Epistemology Annotated Bibliography

Why Wonder Begets Wisdom

Wonder that arises from the everyday world in which we live is what leads man to dispel his assumptions so as to be receptive to the impression of the wholeness of reality upon his mind. While the initial cause of this shock of wonder is doubt, it is a fruitful and hopeful one which allows us to know that we do not know so that we may seek to truly know. Therefore, this wonder makes us aware of the mystery of being, which not only is the beginning of philosophy but also the motor behind man’s pursuit of knowledge–not for utilitarian ends, but for its own sake.

Annotated Bibliography

  • Kenneth T. Gallagher. The Philosophy of Knowledge. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1982).
    • Gallagher opens his book with a treatise on wonder as the basis for Philosophy and how it establishes doubt not to lead to skepticism but to lead onto further investigation in order to pursue knowledge
  • C.S. Lewis. The Weight of Glory. (New York: HarperOne, 1980).
    • Lewis demonstrates this very wonder that can be inspired within by the everyday environment, which then leads us onto transcendent truths
  • Josef Pieper. Leisure: The Basis of Culture/The Philosophical Act. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1963).
    • Pieper establishes that active Leisure is a vital escape from the prevailing utilitarian ideology which impoverishes man spiritually and kills philosophy. He also proposes that wonder is the foundation for all philosophical inquiry.
  • Frank Sheed. Theology and Sanity. (London: Catholic Way Publishing, 2014).
    • Sheed delves into the ways in which we come to know, expounding upon the nature of mystery, which is in fact intimately linked with the nature of wonder.

Frank Sheed’s “Theology and Sanity”

Since I had to type this out of my book for a class, I figured I would share one of my favorite passages from Frank Sheed’s Theology and Sanity:

“To complain that a spiritual thing is unimaginable would be like complaining that the air is invisible . . . Spirit is beyond reach of all senses . . . With the eyes of your body you cannot see justice. You can see a just man or an unjust man, but justice itself you cannot see with your eyes . . . Thus the reality of any spiritual statement must be tested by the INTELLECT, not by the imagination . . . [INCONCEIVABLE] means that the statement proffered to the intellect contains a contradiction within itself . . .

If concepts are beyond its reach, imagination acts as sensor and simply throws them out: while the intellect, grown flabby with disuse, tiredly concurs in a rejection so beneficent because it saves so much trouble. But this happy arrangement receives a check if one happens to be Catholic. For the Faith binds us to accept many truths altogether beyond imagination’s reach . . . Here imagination does its subtlest piece of sabotage. It cannot forbid intellect to accept them: so it offers to help intellect to accept them. It comes along with all sorts of mental pictures, comparisons from the material world. Thus for the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity imagination offers the picture of the shamrock . . .

Now there is a definite role for such analogies . . . God’s dealings with men may often be seen more clearly by some comparison drawn from the material universe [like] Our Lord’s parables . . . But useful as such comparisons may be . . . they shed no light whatever upon the innermost being of God in Himself. The shamrock simile tells us absolutely nothing about the Blessed Trinity . . . The excuse for [the simile] is that they help us to see the doctrine. But they do not. They only help us to swallow the doctrine . . . Certainly it prevents the truth about God from being a danger to our faith; but in the same act, it prevents the truth about God from being a light to our minds. The same objective might be obtained by not mentioning the doctrine at all.

Thinking is very hard and imagining is very easy and we are very lazy. We have fallen into the habit of using our imaginations as a crutch, and our intellects have almost lost the habit of walking . . . Once the intellect is doing its own work properly, it can use the imagination most fruitfully, and the imagination will find a new joy in the service of a vital intellect”

Also, if anyone is interested, I have posted some material over at http://voccola.blogspot.com for my Church History class about St. Catherine of Siena, including a book review of Sigrid Unset’s incredible biography Catherine of Siena. (My author name on the blog is Lilting_Lilies). God bless!!!