Three Main Worldviews Chart

By Matt Baker email   Updated 8 Jan 2013

The nineteenth century German philosophy Wilhelm Dilthey was the first person to develop a comprehensive theory of major worldviews (German: Weltanschauung). The American Heritage dictionary defines a worldview as, "the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world." Our worldviews consist of our most basic beliefs, including our ontology (what we consider real), our epistemology (what we consider to be the best way to obtain knowledge), and our ethics (what we consider good and bad).

Dilthey felt that all worldviews fell into three main categories, each of which was based on the dominance of one of our primary mental acts or "attitudes":

Philosopher Democritus Philosopher Plato Philosopher Parmenides


The Idealism of Freedom
(Subjective Idealism)

Objective Idealism

Mental act emphasized



sees the physical, material world (as experieced through sense perception) as being the prime reality emphasizes the human experience of free will, seeing it as something that is not the result of physical causation; tends toward dualism (see the mind-body problem) sees reality as a living, divine whole and relies more in intuition when it comes to understanding the world


Democritus (shown above)
David Hume
Auguste Comte
Ludwig Feuerbach
Plato (shown above)
Immanuel Kant
William James
Parmenides (shown above)
Baruch Spinoza

Related worldviews

Secular Humanism Traditional Theism Pantheism

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