Wonder as rational fear

Here, in his book Poetic Knowledge, author James Taylor quotes an interesting passage on the nature of wonder. Here, wonder is “consciousness of ignorance”. For anyone of you particularly curious folk out there, you know there is a dimension of this that is NOT a pleasant experience!

Wonder, always considered a passion, was classified by Aquinas and many before him as a species of fear. This is bound to strike the modern reader as out of tune with his experience of the emotions of both fear and wonder…Fear, we must remember, is one of the emergency emotions: it arises when we perceive some evil that seems to be insuperable…There are, of course, many kinds of fear…[and] it is helpful to distinguish wonder from some passions in its immediate family. When we do so, we see that wonder is the most rational form of fear.

Wonder intensifies…pleasure…because wonder increases desire and therefore the joy of discovery. It seems at first that the pleasurable character of wonder is at odds with its being a form of fear, which is usually unpleasant. It is true that wonder arises from something that is unpleasant, consciousness of ignorance, and that until one knows, one remains in this condition. But the only way that one can profitably flee from ignorance is by desiring and attempting to know, and these are pleasant activities. A man imprisoned will find his condition unpleasant, but he wll take delight in planning his escape.

-Dennis B. Quinn, Iris in Exile: A Synoptic History of Wonder (via Poetic Knowledge, p.25

You see that? Wonder intensifies pleasure because it increases desire and therefore the joy of discovery. This is why the person who visits Europe after reading about it expectantly for 30 years of there life is probably going to have a much more exciting time than a business man travelling there to make a sale, his mind on other things, or even a vacationer who has only become excited about the sights to see while reading up on them in the past month.