Philosophy & Wonder

I have taught out of more than a hundred philosophy books in my career as a college professor. One textbook, Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering, had a prelude with a futuristic photo of a spaceship or missile launching  or futuristic house (depending on the edition) along with a few words from the author. It set the tone for the exploration upon which my students and I were about to embark.

Those words were simple, although philosophy is generally believed to be a difficult, esoteric pursuit. They were no doubt written by a professor who wanted to communicate with his heart, not impress his students with his intellect. I always thought they wonderfully communicated the value of philosophy. Here is what he wrote:

The following pages may
lead you to wonder.
That’s really what philosophy
is—wondering.

To philosophize
is to wonder about life—
about right and wrong,
love and loneliness, war and death.
It is to wonder creatively
about freedom, truth, beauty, time
and a thousand other things.
To philosophize is
to explore life.
It especially means breaking free
to ask questions.
It means resisting
easy answers.
To philosophize
is to seek in oneself
the courage to ask
painful questions.

But if, by chance,
you have already asked
all your questions
and found all the answers—
if you’re sure you know
right from wrong,
and whether God exists,
and what justice means,
and why we mortals fear and hate and pray—
if indeed you have completed your wondering
about freedom and love and loneliness
and those thousand other things,
then the following pages
will waste your time.

Philosophy is for those
who are willing to be disturbed
with a creative disturbance.

Philosophy is for those
who still have the capacity
for wonder.

     Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering

3 thoughts on “Philosophy & Wonder

  1. To me, the overall attitude of the average student towards philosophy has been kind of mind boggling. I don’t understand why anyone would willingly go through life without questioning at least the most basic of principles. Maybe that natural questioning was born out of my religious upbringing, but I was at very least questioning why I, or anyone else, believed certain things. I remember when I was first presented with the idea of other faiths as a child, and the first question I asked was “if everyone of various faiths believes that their way is correct, how do we know whats right?” Once you open up a door like that, it leads to all kinds of questions about faith, morality, meaning, etc. So naturally I tend to gravitate towards a subject like philosophy in my scholarly pursuits. And though his words are a little hokey, Christian’s approach is exactly how I see it, and exactly what I like what it.

  2. I agree with everything Mr. Weed says. As a teacher of philosophy for many years I can assure you that Russell’s maxim is correct, “some people would rather die than think … and they do.”

  3. Hey Aaron, I hear you have audio recordings of Dr. Messerly’s class. would you be willing to give them to Dr. J so he can post some of them?

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