James Sire on Naming Your Elepha

 

 

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James Sire on Naming Your Elephant

Review by Dr Alex Tang

 

James W. Sire (2004) Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept, Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic James Sire, Christian author and philosopher in this interesting book shares an interesting view of worldview. Aptly titled as naming the elephant, it goes back to the familiar story of three blind men and their perception of an elephant. How will they name the parts of the elephant they felt without knowing the whole animal? The history of this book goes back to 1976 when Sire published The Universe Next Door where he describes seven types of worldviews. He defines a worldview as

A worldview is a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously or inconsistently) about the basic makeup of our world.
When I first read the book then, I find his definition very cognitive and cerebral. Very chim-lah. 28 years later in this book, Sire offers us his hopefully definitive definition
A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being. (p.122)
I like his new definition better. Sire acknowledges here that knowing is not just a learning a set of presuppositions but also there are other ways of knowing such a learning through the heart by a story. The constructed reality in which we live in is not just cognitive or cerebral but also involves living out our understanding and commitment to it. In other words, building a worldview is learning , assimilation and commitment to live out the reality that we build. There is a lot of similarities between worldviews and spiritual formation. Spiritual formation also involves learning, assimilating what we learn to build a reality to guide us to live it out in

 the real world.  

 

|posted 2 February 2010|

               

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