12 February 2018

That wonder is educationally important will strike many people as obvious. And in a way it is obvious, because being capable of experiencing wonder implies an openness to (novel) experience and seems naturally allied to intrinsic educational motivation, an eagerness to inquire, a desire to understand, and also to a willingness to suspend judgement and bracket existing—potentially limiting—ways of thinking, seeing, and categorising. Yet wonder is not a single thing, and it is important to distinguish at least two kinds of wonder: active wonder(ing), which entails a drive to explore, to find out, to explain; and deep or contemplative wonder, which is not inherently inquisitive like active wonder and, as a response to mystery, may leave us lost for words. Claims for wonder's importance to education and science often do not distinguish between the two, but whereas for active wonder that importance seems obvious, this is much less so for deep wonder, which by its very nature rather seems to be anti-educational. Yet in this paper I explore exactly the educational importance of deep wonder. This importance is found to lie, not just in its motivational effects—real though they are—but in making us attend to the world for its own sake, and making us aware of the limits of our understanding.