What Are You Reading…On Mystery

Over the last month I’ve read two of Kate Ross’s Julien Kestrel mysteries. For those of you not aware, Julien Kestrel is a fictional character who lives in England during the early to mid-1800s. A relatively young and wealthy socialite, he starts solving mysteries—first out of curiosity and then because others ask him to do so. I found the books to be well-written, and would recommend them to anyone who enjoys this genre.

One of the ways Ross gives different personalities to her characters is by showing how they react to mystery. Some embrace it (like Kestrel), some refuse to acknowledge it, and others view it briefly before hiding behind a comfortable myth. These varied reactions led me to think about how philosophers deal with the mysteries constantly haunting the discipline. While philosophy has produced many interesting, useful, and valuable ideas, no one has ever been able to declare metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, etc. complete. (Some have declared a few of these fields dead, but that’s not the same thing, and it has never held for very long.) Reconciling their philosophies with the mysteries of existence, without having their projects devolve into nihilism, is a task many philosophers have wrestled with. Here are a few papers that address how philosophers have dealt with this question.

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