Thursday, May 02, 2019

Evening Note for Thursday, May 2

Thought for the Evening: The Structure of Wondering

Philosophy begins in wonder, so the structure of wondering would seem to be relevant to understanding philosophy. What is the structure of wondering? It's an action, so it has a subject, a constitutive object, and something to which it tends as something like an end, so one can look at each of these three; and one can consider each either immediately and proximately or as a limit case, that is remotely. Then one possibility would be to lay it out like this:

      proximate: the intellect in its aspect of being a sense of wonder
      remote: I who wonder

Our ability to wonder about things is an intellectual ability, so the intellect itself is the immediate root, the thing that flowers into wondering. The sense of wonder, understood as that whereby we wonder about things, or the sense of curiosity, as we might also call it, is an expression of our natural inclination to try to know. All men by nature desire to know, as Aristotle said; therefore we wonder about things.

Wondering, however, is not a passive thing that happens to us but something we actively do. Thus wondering is always someone's wondering. There is always an 'I' in 'I wonder'.

      proximate: the puzzle or aporia
      remote: the causes relevant to the puzzle

As Aristotle makes very clear, the aporia is what we wonder about; all sciences, all knowledge, begins with our being puzzled. 'Puzzle' is probably the closest English word, but the root idea of the Greek word aporia is pathlessness. Things are not already laid out for us. We have to make our own way.

And the way we make our way is by considering what contributes to the puzzle - the causes in Aristotle's broad sense of the term. All wondering is a wondering about reasons or causes, whether those reasons or causes be extrinsic or intrinsic to the puzzling thing itself.

      proximate: the coherence and intelligibility of the world
      remote: God as the principle of coherence and intelligibility

Wondering about things makes no sense unless there is an underlying coherence and intelligibility; to wonder is already to suggest that what seems puzzling is coherent. So wondering in general tends at the limit to the whole world being coherent. This has not gone unnoticed; Kant, for instance, has something very like this view, as one can see in looking at (for instance) his discussions of disjunctive judgment. The consistent system of all possibilities is, as Kant says, implicit in reason as a sort of 'task of reason'; it is not already given, but is that toward which reason naturally tends, something that reason's own nature naturally suggests. And this is certainly very true if we are talking about wondering, which is very much concerned with coherence.

As Kant notes, though, this 'idea' of the coherent totality of possibilities easily links up with the 'ideal' of the ens realissimum. Kant gets a little complicated in his maneuvers here because he has a somewhat weird mix of empiricist and rationalist assumptions that have to be coordinated by a considerable amount of ingenuity. We would ordinarily say, although Kant would not, that, assuming the coherence and intelligibility of the world, and given that wondering concerns causes, the natural limit of wondering is the cause of the coherence and intelligibility of the world. And this, as they say, all men call God. This is in fact related to what I have called infinite intelligible arguments for the existence of God.

Various Links of Interest

* Anita Avramides, Other Minds, at the SEP

* This suggested four-day study unit on Mary Wollstonecraft, by Liz Goodnick, looks like it's fairly good.

* Alex Andriesse, Progress in Play: Board Games and the Meaning of History

* Airglow.

* Monica Azzolini, Leonardo inside out. (hat-tip)

* Vincent Price's Supper Casserole.

* Gene Sperling, Economic Dignity.

* Douglas Murray looks at the recent hatchet job on Roger Scruton, in which an interview was falsified by a corrupt journalist, leading to his being fired from a position as an architectural advisor.

Currently Reading

H. G. Wells, The Time Machine
Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge
Hugh of St. Victor, On the Sacraments
Plotinus, The Enneads
Jules Verne, L'Archipel en feu

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