The idea that philosophy begins with wonder is credited to several Ancient Greek philosophers, and has been held since that time by many other notables. There’s clearly something to the saying, as without a significant amount of curiosity there would be no motivation to develop elaborate ideologies and systems of thought designed to help us engage the world. Without wonder we would only need the necessities for solving our immediate problems, and would be content stopping there. At the same time, wonder can be difficult to categorize or quantify. It leads in many different directions, produces numerous projects, and to the best of our knowledge has no point of satiation.
While wonder may condition philosophy, the relationship does not seem to be reciprocal. This is not to say that philosophy does not produce results that encourage more wonder, but that developing a philosophy of wonder is a seemingly infinite and incompletable task. Wonder exceeds any bounds put on it, yet without examining it philosophy cannot understand itself either. Perhaps this is why the question of wonder has been addressed by many philosophers over time: it is a way of orienting the philosopher as they pursue their project. As a way of understanding these projects, and orienting us as we pursue our own, it is worth looking at how others discuss wonder. Here are some papers that do just that.
- Kyle Barker, “Of Wonder: Thomas Hobbes’s Political Appropriation of Thaumazein,” Political Theory, June 2017.
- Beth Savickey, “Wittgenstein and Friendship,” Philosophical Investigations, July 2014
- David Bollert, “Socratic Wonder and Philosophical Counseling,” Philosophical Practice: Journal of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, March 2010.
- Richard Gill, “Stranger than Fiction: Hannah Arendt and G.K. Chesterton,” Renascence, Summer 2010.
- Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe, Columbia University Press, 2009.
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