By Karl Arnold Belser
22 July 2013

How does one become conscious of the Adjacent Possible?  See my discussion of the adjacent possible in The Shadow Future.

The article “How Wonder Works
by Jessse Prinz motivated me to discuss wonder. He states that wonder might be the most important emotion. I doubt that it is the most important, but as he states wonder is the process of becoming conscious of something unexpected. This appears to be the first step in the acquisition of human knowledge.

Wonder is the first step because the human has to then go to some intellectual effort to explain whatever was observed. This is probably the root of scientific investigation in which mathematics and measurements (physics and chemistry) are central. One could say that wonder is when the adjacent possible comes into consciousness.

There are two habits that an inquiring mind must have.

a.    Constantly paying attention and observing
b.    Taking action to try to make sense of what one sees.

An example that I recall is how Richard Feynnman won the Nobel Prize. When he was in college, Princeton I think, he observed a peculiar motion of a paper plate being sailed through the air in the dining hall. He went to his room and worked out the mathematical explanation for what he saw. Years later he observed a behavior in subatomic matter and recognized that this behavior of that old plate was similar. He worked out the new mathematics, which in turn caused him to receive the Nobel Prize. See Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman (1985).

This scientific understanding is the type of wonder and response that I am interested in.

The article on wonder also talks about the responses by either art or religion.

In the case of art it appears that the intention is to stimulate the feeling of wonder by creating an art object.  In a sense the artist is exploring the subjective processing of the mind to try to manipulate emotion or sensation. I see art as the study of a certain type of subjective, but not verifiable, truth.

In the case of religion the human apparently is intimidated and might ascribe what he sees to a supernatural cause. When one is confused and the mind needs a resolution because it cannot live with the confusion, then it appears that the mind invents some sort of explanation in the form of a belief. I think that this kind of belief is a form of the Narrative Fallacy, which does in fact resolve the confusion when one does not understand what one sees or experiences.

I consider the Narrative Fallacy to be my worst enemy in getting to the truth.

I concede that there are things that are true that I can neither conceptualize nor verify. I just accept this condition and the confusion that comes with this acceptance. I also observe that societies can exist for very long durations based on unverifiable beliefs.

By the way, epistemology is the part of philosophy that is  “the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity” (Merriam-Webster).

To my horror Epistemology is not the study of truth. Epistemology Is the study of Knowledge that is: of knowledge how, and of knowledge by acquaintance. I tend to want knowledge that is verifiable as A. J. Ayer describes in Language, Truth and Logic.

When it comes to talking about the uncertain future, there will be few truly verifiable propositions. In this case one must look at the facts and possible outcomes. Bbeing careful not to create false narratives.

I also note, since I speak Spanish, that English does not have an explicit subjunctive verb tense. The subjunctive mood denotes actions that might or might not happen or be true. In English one can use "might" (among other words) to denote the subjunctive meaning.  For example, language might limit one's ability to think about reality. I think that the subjunctive is useful in talking about the uncertain future.
Last updated July 22, 2013
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