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Wonder

I wonder how far we can wonder? The idea of wonder is a big one, it occupies the intersection of the scientific, the philosophical and the arts. These divisions help us approach and feel what this broad, loose question may hold for us or perhaps, wonder is indefinable in all senses. A beautiful attempt at defining wonder comes from Adam Smith, an 18th century moral philosopher who draws upon bodily feeling and memory to articulate his thoughts, “that staring, and sometimes that rolling of the eyes, that suspension of the breath, and that swelling of the heart... When something quite new and singular is presented... [and] memory cannot, from all its stores, cast up any image that nearly resembles this strange appearance”. Smith, History of Astronomy, 1795, cited: Prinz, 2013.


The idea that you can see a phenomenon but don’t know how its caused, is wonder. In other words, ignorant of the process but amazed by the results. If a human were to collate all their other amazing experiences and discoveries, and appreciate what they are seeing,they are coming from a philosophical view point. On the other hand, if they want to try and work out the process, they are a scientist.

How far does knowledge enable us to wonder? Knowledge facilitates wonder. Wonder facilitates knowledge. A paradox. Is a knowledgeable wonder a philosophical black hole? Light is the perfect example of the paradox of wonder and knowledge. We wonder how we get shadows, but we can be sure that shadows are formed by blocking light.

We know light travels in straight lines and that an opaque object stops the light rays from travelling through it. But that doesn’t explain everything, it doesn’t explain it in the whole sense. The little packets and pockets. Packet in scientific conversation but a pocket in a philosophical one. “Beauty loses its existence if the effects of shadow are removed”, Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows,1933.


The light is only highlighted when surrounded by the shadow, this thought process needs both wonder, thought and knowledge and facilitates inquiry-based expansion of our minds. Our thought processes creating a cycle of enduring curiosity and transportingus into hidden words. Wonder is a truly unique emotional feeling, that perhaps I will for ever be exploring and expanding.


Writing by @ellenbarratt

Graphics by @hrks.vh