Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Universal Capacity to Wonder

 I argue that philosophy is a universal intellectual activity that has been pursued by peoples of all cultures and that the propensity to raise fundamental questions about human experience can be found in peoples belonging to different cultures, even though the answers may be different, despite our common humanity, and may not all be equally compelling. Yet, our common humanity, which inclines human beings to adopt similar (or nearly similar) responses to experiences of various kinds, tends to lead thinkers to be exercised about fairly similar questions or puzzles and to reflect on them in search of answers or explanations. The human capacity to wonder is not only boundless but universal. The context of our wonder is of course human experience. We wonder about the nature of the universe and our place in it, about who or what we are, the existence of some ultimate being, the nature of the good life, and about many other aspects of our experience that are beyond our ken and are, thus, not immediately rationally explicable by us. Wonder leads some individuals in various cultures to raise fundamental questions and, in this way, to engage in philosophical reflections.

[Kwame Gyekye, An Essay on African Philosophical Thought, Temple University Press (Philadelphia: 1995) pp. xiv-xv.]