Laura Candiotto

Title : Epistemic Wonder: the beginning of the enquiry (Theaet. 155d2-4)


The aim of this paper is to analyse the famous lines about the beginning of philosophy from wonder in Plato’s Theaetetus (155d2-4), and discuss the epistemic function that wonder seems to play in the process of enquiry. In doing so, we will also discuss the notion of wonder as a pathos, depicting the pre-reflexive beginning of philosophy as epistemic suffering and epistemic desire.

In (1) we provide a theoretical analysis about the notion of “wonder”, arguing that it should be recognised as an epistemic emotion, whose function is to initiate the process of enquiry. Then, in (2) we broad the scope of analysis to 155b5-d1, and establish a comparison with the equally famous lines of Aristotle in this regard (Met. B. 995a24-34). This gives us the tools for moving to our central claim, for which wonder is epistemic only if it is linked to aporetic states (3). But wonder is not a mental state only: Plato explicitly called it a pathos. Thus, we discuss the relationship between wonder and suffering, and wonder and desire in (4). We conclude with a sketch of the affective and cognitive orchestration of the humans’ disposition to ask questions if facing uncertainty (5).