|The Garden of Earthly Delights triptych by Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1503) shows the “garden”
of mundane pleasures flanked by Paradise and Hell. The exterior panel shows the world
before the appearance of humanity, depicted as a disc enclosed in a sphere.
World is a common name for the sum of human civilization, specifically human experience, history, or the human condition in general, worldwide, i.e. anywhere on Earth.
In a philosophical context it may refer to the Universe, everything that constitutes reality. In a theological context, world usually refers to the material or the profane sphere, as opposed to the celestial, spiritual, transcendent or sacred. The “end of the world” refers to scenarios of the final end of human history, often in religious contexts.
World history is commonly understood as spanning the major geopolitical developments of about five millennia, from the first civilizations to the present.
World population is the sum of all human populations at any time; similarly, world economy is the sum of the economies of all societies (all countries), especially in the context of globalization. Terms like world championship, gross world product, world flags etc. also imply the sum or combination of all current-day sovereign states.
In terms such as world religion, world language and world war, world suggests international or intercontinental scope without necessarily implying participation of the entire world.
In terms such as world map and world climate, world is used in the sense detached from human culture or civilization, referring to the planet Earth physically.
Etymology and usage
The English word world comes from the Old English weorold (-uld), weorld, worold (-uld, -eld), a compound of wer “man” and eld “age,” which thus means roughly “Age of Man.” The Old English is a reflex of the Common Germanic *wira-alđiz, also reflected in Old Saxon werold, Old High German weralt, Old Frisian warld and Old Norse verǫld (whence the Icelandic veröld).
The corresponding word in Latin mundus, literally “clean, elegant”, itself a loan translation of Greek cosmos “orderly arrangement.” While the Germanic word thus reflects a mythological notion of a “domain of Man” (compare Midgard), presumably as opposed to the divine sphere on the one hand and the chthonic sphere of the underworld on the other, the Greco-Latin term expresses a notion of creation as an act of establishing order out of chaos.
‘World’ distinguishes the entire planet or population from any particular country or region: world affairs pertain not just to one place but to the whole world, and world history is a field of history that examines events from a global (rather than a national or a regional) perspective. Earth, on the other hand, refers to the planet as a physical entity, and distinguishes it from other planets and physical objects.
‘World’ can also be used attributively, to mean ‘global’, ‘relating to the whole world’, forming usages such as World community.
By extension, a ‘world’ may refer to any planet or heavenly body, especially when it is thought of as inhabited, especially in the context of science fiction or futurology.
‘World’, in original sense, when qualified, can also refer to a particular domain of human experience.
The world of work describes paid work and the pursuit of career, in all its social aspects, to distinguish it from home life and academic study.
The fashion world describes the environment of the designers, fashion houses and consumers that make up the fashion industry.
historically, the New World vs. the Old World, referring to the parts of the world colonized in the wake of the age of discovery. Now mostly used in zoology and botany, as New World monkey.
In philosophy, the World is everything that makes up reality. While clarifying the concept of world has arguably always been among the basic tasks of Western philosophy, this theme appears to have been raised explicitly only at the start of the twentieth century and has been the subject of continuous debate. The question of what the world is has by no means been settled.
The traditional interpretation of Parmenides’ work is that he argued that the every-day perception of reality of the physical world (as described in doxa) is mistaken, and that the reality of the world is ‘One Being’ (as described in aletheia): an unchanging, ungenerated, indestructible whole.
In his Allegory of the Cave, Plato distingues between forms and ideas and imagines two distinct worlds : the sensible world and the intelligible world.
In Hegel’s philosophy of history, the expression Weltgeschichte ist Weltgericht (World History is a tribunal that judges the World) is used to assert the view that History is what judges men, their actions and their opinions. Science is born from the desire to transform the World in relation to Man ; its final end is technical application.
The World as Will and Representation is the central work of Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer saw the human will as our one window to the world behind the representation; the Kantian thing-in-itself. He believed, therefore, that we could gain knowledge about the thing-in-itself, something Kant said was impossible, since the rest of the relationship between representation and thing-in-itself could be understood by analogy to the relationship between human will and human body.
Two definitions that were both put forward in the 1920s, however, suggest the range of available opinion. “The world is everything that is the case,” wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein in his influential Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, first published in 1922. This definition would serve as the basis of logical positivism, with its assumption that there is exactly one world, consisting of the totality of facts, regardless of the interpretations that individual people may make of them.
Martin Heidegger, meanwhile, argued that “the surrounding world is different for each of us, and notwithstanding that we move about in a common world”. The world, for Heidegger, was that into which we are “thrown” willy-nilly and with which we, as beings-in-the-world, must come to terms. His conception of “the world-hood of the world” was most notably elaborated in his 1927 work Being and Time.
In response, Freud proposed that we do not move about in a common world, but a common thought process. He believed that all the actions of a person is motivated by one thing: lust. This led to numerous theories about reactionary consciousness.
Some philosophers, often inspired by David Lewis, argue that metaphysical concepts such as possibility, probability and necessity are best analyzed by comparing the world to a range of possible worlds; a view commonly known as modal realism.