Wonder, a metaphysical feeling

The first questions, starting the study of philosophy, are these: how was philosophy born? And why are you interested?

As for the first question, the answer is relatively simple: philosophy arises from wonder, that is, from what we can call a metaphysical feeling. The man, not satisfied with the answers of the myths, began in Greece to study reality to find a rational explanation of the same. But why am I talking about wonder as a “metaphysical feeling”?

The first thing to specify is that when I say “feeling” I do not mean anything irrational. I simply refer to what the Greeks have well described when talking about the principle of philosophizing (see Plato [428/427 a. C.-348/347 a. C.] and Aristotle [384/383 a. C.-322 a. C.]).

In this sense, wonder is a feeling that arises before reality and its mysterious presence: man is surprised and tries to explain the things he sees.

This “justifying” is the passage from ignorance to wisdom. The wonder is therefore that which stimulates the man to ask himself certain questions and thus escape the state of uncertainty.

 I see, my dear Theaetetus, that Theodorus had a true insight into your nature when he said that you were a philosopher; for wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.

Plato, Theaetetus 155c-d

For men were first led to study philosophy, as indeed they are today, by wonder. Now, he who is perplexed and wonders believes himself to be ignorant […] they took to philosophy to escape ignorance…».

Aristotle, Metaphysics 982b

Giovanni Covino

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