In Marianna Papastefanou (ed.), Toward New Philosophical Explorations of the Desire to Know: Just Curious About Curiosity. Cambridge, UK: pp. 26-49 (2019)

Authors
Perry Zurn
American University
Abstract
Throughout history, many scholars have offered up definitions of curiosity. These definitions range far and wide. Some attempt to amass all the elements of curiosity, systematize them, and propose a unified theory. Some characterize curiosity as a conceptual unit with two primary dimensions (e.g. epistemic and perceptual), as two distinct kinds of things (e.g. bona et mala curiositas), or as one side of a binary (e.g. curiosity vs. care). What is curiosity? Which characterization is most apt to curiosity itself and which best illuminates its ethical and political stakes? In this essay, I argue that curiosity is best characterized modally. That is, it is best described through its modes rather than defined by its essence. To support this argument, I canvas the history of philosophy and identify three models of curiosity, which I name by their correlative literary figures: the busybody, the hunter, and the dancer. The curious person is repeatedly described as drawn to gossip, hunting down secrets and discoveries, and taking leaps of creative imagination. I develop an account of the unique kinesthetic signatures of each mode. I then close with ethical considerations, interrogating issues of responsibility relevant to each. In doing so, this chapter reimagines both curiosity itself and its role in our political ecology today.
Keywords curiosity  philosophy of curiosity  curiosity studies  busybody  hunter  dancer  modeling  metaphilosophy  history of philosophy
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