Philosophy Begins in Wonder: An Introduction to Early Modern Philosophy, Theology and Science

By Michael Funk Deckard and Péter Losonczi (editors)

A selection of essays that explore the role and importance of wonder in the development in science, philosophy and theology during the early modern era.

ISBN: 9780227173725


Philosophy begins with wonder, according to Plato and Aristotle. Yet Plato and Aristotle did not expand a great deal on what precisely wonder is. Does this fact alone not raise curiosity in us as to why this passion or concept is important? What is wonder’s role in science, philosophy or theology except to end thinking or theorizing as soon as one begins?

The primary purpose of this book is to show how seventeenth- and eighteenth-century developments in natural theology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and the philosophy of science resulted in a complex history of the passion of wonder – a history in which the elements of continuation, criticism, and reformulation are equally present.

Philosophy Begins in Wonder provides the first historical overview of wonder and changes the way we see early modern Europe. It is intended for readers who are curious – who wonder – about how modern philosophy and science were born. The book is for scholars and educated readers alike.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 390

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Michael Funk Deckard is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina. He has taught History of Ideas, Philosophy, and Ethics at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), North Central College (Naperville, Illinois) and Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois). He also has published articles and reviews in journals such as The Heythrop Journal, British Journal of Aesthetics, Eighteenth-Century Thought, Bijdragen: International Journal in Philosophy and Theology, Philosophy in Review, Tijdschrift voor Filosofie and Verbum: Analecta Neolatina.

Péter Losonczi is a Research Associate at the Centre for Metaphysics and Philosophy of Culture, Institute of Philosophy, University of Leuven, and Director of the International Research Network on Religion and Democracy. His publications include essays and books, including the co-edited volumes Reflecting Diversity (2007), Religio Academici (2009) and From Political Theory to Political Theology (2010).


List of Figures
     Michael Funk Deckard
     Péter Losonczi and Michael Funk Deckard

Part One: Historical, Scientific, and Religious Contexts
1. Wonder and Wondering in the Renaissance
     Elisabeth Blum and Paul Richard Blum
2. Wonder, Magic, and Natural Philosophy: The Disenchantment Thesis Revisited
     Koen Vermeir
3. Religious Awe at the Origin of Eighteenth-Century Physico-Theology
     Miklós Vassányi

Part Two: Wonder in Seventeenth-Century Europe
4. Descartes on the Excellent Use of Admiration
     Dorottya Kaposi
5. Admiration, Fear, and Infinity in Pascal’s Thinking
     Tamás Pavlovits
6. On Thomas Hobbes’s Concept of Wonder
     Jianhong Chen
7. “Straight toward Heaven”: Natural Theology and Politics in Milton’s Paradise Lost
     Veronika Szántó
8. Malebranche on Restlessness and Curiosity
     Roland Breeur
9. Wonder in the Age of the Saeculum: Spinoza
     Gábor Boros

Part Three: Wonder in Eighteenth-Century Europe
10. Berkeley’s Wonderful Divine Language: Apology and Biblical Realism
     Péter Losonczi
11. “Of Curiosity, or the Love of Truth”: David Hume on Wonder in A Treatise of Human Nature
     Michael Funk Deckard
12. A Risk of Testimony: Astonishment and the Sublime
     Baldine Saint Girons
13. Two Sources of Wonder in Early Modern Judaism
     Roberta Sabbath
14. Kant and the End of Wonder
     Patrick Frierson
15. Ways of Wondering: Beyond the Barbarism of Reflection
     William Desmond

List of Contributors
Index of Authors
Index of Subjects


Endorsements and Reviews

Some very famous scholars have claimed that in the Enlightenment and Scientific worldview there is no place for wonder. Michael Funk Deckard and Péter Losonczi are to be congratulated for assembling such a fine, focused collection that, among its many virtues, dispels the myth of the disappearance of wonder at the dawn of Modernity. Plato and Aristotle agreed that philosophy begins in wonder, but famously disagreed about where it ends. Plato would not be surprised that even in knowing ages, wonder can be truth’s consequence.
Eric Schliesser, Leiden University

This rich and provocative collection of essays could bear fruit in a dozen or more books, each of them already here in gist. May it be so.
John Wilson, Editor, Books & Culture

… an illuminating collection of essays which traces the religious, scientific, and philosophical history of wonder, and which will be a much-needed and longawaited aid to all those interested in exploring this important yet understudied topic.
Sophia Vasalou, European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin

Both Plato and Aristotle have put forward that philosophy begins with wonder, although they didn’t take the time to define exactly what wonder is. The authors of this book examine the role of wonder in the science, philosophy and theology of early modernity – the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. First of all, it aims to demonstrate how the evolutions and progressions in natural theology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics and philosophy during those two centuries finally gave birth to a complex history of the passion of wonder – a history in which can be found as well the elements of continuity, criticism and reformulation. How did modern philosophy and science appear? According to very famous academics, in the Enlightenment and its scientific conception of the world, there is no place for wonder. This book however, as it draws a panorama of the history of wonder, manages to change the way modern Europe is perceived. The myth of wonder’s disappearance vanishes as modernity rises.
Dialogo Filosofico, May/August 2012

Deckard and Losonczi demonstrate quite successfully that the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophical developments did not exclude ‘wonder’ while still maintaining a rigorous scientific position of experimentation and hypothesis, criticism, and reformulation.
P. H. Brazier, in Heythrop Journal, Vol 55, Issue 1