. This is generally the practice of operations science in understanding material things and experiential metaphysics (this phrase may require further explanation, but for another time) in relation to the immaterial things. Once the conclusion is deductively developed, the individual (or group) can be guided to experiencing the reality, though it may take time to make it happen.
However, in the Speculated part, the conclusion is derived from an inductive connection between the premises. That is to say, the premises are related to one another only in light of the conclusion. The premises are not directly connected to the reality, or it is the relationship between the premises that is being concluded to argue for a direct connection. Where deductive logic entails the conclusion logically following from the premises because the relationships are known and directly connected, inductive logic entails a probable connection between the premises with a degree of strength in validating the conclusion. While this can be done in matters pertaining to the Belief part of an individual’s (or group’s) world, it is more directly related to the Speculated part. This does not mean that a person is not able to believe (or accept as true) a Speculated conclusion. What creates the separation is that the Speculated conclusion, only being developed inductively, cannot necessarily be experienced (for some reason which can be changed). Again, the conclusion is with regards to a singularity, some event which is not repeatable and is therefore not able to be experienced in its exactness and wholeness again. However, our knowledge about the singularity can increase, and as more of reality is discovered, we can come to greater logical certainty about it.
Many Speculated beliefs about reality have strong arguments in support of their validity. Many do not. As the individual (or group) continues to grow in its accumulation of knowledge about reality, it is possible that what is Speculated can then move into the Belief part. Then as the belief comes to be experienced in its parts, it can then move into the Known About part. Then once the reality is experienced in its wholeness or entirety, it then becomes a Known part of a person’s World. That which is speculated is not necessarily a part of reality. It could actually be directly in contradiction to reality, but it is important to remember that for the individual (or group) at the time, they are not aware. The reality remains as it is regardless of the individual’s (or group’s) knowledge or speculation about it. That which is speculated has a direct impact on a person’s World if, and only if, that person chooses to believe that what is speculated is true. What brings a person to believe that something which is speculated is true is dependent squarely upon the individual. Every individual will have some collection of criteria by which they identify what qualifies as evidence or proof (this point will be developed further later on). Generally, the less one knows about reality, and the less one has experienced the process through which we learn about reality, the more willing they are to accept speculations as being true, at which point they remain in the Speculated part of their World, though they think it is a Belief part.
So, what is the point of understanding all of this? I am sure you already have your mind swirling about what you believe and what is speculated and how to tell them apart. A mature person will acknowledge that which is speculated to indeed be speculated. The mature person accepts the truth that they do not know anything about the possible reality they are attempting to explain or understand. They separate consciously and carefully that which is speculated about from that which is believed to be true based on some collection of experienced facts. What separates the two is how much of reality the individual (or group) has experienced. All things in reality are connected in some form or another. The principle of the causality of events in the cosmos demonstrates this point. However, there are some who would even argue against that! It remains true, however, that the more one experiences life (that is, reality), the more clear certain unexperienced realities become. As we expand the parts of our World comprising the Known and the Known About, our ability to identify the speculated and the believed becomes increasingly more clear. As we mature, we are able to better organize our World into these parts and in doing so, gain a certain clarity to “the way the world really works.”
For the Christian, we must understand that our beliefs are grounded in certain known realities. Across 2000 years of human history, the experience of millions of people has confirmed the experiential reality of God and the impact of Jesus on humanity in its relationship with God (not to exclude the 4000 years of human experience prior to this in the Old Testament of course). Our World can be quite different from the Worlds of those who have not yet come to discover the reality of Jesus. However, in many cases, our Worlds are quite similar in general. It is important to note that many peoples’ worlds consist of an open denial of certain realities which they only speculate about because they have chosen to not expose themselves (or allowed themselves to be exposed to) certain realities of life. For many, they tend to “hyper-concentrate” on only a specific set of realities, and because of the felt stability it brings to their personal world, they are completely unwilling to accept any new realities into their World. Accepting reality is a choice. We can just as readily deny reality as we can come to accept it. Many people have experienced some reality that has completely shocked and turned upside down their whole World because of its significance. New realities can completely undue the World a person creates for themselves if they have not yet come to understand that there are certain realities they do not yet know about.
As we go into the World of Reality itself, we must always have this general framework for understanding the Worldviews of others in mind. For some, they are mature enough in their life experience to accept new realities when they have been shown to them. For others, they are not yet mature enough, or they have become stubborn and unwilling to hear anything about other realities they have not been exposed to yet. We must also be ready for those who hear about significant new realities that turn their personal world upside down, but they are happy to have it happen! Within our Christian World there is known in Theology the term Transformation. It is a desired goal and is something that is caused by exposure to the reality of the Holy Spirit in one’s personal life. The result of experiencing the Holy Spirit turns the person’s World upside down and completely reconfigures it. It results in a complete change in how they view the rest of reality (indeed, it allows them to see it more clearly), and makes them more eager to explore and understand more of it! As described in this article, that Transformation is what is brought about in a person’s life (their World) when they not only hear the Gospel, but come to accept it. At this point, it becomes a belief, and as they grow spiritually, they experience more of it, moving it from belief to that which is Known About. Then it eventually achieves the goal of becoming a part of the Known part of their World as they experience God working in it.
I pray that this Article, in the context of The Basics Series, will open your mind to the fullness of Reality. That it will help you to better grasp the World that you are in, and help you to organize it so that you know what you believe, and that which you speculate about. I pray that it will drive you to thirst for the truth. Seek the truth always. Remember, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the truth, the way, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6. Perhaps this introduces a new understanding of that verse…