This paper explores the connection between wonder and meaning, in particular ‘the meaning of life’, a connection that, despite strong intrinsic connections between wonder and the (philosophical) search for meaning has not yet received any sustained attention. Does wonder ‘merely’ inspire our search for meaning, or does it also point the way towards meaning? In exploring this question I first engage with Hannah Arendt, then examine the suggestion (by Josef Pieper and Rachel Carson, among others) that the meaning wonder points us to lies in connecting us with the mystery of existence. Can there be meaning in mystery, or is wonder––as a state of being lost for words in the face of mystery––rather antithetical to meaning? This discussion leads to the idea, emphasized in recent writing on wonder, that wonder (also) depends on the meaning we ascribe to things. In the final section I discuss wonder as a potential source of meaning in life, then return to the question whether it can also point towards a deeper meaning of life. I conclude that no purely rational justification can be given for this view, but that this need not detract from the importance of wonder in our lives.
- wonder, mystery, meaning, Hannah Arendt, Josef Pieper, Rachel Carson
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