Epistemology III: Common Ground

“What is the difference between a world view and an agenda?”

[Originally published on MySpace on May 6, 2010.]

What is the difference between a world view and an agenda?

A world view is system of knowing that allows you to notice, identify and make comparisons between all kinds of different cool (and not so cool) stuff floating by the windows of your mind minute by minute.  It is the magic spell by which you conjure truth for yourself and for your fellows.  People look for this kind of thing in stone, but typically don’t find it there, although lots of us tend to pretend we do.

An agenda is the basis upon which you act according to your world view.  Sometimes it is hidden, or at least you pretend you don’t have the agenda you have, and then it becomes the basis upon which you act despite what you claim as your world view (which is a clever sort of lying, actually).  An agenda is composed of impulses and desires that are not necessarily arranged in any logical or rational form, although there may be reasons for its component parts, and it is mutable at the drop of a hat.  In other words, it’s not really a system the way a world view is a system.  It’s what you want and how you feel, influenced by but not beholden to any rules, internal or external.

The upshot of this is that no two people, or any number of people, or even GROUPS of people, are going to be able to get along, regardless of a multiplicity of world views, unless there is to begin with a genuine underlying desire buried somewhere deep inside each person’s psyche to actually get along.

(Make any sense?  If so, continue to the next question.  If not, of course please explain what you think.)

So, where does our responsibility lie (if we have one) in dealing with our own internal agendas, and in dealing with the agendas of others, particularly in situations where we are faced with (seemingly) opposing world views?

6:57 AM  23 Comments  4 Kudos

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23 Responses to Epistemology III: Common Ground

  1. Thea says:


    This is w00t. Makes sense indeed. I suppose, you try to pave a way towards more openness of mind here? Worldviews differ, but it is the ‘agenda’ that prevents a smooth exchange of thought? You aim at more flexibility of the mind?

    Posted by jcmmanuel on May 6, 2010 – Thursday – 10:03 AM

    • Thea says:

      Yes, I am trying to pave a way towards more openness of mind. An agenda that does not include a desire to get along, or at least a genuine willingness to try to understand (for instance instead it includes a desire to win or score points or save face or preserve territory or is simply posturing, or even just a whim for messing with people’s heads for the entertainment it affords), can prevent a smooth exchange of thought. As I’ve said to you and others a few times now, you can be “right” till you’re blue in the face, that doesn’t make you good if you’re not taking care of yourself and of the person you’re dealing with in a way that is respectful and compassionate, and failing to do so can undermine your credibility, whether or not the position you’re arguing might also suffer. When I posed the question about responsibility, I had in mind the idea that we each need to be aware of our own internal agendas with as much honesty as we can bring to bear, and that in dealing with the agendas of others, we need to listen carefully for what they’re asking us for that may be unspoken yet threaded through in between the lines of what they actually say. If you can hear that part and figure out a way to meet that need without compromising your own integrity, then I say you should go for it, so that hopefully, in addition to providing amelioration (or succor?) all by itself for that individual, progress can be made in developing common ground. So yes, flexibility of the mind helps a lot.

      Of course, clairvoyance would help even more…LOL!

      Posted by Thea on May 6, 2010 – Thursday – 6:57 PM

      • Thea says:


        Clairvoyance would probably make you being right but not good;)

        The only remark I have is, to be careful not to suspect an ‘agenda’ behind what other’s say. That’s a danger too. I’d say it’s already hard enough to discover our own agenda.

        Posted by jcmmanuel on May 7, 2010 – Friday – 2:46 AM

        • Thea says:

          Agreed. I mentioned clairvoyance as an oblique acknowledgment of the fact that it’s difficult to guess at someone else’s agenda, and even so, whatever information you might garner still has to be interpreted by you–as filtered through your own agenda.

          If you were to tell me to be careful about coming to any solid conclusions about what another person’s agenda might be, I’d agree with you there, too. But darlin’, if someone’s calling you an “asshat,” there’s more going on than just a straightforward discussion, particularly if they’re overtly displaying a bunch of other “don’t tread on me” kinda stuff. Again, this is of course as filtered through my own agenda–which has to do with a Mama Bear quality.

          Posted by Thea on May 7, 2010 – Friday – 3:23 AM

    • Thea says:

      Jeffrey Onehorse:

      I take exception to the assertion that “agenda” is the reason smooth exchange of thought often fails to take place…I have sat with people who hold views that are anathemically opposed to my own and laboriously (sometimes as long as 12 hours straight) broken down and isolated the true differences of our opinion and they are ALWAYS ultimately based on relative experiences. I doubt that many folks would argue that “experiences” are more a component of Agenda than of Worldview.

      Now, what I will concede is that these conversations of which I speak were held between people who were in some way beholden to endure the laborious dissection of their conversational basis, and thus it can be argued that they were at some level “of a same mind”. BUT I would then immediately assert that we are all (or nearly all) at a similar level of same mindedness.

      I do NOT exclude the adverse effect of “agenda” upon the communication and decision making processes, BUT I strongly assert that the agenda is an outgrowth of common needs, and desires, and that agenda is only contradictory between people as a result of faulty and/or incomplete worldviews.

      All that said there is a phenomenon that many miscast as good versus evil, which is more sensibly and effectively viewed as entropic-oblivion-defeatist versus ascension minded. Enter Demonology.

      Posted by Jeffrey Onehorse on May 6, 2010 – Thursday – 11:07 AM

      • Thea says:


        Demonology is in itself an expression of contrast versus an all-good God. Given that we do have a concept of ‘good’ (whether or not called ‘god’), we also have a concept of not-good. It’s just that to think in extremes is not within our grasp (I think Thea wrote something along those lines too a while ago).

        Worldview, agenda… Agenda is not a word often used in the context of knowledge. It’s more like the word ‘ideology’ – more a thing of the Will. Worldview however is more directly connected to knowledge, the mind. Related: mindset? More subtle: state of mind…

        Posted by jcmmanuel on May 6, 2010 – Thursday – 2:35 PM

  2. Thea says:

    Jeffrey Onehorse:

    I think that an “agenda” is, in the broad connotative sense, the largely self-deluded and largely wishful thinking/revisionist history representation of our motivations, rationales and intents. I believe that the underlying phenomenon that you described and labeled as “agenda” may need a distinct collective term, but can be discussed in terms of those three aforementioned elements.

    Posted by Jeffrey Onehorse on May 6, 2010 – Thursday – 11:52 AM

    • Thea says:

      Inchoate or incipient needs or desires? I’m wondering if the relationship between this and, as you said, “the largely self-deluded and largely wishful thinking/revisionist history representation” might be a bit closer than the word “representation” suggests. In fact, I’m tempted to use the word “manifestation.” An agenda is a manifestation of our inchoate needs and desires, and, since those needs and desires are by nature not rationally understood, are rather unarticulated and inarticulate impulses, they are subject to internal and external contexts for the shape their manifestation takes practically the instant they emerge, while at the same time influencing those internal and external contexts (tensors and vectors? In which the relationship is understood more as a quality of effective and affective tension rather than linear force?). Freud was all over this, of course, granted he came from a rather strict context himself (the Victorian age), and thus his observations were weighted in a particular way relative to that context; nonetheless, some of the structural “place holders” he developed/described might be useful here, i.e., unconscious, sub-conscious, conscious, id, ego and super-ego, etc.

      Tell you what. On my way back to school to earn a law degree, I’ll grab a quick course in historical psychology, too, with a minor in analytical forensics. LMAO!

      Posted by Thea on June 5, 2010 – Saturday – 4:34 AM

    • Thea says:

      Hmm…okay, I got down on my knees (to protect my toes, of course *grin*) and looked “agenda” up in my toe-crusher dictionary. The definition I found (that I liked) said, “agenda–a plan or list of matters to be acted upon.” That, of course, is just the starting point, or simply “a” starting point, for defining any term in any language, because as we all know, there are also always innumerable nuances attached to any word, sometimes “permanently” (the nuance tends to travel with the word regardless of specific context), sometimes as a matter of context, and that all of this information is a moving target over time (which can range from a split second to long years), not to mention as a function of interpretation from more than one source (of interpretive action) at a time. Agenda used to be a fairly neutral term, and to my observation its use has begun to shift into the negative realm of connotation, cf hidden agenda, or for instance when the term is used in place of the phrase “ulterior motives.” My observation, which of course can be argued with, is that the particular nature of the negative connotation coming into play has to do with a species of dishonesty. I.e., in order to be considered an honest practitioner in word and deed, it is unfashionable to have an agenda. Nonetheless, of course we all do have an agenda, in that we all have an internal “plan or list of matters to be acted upon.” So yes, as usual you’re right: what I’ve done is I’ve taken a realm of social interaction that has specific borders and applied a term to it that is a “bad fit,” because it takes the realm of social interaction in question out beyond its own borders and misapplies it to a population that is in reality too broadly defined to fit inside it.

      Still, I’ve noticed a contradiction, putting it in broad terms, between what some (meaning a specific population of) people say they hold as true, and what action they take in ostensive support of their stated beliefs, which action is not, upon critical analysis, in keeping with same. Um, the only term that leaps to mind so far is Koyaanisqatsi, which is a Hopi (Native American) term with the (popularized?) definition of “life out of balance.” That kind of approaches what I’m talking about, and can certainly describe the RESULTS of what I’m talking about, but doesn’t quite nail it. Feel free to do a bit of linguistic scrying–anyone, not just Jeff–to see if we can come up with a better fit term.

      Or maybe hypocrisy? That term I think is a little too negatively connotated to be useful here, and may serve to distract from the dynamic I’m trying to get at, although as you’ve often said, “if the shoe fits…”

      You done with that image yet? *cheeky grin*

      Posted by Thea on May 7, 2010 – Friday – 8:07 PM

      • Thea says:


        Interesting. Your next blog will focus on … Powaqqatsi?

        Posted by jcmmanuel on May 8, 2010 – Saturday – 7:02 AM

        • Thea says:

          That actually hadn’t occurred to me, quite honestly. Now that you mention it, though, what immediately leaps to mind is that in doing so, I might open myself up (even more) to a loss of credibility in seeming to travel a path that’s already been laid out simply because I don’t want to do the work of forging my own. On the other hand, from my background in linguistics (if you’ll pardon me for waving my credentials) I already know that it is possible to conceptualize something in one language that is not amenable to being directly translated into another–and certainly English (and especially American English) has developed from a particular set of perspectives practically from the get go (as if it’s possible to nail down the starting point of any language beyond simply picking an arbitrary point for the sake of discussion). Ergo, there are things that can be fully expressed in English that might not be able to be equally fully expressed in another language, and vice versa, since other languages have developed from perspectives that differ. One of the nice things about English (granted other languages do this to an extent, too) is that it has a broad history of directly borrowing terms from other languages to augment its own conceptual bag of tricks. This might be a good time to go shopping in another language for some terminology, and certainly I’m guessing–as I say, especially thanks to your suggestion–that a little research into the Hopi language and culture might be fruitful. And while we’re on the subject, what other languages do you speak, J? Have you run across anything that might help nail down, direct, clarify or otherwise progress the communication(s) taking place on this blog? What does the language of theology have to say? Dude, you wanna bring that to the table, it is more than welcome here!

          As are you, of course. 🙂

          Posted by Thea on May 8, 2010 – Saturday – 7:41 AM

          • Thea says:


            Languages: I read books in English, French and Dutch, sometimes in German too (not that good though). German is a rich language, but So is English. English is more descriptive though – and honestly, I think we don’t need much more than that. Most things in life are not (completely) covered by definitions, rather by descriptions. Language has some de faco limits I think: if anyone could cover all important issues in exact definitions, he would only be able to communicate properly with a few intellectuals, so the possibility for correction would be limited to the ‘higher intellectual strata’ – at the risk of losing touch with reality on the ground altogether (and losing touch with basic religious feelings as well). The limits of language are also being seen in the humanities: arts (music, theatre, painting) use a largely metaphorical meta-language.

            Theology… Let’s say that Jeremiah 17:9 comes to mind: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”. Talk about agenda. There’s probably better theology in this single verse than in a hundred theologian’s books.

            Posted by jcmmanuel on May 8, 2010 – Saturday – 9:06 AM

            • Thea says:

              Very excited to see all of this, J. I intend to flip some bricks here more at length, but in the meantime, care to venture a little of that “better theology?”

              Posted by Thea on May 8, 2010 – Saturday – 11:25 AM

              • Thea says:


                Hmm, you want me to write a book here? But I don’t have the time for it. Let me just say that the direction in which this is leading us is towards distrusting our motivations. Not our intellect, but our motivations. We tend to fabricate thoughts to our hearts content, which may often be selfish. Selfishness of course is, by all means, often seen as a “biblical position”, and that is not an argument. The argument is, that this observation makes sense if you look around. We are not naturally inclined towards love. It may be so that people differ a lot in these things, but, let’s say, our human ecosystem in general seems to be on a slope towards selfish behavior. The remedy may consist of many things, but it certainly requires the kind of action which does not naturally flow, it really requires human action, a new kind of motivation, something that is at odds with some of our rather “deceitful” ways.

                Posted by jcmmanuel on May 9, 2010 – Sunday – 5:53 AM

                • Thea says:

                  Holy guacamole! “We are not naturally inclined towards love.” Love is absolutely selfish. It seeks to fulfill itself endlessly, hence that creative process I keep mentioning. We’re made out of it. The trick is not to avoid being selfish–you can’t do that. If you try, you destroy love, and thus yourself. The trick is to figure out how to share love–to partake of it while at the same time gifting it–without damaging each other. Try being generous without enjoying it, for instance. It’s pretty hard to do, if you pay attention, but if you manage not to enjoy it, then either you’re giving away too much (or you’re lying to me and/or yourself), or for some reason you’re not getting enough back from other sources to re-energize yourself for your effort, which is pretty much saying the same thing. Not saying you shouldn’t give till it hurts, but don’t KEEP giving AFTER that point, because you’ll burn out. You gotta let some of it flow back to you, or you won’t be able to sustain your creative process.

                  “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.” No, if thine eye offend thee, check your attitude or get some help, because it is, after all, your eye–and SINCE it IS your eye, it is unlikely that it is suddenly going to start behaving as if it wasn’t–in other words, it isn’t capable of action independently of the rest of who you are–and the odds are it’s there for a reason. You wanna talk cancer, that’s fine, but just remember we’re talking in analogies here–love doesn’t get cancer per se, it gets misunderstood…with similar results.

                  Again, “I believe the world HAS plenty of love, what the world needs is systems (faith structures, governance, education, economic infrastructure, interpersonal relationship norms, etc.) that do not punish us for sharing it.”

                  Wow, this inherently wicked thing! That’s a CONCEPT–a value judgment–not a fact!! Not only is that a tremendous burden to place on any creature, the idea that who we are is inherently bad, the idea actually PREVENTS us from doing what comes naturally because it deprives us of the ability to access ourselves as a resource–bearing in mind what I argued earlier, which is that we are not created in God’s image, but of his essence, which is love–you gonna toss that?? You sure there wasn’t something lost in the translation? Are you certain? To make us who we are and then hold us to blame for it?

                  No, I believe our job is to learn to cooperate with ourselves, not deny ourselves in a futile attempt to become something we’re not. To make the attempt is to deny God–which is just as futile, of course, with the attendant consequences.

                  Posted by Thea on May 9, 2010 – Sunday – 7:10 AM

                • Thea says:


                  I would distinguish between selfish love and non-selfish love. To take or to give (but while giving, receiving in return is included, although maybe not always as desired). Being made for love: yes. Suitable to make love happen in a way which enriches the world? No, heck – look around. It’s a learning process, it happens in space-time. We are designed with a fair possibility to lose the battle IF we don’t move forward ‘with time’. Selfish love will tear us apart, we are not really designed for it – but giving (and forgiving) love means liberty. Love multiplies.

                  Posted by jcmmanuel on May 9, 2010 – Sunday – 2:10 PM

  3. Thea says:

    piratas de dios ~ NEW Layout ~ Songs:

    a world view is a systematic rationalization, based on experience, extrapolated to determine real forces and principles at work that can give an individual actor for that individual’s point of view a series of methodologies that can be consistently relied upon as the individual negotiates a pathway through the experiential “outside” world.
    a world view is centered in one of two seats: 1) How the world works, or 2) Why the world works, the way it does.
    an agenda is a set of activities that should lead to a predetermined result.
    an agenda based on how the world works is a manipulative test of wills
    an agenda based on why the world does what it does is by necessity more of a collaborative venture because such an agenda requires buy-in from participants unlike the mechanical how agenda,
    nevertheless, the why cannot get too far away from the how… and the how can never practically escape the why…

    past experience demonstrated that real estate prices never went down… why? it was extrapolated that because there was only a finite amount of land and more people coming every day, therefore the demand for real estate would always keep prices rising… the equation fell apart because “how” people acquire real estate is with a job! and when you take enough jobs out of the how-side of the equation the why-side becomes irrelevant. similarly, if you know how you are living, but don’t know why, the how-side of the equation soon becomes irrelevant.

    there is a natural balance to world views because the world evolves around them, or in spite of them in many instances, and everybody contributes to the world view… i’m not sure there are such equivalent checks and balances on the multiplicity of agendas out there…


    Posted by piratas de dios ~ NEW Layout ~ Songs on May 6, 2010 – Thursday – 2:01 PM

  4. Thea says:



    Posted by ROBERTOelDRAGÓN&IDYs! on May 6, 2010 – Thursday – 6:04 PM

  5. Thea says:

    What I’ve done here, first of all, is that I’ve offered a definition of culture as compared to what actually goes on inside an individual within a culture in response to (or in rebellion against) that culture. The two are closely interrelated and difficult to separate from each other, but the reason I did it here has to do with a technique for analysis called granularity; that is, breaking a problem down into what are more comfortably bite-sized pieces, hopefully without destroying the original structure so that it still makes sense. In this case I’m driving at the idea that self-delusion, as well as delusion from external sources—that culture itself, for instance, not least of which currently includes our fabulous marketing industry, which could be considered a culture industry, in that it trains us to hold a certain narrowly defined set of viewpoints geared toward separating us from our wallets regardless of the consequences—is a serious problem for the individual.

    The responsibility here is one that I’ve been mentioning all along: question your assumptions. The thing I keep having trouble with is the moral question: what is our moral responsibility? On what basis do we chose our moral stance? To the extent that we live in a world that was not ONLY created by us, we have a choice. The kicker is that whatever choice we make has consequences. So, not only should we examine our assumptions to determine what they are, we need to examine them for their consequences, and then decide what we want at that point. The troubling issue for most people at that point is that the choice to be made is not a black and white, cut and dried question of Right versus Wrong. There are no right or wrong answers. You’re not going to be given the right answer, so that all you have to do is go do it. That is the point of our whole existence: to create our own choices. The saving grace is that we have a common origin—which is love. We all like it and want it (or are angry because we’re not getting it and so spurn it, akin to cutting off our noses).

    Does anyone think that’s a little too “mushy” or “mystical” or “bleeding heart liberal” or “fairy tale-ish?” Pie-in-the-sky? Okay, fair enough. Now ask yourself THIS question: WHERE DID YOU GET THAT IDEA?!

    A mutual friend recently said this in a way that might be considered a little more palatable: “I believe the world HAS plenty of love, what the world needs is systems (faith structures, governance, education, economic infrastructure, interpersonal relationship norms, etc.) that do not punish us for sharing it” (emphasis added).

    Granted it could be considered blasphemy, but I also kinda put words into God’s mouth in one of my previous blogs in a similar vein: “Assholes! Don’t be assholes to each other, okay? It’s pretty simple!”

    Technically, God DID say this, just so you know. Only it goes, “…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…” Interesting that it had to be put in pejorative terms in order for us to even begin to appreciate it, eh?

    Posted by
    Thea on May 6, 2010 – Thursday – 6:12 PM

  6. Thea says:

    Jared: Genibus Tuis Canis³:

    time to stick a toe in, I do in principal agree with “An agenda is the basis upon which you act according to your world view” although there is one word seemingly missing, “CURRENT world views”, Politically and socially we all have an agenda, but that my current world view is from the perspective of a guy in Kansas that raises buffalo, my agenda is to further myself, family and the buffalo ranch. The oil spill in the gulf concerns me but not in the same way as it does the people in Lou, Fla, etc. even though it has a similar effect on their lively hood as say all my buffalo dying. The oil spill for example has changed agendas and world views since it began, but thus far has little impact on my own world view. Partly the reason the spill doesn’t change my overall world view is because I have yet to be affected by it, so I can only see it as unfortunate. World views are as easily changed as agendas are, and while a single persons world view easily changed, its only a handful of people whose agendas change the world.

    Posted by Jared: Genibus Tuis Canis³ on May 7, 2010 – Friday – 11:59 AM

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