In the following series of posts, I’d like to say some things about the kind of genre philosophical inquiry is and about the kind of character the practice of inquiry can cultivate. First, I’ll say some things about the nature of surprises in general and about the kinds of surprises–perplexities and illuminations–that emerge during philosophical inquiring. Then, I’d like to offer the thought that inquiring prepares a conversation partner to be on the look-out for ordinary surprises and, when these occur, to suspend judgment and to be courageous and light. I’ll conclude with some thoughts about how inquiring can train us to see surprises as occasions for moving from perplexity to illumination. This inquiring cast of mind, I’d venture, can be discerned as much in inquisitive children as in joke-tellers, in mathematicians as in Nietzsche’s playful gods.
1. On the Importance of Being Surprised
We’re surprised, naturally, when we don’t see it coming. Some event occurs unexpectedly or contrary to our expectations and, during the occurrence, the event shows itself, going unnamed. The pronoun without an antecedent is apropos in this instance, and the name has to ‘grow some legs’ so that it can ‘hurry’ to ‘catch up.’