Wondering on and with Purpose

Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind 2:58-84 (2022)
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I make a proposal about what wondering is and how it differs from other mental phenomena like curiosity. I argue that, though it's tempting to analyze wondering as a desire to know the answer to the question one wonders about, that would be wrong, since wondering is an activity rather than a state, i.e., something we do. I also argue that wondering about a question needn't even essentially involve a desire to know the answer to that question, even as a necessary part of what rationalizes the wondering. Instead, on my account, to wonder about a question is to consider various possible answers as possible answers, guided by mechanisms whose function is to make the subject epistemically better off with respect to those answers, and which considering ceases at least when a person is consciously certain of the answer to their question. This allows wondering to not be objectionably metacognitive, and allows us to make sense of cases in which the motivating desire isn't to know an answer but just to wonder itself.

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Daniel Drucker
University of Texas at Austin


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