A Brief History of Western Worldviews

By Dr. Richard DeTar

A Progressive Living Distinguished Guest Essay

There are two basic streams, or threads, which run through the history of Western Philosophy. I am going to refer to them simply as "A" and "B" types of philosophy so as not to apply more descriptive terms which might be misleading, although that in itself might be misleading, because people might think of the "A" and "B" personality types, which really has nothing to do with it.


I chose "A" for the type I did because that type is older, prior in time as "A" is prior in the alphabet. Type A philosophy really is typical of what is taught by most of the traditional systems of religious wisdom and is in no way specific to the West. It teaches basically that our senses and their knowledge of the physical world mislead us. That world is in some sense illusory. I stress the words "in some sense" because according to the traditional wisdom of the West the material world cannot be entirely illusory. It cannot, because it is in the material realm that the will of God for his creation is worked out. History must be important, but the "real" reality, as in so many spiritual and religious traditions, somehow lies behind, or above, or perhaps within, the apparent physical reality we discern with our senses. Thus the "real" reality is in some way at odds with the apparent one, and it is not necessary to "save the appearances" as more scientific points of view do because the appearances are themselves misleading and draw us into error. This underlying true reality is perhaps best described as "spiritual," and perhaps that word, or maybe "religious," would be the best way to describe the type A, the traditional view. Yet there are variants of it in which the reality is not so much spiritual as idealistic, or even mental, which are not quite the same thing. Saying the true underlying reality is Mind is not quite the same thing as saying it is Spirit, though it is similar.


The opposite, type B, view, while not unknown outside the West, tends to be stronger in the West. It is essentially materialism, quite the opposite of the spiritual. It is less misleading to describe the type B view as material than to describe the type A view as spiritual. Materialism basically says that all that is real is essentially, as one of the ancient atomists put it, "atoms and the void." Any ideas of a spiritual reality are simply illusions, very much what the type A view says of the world apparent to our senses. Often this type B view sees notions of religion and/or the spiritual as forms of wishful thinking. As one might guess, the type B view of reality tends to be scientific as the type A is religious.


It is not the case, however, that A and B exhaust the possibilities. There is also "A+B," that is, those worldviews which attempt to somehow combine and reconcile the insights of the A and B worldviews so as to have the best of both worlds. Then there is also the view I characterize as "A/B" or "separate but equal" after an (in)famous Supreme Court decision. On this view, the religious or spiritual worldview, and the scientific and materialistic one, each contain important insights. But they pertain to two completely different aspects of reality, or even two different realities, which are somehow utterly separate from one another and do not have any effect on each other.


It would be an oversimplification to say that each of these four worldviews is typical of some period in the history of Western thought, but it is perhaps possible to say that the absence of one of them is typical of each period in that history. It is possible to find types A, B, and A+B in the ancient Greco-Roman world, but there does not seem to be much in the way of A/B. The ancient Western thinkers saw the world more as one than have recent theorists, and the idea that there really somehow are two entirely separate realities would have been rather repugnant to the ancient pagan mind.


In the Middle Ages, of course, what was largely missing was B, the materialistic point of view. Maintaining that point of view could in fact at various times and places have been positively hazardous to one's health.

In the early modern period, say the 17th and 18th centuries, it was not actually the case that type A philosophy, the spiritual and idealistic point of view, was not in evidence, it was just that the tides of thought were running against it and it was definitely under siege and at least seemingly fading away among the highly educated.


As we get further into the modern period, it becomes harder and harder to say that any of the four worldviews is not in evidence, for the simple reason that there are ever more people, more literacy, and thus ever more philosophers. It is becoming possible to find someone today espousing just about any view that has ever been heard of. But the A+B worldview, the view that tries to unite the spiritual and the material, is perhaps less in evidence than it has been formerly. It is very characteristic of the last couple of centuries for people to regard, for instance, what they say they believe on Sunday morning, and what they seem to believe the rest of the week, as both very important but not having much really to do with each other.


The roots of three of the four types of Western Philosophy lie in the earliest philosophers of the West, the Presocratics of the sixth and fifth centuries B. C. The exception is what I have called A/B Philosophy, the idea that the material world and some sort of spiritual realm of existence are of equal weight and value but so separated from one another that they can have no effect on each other. This fundamental way of seeing the world does not appear in the West until the Middle Ages, and it is no coincidence that it does not do so until after the Christianizing of Western thought near the end of the ancient period of history.


The classical Greeks and Romans knew, of course, of such what might be called "natural dualities" as male/female, Summer/Winter, and day/night, and they used them in their thought. They also made a great deal of such differences as those between appearance and reality and between the natural and the social, or human. But, generally speaking, one or both of two characteristics of such dualities was held to be the case: (1) They were not an absolutely separated duality, but rather a continuity, and life and reality flowed gradually back and forth from one to the other and back again in a ceaseless rhythm, or, (2) One side of the duality was regarded as greater or better than, superior to the other. The Greeks being well-known sexists, this was even true of the duality of male and female. What was missing in their thought and that of Rome was the idea of a fundamental duality which was absolute and in which each side was of equal value, "separate but equal."


The roots of each of the other three kinds of Philosophy run back to, in two cases, a pair of thinkers, or groups of thinkers, in the remaining instance three. In the case of what I have called "Type A," the more spiritual kind of Philosophy, these are the Eleatics and the spiritual, or religious, Pythagoreans. The Eleatics, like Zeno of Elea, depending upon how one interprets their fragmentary and thus somewhat enigmatic writings, appear to have denied that such apparent realities as change and motion are in fact real. A minority school of thought holds that they were in fact doing quite the opposite and trying to call into question the value of pure reason and logic in trying to understand reality. In one of Zeno's paradoxes, if an arrow is held to be stationary at various points in its path at various instants, when is it really moving? The answer is that it never moves. In another, if Achilles is moving exactly twice as fast as a tortoise and thus covers twice the ground covered by the tortoise in each segment of time, when will he catch up with it and pass it? The answer is that the relation of their movements is asymptotic. He will get increasingly close to it but can never actually catch up to it. The problem here is that movements which are in fact continuous are being treated as though they are an infinite series of discrete moments. Greek mathematics never quite caught on to that fundamental difference, though Aristotle hints at it. It was only in modern times that more sophisticated mathematics was able to solve these puzzles, and the fact is that serious academic papers were done on Zeno's paradoxes as late as the 1920s and perhaps even more recently, which is not bad for a thinker who lived before Socrates. The underlying point is that the Eleatics encouraged a worldview which might be seen as fundamentally spiritual, that underneath the apparent world of change and motion, the true reality is all one, eternally the same, and unchanging, rather like God, or various versions of spiritual reality. Our senses are not to be trusted as keys to True Reality.


The second source of Type A, spiritual or religious, Philosophy is the more religious branch of the Pythagoreans. That movement divided between such thinkers and those who laid greater emphasis on another aspect of the heritage of Pythagoras, mathematics. The latter version of his teachings led, as we shall see later, in a quite different direction. The Pythagoreans stressed various sorts of disciplines as ways to approaching truth. They had rules for living which included such matters as proper diet, and their practices were more like those of a religion than what we think of in the West as Philosophy, which has traditionally stressed simply the right ways in which to think, particularly how to properly think rationally, and has not usually gone beyond that to consider rules for life in general. This consideration of life as a whole has in the West been largely limited to the more spiritual philosophies. The Pythagoreans, for instance, did not eat beans, because the resultant gas produced proved that one had eaten what, as vegetarians, they should not, namely a living soul. (This prohibition of theirs has enlivened and made at least momentarily more interesting classes on the Presocratics for generations of young males.) The Greeks did not make the radical distinction made by later thinkers between spirit and matter. "Psyche," for instance, meant both the literal physical breath and the spirit, or soul.


Type B Philosophy, the materialistic sort, has its roots in three kinds of Presocratic thinkers. First, there are the atomists, like Democritus, whose teachings on the nature of the world had such great influence on those later Type B thinkers the Epicureans. In the Philosophy of the atomists, there is only one reality, and that is the physical world. It is composed of "atoms and the void." That is, there is empty space and there are, moving around within it, tiny, indestructible bits of matter (this was long before atom-smashing) which make the physical world what it is by combining with one another to make larger objects, by separating from one another, and by bouncing off one another to make movement, which is real. There is no such thing as spirit or the spiritual. That is just a fantasy.


In the Hindu tradition there is also a kind of atomism, in which the indestructible little particles are perpetually rearranged by a spiritual force or power. What makes Western materialism unique, despite how much of our mathematics we derived from India, is its combination with another Presocratic element of Type B Philosophy, mathematics, which largely derived from the mathematical wing of the Pythagorean school. In his classic history of Western Philosophy, Father Copleston calls this by the felicitous name of "panmathematicism," that is, the idea that everything is ultimately mathematical. These two ideas combined, atomism and panmathematicism, yield later mathematical physics, so fundamental to the Type B materialistic worldview in the West. They lie behind such later distinctions as Galileo's between primary and secondary qualities. The former were the only ones that could be dealt with mathematically, at least in his time, and they are the only characteristics (size, shape, motion, etc.) that are fully objectively real. According to this point of view, secondary characteristics, like color and anything at all tinged with emotion, are at least partly subjective and thus do not partake fully of reality.


Third in creating the type B, materialistic, worldview are the Sophists. Their name has come down to us as a synonym for philosophical chicanery and deception, but that is partly because Plato opposed them, and Plato has had such a great influence on the history of Western thought. At their worst, the Sophists were sort of an ancient equivalent of a "dress for success" book, advising their followers to do whatever was necessary to get ahead in the world, and an aura of relativism has surrounded materialistic Philosophy ever since. However, one could also view the Sophists as those who believed that no one really had an special key to the ultimate nature of reality. They tended to evaluate the human capability to arrive at knowledge of the fundamental, underlying realities of the universe quite modestly, including their own such abilities. Because they regarded the wrangling about the ultimate nature of reality typical of the previous, presocratic phase of Philosophy as having resulted in no conclusions, they despaired of success in such endeavors. This not unreasonably made them more accepting of the underlying views of their culture about right and wrong, since they did not believe they were in a position to challenge the prevailing views by suggesting better ones.


The third kind of philosophical worldview, which I have called "A+B" for it's efforts to combine the spiritual and the material, is best exemplified in Presocratic times by the works of two thinkers, Heraclitus of Ephesus and Empedocles of Acragas. In the thought of the former, reality is a flux, a constant flowing substratum that is at once matter and spirit. Once again, the distinction between the two was not drawn so sharply at Philosophy's beginnings as it later became. It was Heraclitus who stated that it is not possible to step into the same river twice. By the time one does so the second time, it is no longer the same river. Someone modified this by asserting that the pace of change is such that it is not possible to step into the same river even once. In the thought of Heraclitus, there is truly nothing constant but change itself. He regards the material world as real, but ever since the idea of materialism has occurred to thinkers, there has been a fundamental disagreement over the nature of matter. Generally speaking, that view which conceives of it as a vast collection of minute, tiny, discrete particles (atoms) has been more purely and thoroughly materialistic. A view like that of Heraclitus, which sees matter as a constantly changing, flowing unity, a continuous whole rather than a collection of tiny, discrete parts, is more favorable to the idea of the spiritual than is atomism. Why this should be so is sufficiently difficult to explain that I shall not now try, but to me at least it is to a certain extent intuitively obvious.

Whose secret Presence, through Creation's veins
Running Quicksilver-like eludes your pains;
Taking all shapes from Mah to Mahi; and
They change and perish all - but He remains - Omar Khayyam

The second Presocratic whose thought led in the direction of A+B Philosophy was Empedocles of Acragas. Empedocles was fascinated, as were many ancient Greeks, by the elemental fact that the world we experience exhibits a constant succession of "coming to be and falling away." Aspects of reality continually are coming into existence, enduring for awhile, and then going out of existence again. He ascribed this to the fact that the world, which he must have seen as at least somewhat like the aforementioned Heraclitean flux, was subject to two fundamental forces. He rather anthropomorphized these as Love and Hate. The force of Love was always tending to draw all things together, the power of Hate to drive them apart, and the real world was composed of the tension and interplay of these two opposites. In any object or aspect of reality, first one was dominant and then the other. Love created new things by bringing together their pre-existing parts. Hate eventually destroyed them by scattering those selfsame parts to the four winds as the object, whatever it might be, ceased to exist. One can see a somewhat analogous question today at the frontiers of physics in the debate over whether we live in a "closed" or an "open" universe. That is, will the expanding universe someday reverse itself and shrink back to the original cosmic egg, the ultimate triumph of Empedocles's figurative power of love, or will it continue to expand forever, driven by what he might have called hate, that which tends to separate all things?


In the next, the postsocratic, or Hellenic, period of ancient times in the West, there were four schools of Philosophy that were sort of "officially" recognized. There were others, but there were four that taught at fixed locations. They had, as we might put it today, permanent "campuses:" the schools of Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and the Epicureans.


Virtually everyone in the West who adheres to what I have called "type A" Philosophy is in some sense a follower of Plato whether they know it or not. He is the foundation of all those tendencies in the West that incline toward a worldview that is spiritual, or religious. In Plato, there is definitely another realm of being which lies behind, above, or within the material one, and it is the higher realm, the true reality. It is the realm of the Ideas. It would be a naive and unfair representation of Plato to say that in his Philosophy above the clouds the pure, perfect form of Dog barks at the pure, perfect form of Horse as the latter gallops by. But for his philosophy to make sense, he must believe something at least somewhat similar to that. In Platonism, the material world is the realm of change and inconstancy, the opposite of the eternal Forms, the Ideas. It is, in fact, but a pale and unsatisfactory reflection of the greater and higher world accessible only to the reasoning mind.


At the opposite extreme, representing type B, materialistic, philosophy among the Greco-Romans we find the Epicureans. The Epicurean worldview really is that reality is nothing but atoms and the void, following the earlier Greek atomists like Democritus. In Epicurus's view, most of the evil in the world was caused by people fearing death, and he intended to remove that fear. This is interesting in that many people in our Christian culture might say that the fear of death and the belief in divine reward and punishment are a major cause of good in the world. Epicurus may have succeeded in removing the fear of divine punishment for his followers, but his teachings do not seem to touch what someone has called the "existential fear of nonbeing." Epicurus and his followers did not teach a complete hedonism or an amorality. It is not the case that materialism necessarily leads in that direction, but they did teach a kind of enlightened self-interest which more spiritually inclined thinkers have found ignoble. I myself don't see much wrong with enlightened self-interest except that it so easily and frequently becomes unenlightened self-interest. Still, I do not see that those who follow it have done as much evil as have those who believed they were instruments of divine power. Admittedly, they probably have not done as much good either. They tend to fall rather in between the extremes of good and evil of which the more spiritually inclined are capable.


In between, and inclining toward the A+B position, one finds Aristotle and the Stoics. The latter are an interesting combination of the two basic positions. On the one hand, their ontology, their view of the fundamental nature of reality, was quite materialistic. I would stress, however, that that did not mean quite the same thing then as it does now, because before the Christianizing of Western Philosophy the later sharp distinction between matter and spirit was not made, as I have noted above in terms of the meaning of the Greek word "psyche." The Stoic view that each person contained a spark (quite literally a spark in some views) of the divine Spirit that upon that person's death merged with the literal, physical sun, would strike a modern scientist as highly mystical. On the other hand, the ethics they taught was virtually indistinguishable in its admonitions from Christian ethics. The difference depended on how one sees the two worldviews. If you are favorable to the Stoics, then what Christians are to do to get themselves into Heaven Stoics are to do simply because it is right, because "virtue is its own reward," an altogether more noble proposition. If you favor the Christian side, what Stoics do out of duty Christians do out of love and, as Hegel put it, "In love all thought of duty vanishes."


Aristotle was perhaps the greatest Western thinker favoring the joining of the A and B positions, and he may lie behind all such thinkers in the West as Plato lies behind all the A types. His objection to Plato was that the latter's idea that the Forms somehow "participated in" matter made no sense. What did "participated in" mean in this context? (Aristotle was at least at one time favored by followers of the British linguistic analysis school of Philosophy, because he may have been the first to ask their favorite question, "But what do you really mean by that?") In Aristotle, the fundamental way in which the two realms of being are conjoined is in his famous doctrine of form and matter. The two are never found apart from one another. That is, there is no separate realm of the Forms where they exist by themselves. They exist only in the material world. And one never finds "prime matter" by itself. It always has form, wherever and whenever it exists. He was also a moderate, of course, in his famous doctrine of the "Golden Mean" in ethics, the middle way between two extremes. (I realize the Golden Mean also had for the Greeks another meaning having to do with aesthetics.)


The meaning of Aristotle's Metaphysics has been interpreted to be simply an attempt to answer the question whether or not there is such a thing as Spirit. If there is, then first philosophy is Metaphysics. If there is not, then first Philosophy is Physics. He ultimately comes to the same answer that Plato did, namely that Spirit is real. However, it is apparent from his discussion that he takes the materialistic answer, that there is no such thing as Spirit, far more seriously than Plato did. Unlike Plato, he is not entirely an enemy of those earlier philosophers, the Sophists, whose name has come down to us, not entirely justly, as synonymous with a sort of philosophical dishonesty and chicanery. They probably did, at least some of them, teach a kind of ethical relativism. I'm not sure, however, that that is all that much worse than Plato's mysticism. Aristotle tended to begin his discussions in a rather modest way, by considering the opinions of "the many and the wise." "The wise" meant essentially his teacher Plato. "The many" meant more or less the opinion of the ordinary Greek in the street, or rather the agora. Interestingly, Aristotle usually comes to some view more or less in between those of the many and the wise, and he may be the pre-eminent philosopher of common sense, though whether that is because his views are commonsensical or because they have themselves shaped what we regard as common sense is not altogether clear. He allowed that Plato's views had a great deal to recommend them. After all, he was his student for about 20 years. But he might also have agreed with the person who wrote that Plato used logic to destroy common sense and make way for mysticism.


In Plato, there is just one right way to philosophize, and that way is dialectic, logical conversation. Aristotle was the first to try to direct the attention of his students directly to physical objects themselves, another way in which he valued the material world more highly than did Plato. In this he was probably just too empirical for his time, a reason I suspect why his school only lasted 150 years after his death, while Plato's endured until the beginning of the Middle Ages. Imagine trying to get Athenian aristocrats, who prided themselves, like all aristocrats, on never having to get their hands dirty, to dissect starfish!


Now as to the question of how these different worldviews are related to questions of ethics, of right and wrong, anyone's conception of the right ideals for human beings will be based on their concept of human nature. Even to say that human beings have no essential "nature" is, paradoxically, to say in a way that they have one, namely that they have none. It is similar to the problem of postmodern types who assert there is no "way things are." Is that really the way things are? Our concept of human nature will be based, in turn, on our concept of the nature of the world. All worldviews share the idea that the microcosm, Man, has more or less the same nature as the macrocosm, the universe. If a person sees people as essentially very sophisticated machines, then they are likely to see the universe the same way. There are, of course, worldviews, some in the tradition of the Western religions, which see humans as fundamentally and drastically different from the rest of reality, but I have always found such views problematic. They can really only find human nature fundamentally different from physical nature. There must, in such views, be an overarching or underlying spiritual reality, the "real" reality, with which human nature is in fact in accord.


But there is a real problem with relating these underlying worldviews in a very direct way to various ethical positions and ways of life in the practical sense. The problem is that there does not seem to be a direct one-to-one relation between a particular underlying worldview and a particular morality, ethics, or way of life. I would agree that no ethics is possible without a metaphysics. I would go farther and say that even the complete denial of any value to metaphysics is nevertheless, interestingly, a metaphysics. It seems to be impossible to think philosophically without some underlying idea of "how the world really is," even if that underlying idea is that it isn't any particular way at all. That itself, ironically, is a conception of how it is, of the nature of reality. The problem is that a particular view of the nature of the world does not lead inexorably to a particular view of how we human beings should behave in that world, although it may well be, on further and future examination, that it will be the case that each worldview INCLINES those who hold it toward some kinds of ethical and moral positions and away from others.


But let us take some extreme cases by way of illustration. Let us begin by imagining two hypothetical individuals whose ethical conduct and ways of life we would consider exemplary, of the highest order. The problem is that when we examine their worldviews, the conceptions of the nature of reality based on which they act, they turn out to be completely different. One of them is, let us say, very spiritual, an enlightened soul of a perhaps Gandhian persuasion. The other is acting on the basis of a fundamental concern for others which is quite instinctive and owes nothing at all to any spiritual or religious conception and of an extremely enlightened conception of her own self-interest, which sees it as inextricably intertwined with the interests of other selves as a matter of fact, even though perhaps the fundamental selfishness of her worldview might make her wish that such was not the case. Somewhere in one of Thomas Jefferson's letters, he surmises that a concern for others and for one's own self-respect can lead one to conduct similar to that encouraged by religion.


Now let us take two hypothetical individuals whose conduct we find abhorrent, who we would hold up as bad examples of almost Hitlerian proportions. Again, perhaps embarassingly, on close examination the underlying philosophical grounds for their conduct turn out to be quite different. One of them avows, though it is actually unlikely such a person would avow the position I am about to describe, since to do so would in itself make their pursuit of it less effective, that each individual person is in the world solely and exclusively to look after himself. Reality is a constant Hobbesian war of each against all, and there are absolutely no rules whatsoever which limit the way an individual pursues his personal self-interest. The second hypothetical moral and ethical terrible example turns out to be a very spiritual and religious person, and precisely because of that commits horrible crimes in the extremely sincere belief that God, or whatever spiritual power is regarded as supreme, has ordained and ordered it. I believe it was T. S. Eliot, a very religious man, who admitted that, unfortunately, the person who is prepared to die for his beliefs is all too often willing to kill for them.


To directly relate this typology of worldviews to the various ethical positions to which these worldviews lead is somewhat conjectural, in that this will consist partly of informed speculation about what ethical views a person would be likely to have who espoused the different metaphysical positions. That is, to what views of right and wrong might each worldview be expected to lead? I'm not prepared at this time to give definite examples illustrating each point. But I do in a general way based on many past years of reading have a sense of how the answers to this shape themselves. It's not based entirely on deducing probable ethical positions from their underlying metaphysics. Some of it is based on actual cases in which the one led to the other, but I can't call up the examples at this time.


What I've called "Type A" Philosophy, the view that ultimate reality is spiritual, or perhaps mental or again perhaps in some sense ideal, would tend to lead one to the conclusion that underlying all the diverse elements of physical reality, what the Japanese Zen Buddhists call "the ten thousand things (a great understatement)," there lies a spiritual reality in which all is in fact One. In this view, true reality is characterized not by its diversity but by its oneness. Such a view, one would think, would find it very easy to ethically emphasize the interrelatedness of all things which is so crucial to, for instance, the environmental movement and environmental ethics and to those viewpoints which emphasize the value of community and how we all are part of one biosphere. They would, however, not necessarily value individual rights and individual civil liberties, since individual people, like individual objects, are not looked upon as being, in some sense, ultimately real. The opposing viewpoint, the "billiard ball universe" of classical eighteenth-century materialism, would, conversely, find it very easy and fundamental to acknowledge individual rights and liberties, since all that IS real in any ultimate sense is individual objects and all that is real in a sociopolitical sense are individual human beings. This worldview sees such considerations as family, community, and nation, let alone one world, as in some sense abstractions. It has been my own experience that hard-core libertarians very often have such an individualistic worldview based on Age-of-Reason conceptions of physical reality.


The Type A thinker tends very often to direct his or her attention inward. "Inquire within." A worldview which is at least to some extent mystical very often tends to look inside the self for guidance and answers. Atomistic materialism, on the other hand, usually directs one's attention outward, to the physical reality outside the self, which is seen as more objective and in some sense more real than internal realities. When psychology began to attempt to be scientific, there was a Cartesian sense in some quarters that this was not legitimate because science pertained strictly to the material sphere outside the self while what lay within was entirely the subject-matter of religion and mysticism. There is still a relation between materialistic ontology and behavioral psychology, the kind of psychology which denigrates introspection as a source of knowledge.


While "materialism" in a philosophical sense is much bigger and deeper than the sort of purely economic meaning people usually give to that word, there is a certain tendency for the two to go together. Someone with a materialist metaphysics is more likely to regard strictly material aspects of well-being as legitimate aspects with which to concern oneself, although this may take the form of concern for the material well-being of others and it may take the form of concern for the material well-being strictly of oneself alone, or of a few people close to one. Those for whom reality is fundamentally spiritual or mental are more likely to consider the strictly material aspects of well-being to be of no real consequence and try to draw people's attention away from them to allegedly higher concerns and considerations. In contrast to that, one thinks of George Orwell's comment on the materialism of the poor: "How right they are to be materialistic!" A difficulty with spiritual conceptions of reality is that they can sometimes fulfill Karl Marx's conception of religion as "the opiate of the masses," making people content with situations with which they really should not be content on the theory that such things really don't matter much and/or all will be made right in Heaven. The issue of abortion, for instance, may be one in which the connections between metaphysics and ethics are stronger than usual. One's views will be shaped by whether or not one believes there is an immortal soul the well-being of which vastly outweighs considerations for the well-being of the body.


The Type A, spiritual view of reality tends to define the good largely in terms of selflessness, and that any concern for oneself is wrong or even evil. One should live entirely for others. The tendency for people with worldviews like this to often help and serve the poor is partly a reflection of this selflessness and partly a result of the concept that material goods in general are not sufficiently important that one should devote much time and effort to either accumulating them or safeguarding them from others. The Type B, more materialistic philosophies, by contrast, are more likely to approve of enlightened self-interest as a legitimate and useful ethical principle, perhaps even as the best and most important ethical principle.


The A+B Philosophies, which try to combine these two extreme worldviews in some way will, one would expect, arrive at ethical positions rather in the middle of the dichotomies above presented. The A/B ones, which regard the two views as separate but of equal importance, pertaining to separate realities, are a little harder to characterize, since it is not always easy to see how antithetical views of right and wrong can be separated. Perhaps "A" and "B" views are sometimes seen as each applying in differing times, places, and/or situations.