Research topic 1:

Truth by Astonishment

This research topic examines the use of wonder in discourses of knowledge, truth and authenticity. The topic can build upon research in the first Sinergia project, which, taking up other scholarship, managed to trace the trajectory of the Aristotelian understanding of astonishment as the beginning of philosophy and knowledge well into the 20th century, but also demonstrated that the influential (Platonic) concept of wonder as a means to glimpse into eternal ideas can be found in epistemic as well as religious and poetological discourses. Thus, on the one hand, the topic of truth by astonishment looks at the instrumentalization of wonder to gain and promote knowledge and to establish its pertinence. On the other hand, it examines truth-claims that consider wonder to be a naïve or an intuitive approach to the world that may however grant access to a higher truth. Depending on the various possible critical viewpoints, the latter understanding of wonder stands in contradiction to enlightened, cognitive, rational, or technocratic ways of dealing with the world. Important figures to whom this naïve wonder is attributed include the child, the so-called man of nature [“Naturmensch”] or the artist, who can be seen to re-appropriate this attitude. Their wonder is believed to provide access to a truth, which carries religious or ontological connotations. This truth, in turn, is referred to in order to make cultural and/or socio-political value judgments, which support a critique of civilization and, at the same time, verify, legitimize and propagate an alternative world-view [Weltanschauung]. Thus, wonder is used to connect cultural patterns, religious, scientific, or political interests and explanatory models to both an anthropological essence and a truth of experience, in a legitimizing and affirming way. While this concept of wonder is of special importance to the anti-Enlightenment movements, its relevance can also be shown for an earlier phase, namely political and social utopias of the 17th century, as well as pastoral poetry (Schäfereien) with its visionary views of a natural and authentic life.