chapter  8
11 Pages

Conditions for Curiosity

Based on the discussions of the previous chapters, let us now concentrate on perhaps the most fundamental philosophical question on curiosity: What are the necessary conditions for a being to become curious? Taken in a philosophical sense, the question before us could be put as: what kind of mental, conceptual, and linguistic abilities allow us to be curious? As I have said earlier, if the term “curiosity” is applied to a form of behavior such as novelty seeking, sensation seeking, or exploratory behavior, then most animals and pre-language children will turn out to be curious beings. Again if curiosity is taken to be an instinct or a drive that motivates such behavior, then the result will be the same. Taken this way, nothing linguistic will be required for curiosity. But if we take curiosity to be a mental state, then things stand diff erently. This has been my approach all along. If some of the readers believe I am wrong about this, and the term “curiosity” could well apply to forms of behavior, then the question at hand will acquire a diff erent nature and will become more of an interest for psychologists than philosophers. So let us grant that in everyday use of language, speakers easily attribute curiosity to cats and infants based on their behavior. Having said this, however, it is highly dubious that a claim such as “the cat is curious about when I will feed her” could be taken to literally express something true of the cat. It seems clear that speakers who use the term in such a way do not do so based on a pre-conviction that cats are able to conceptualize and become aware of something that is expressed by a whether-question. I take such usage of the term curiosity to be metaphorical in nature based on our inclination to anthropomorphize the behavior of animals and to attribute post-language adult characteristics to pre-language children. Nonetheless, if the reader insists that I am wrong about this, it does not matter. We may then distinguish between two forms of curiosity and call one “instinctive” or “behavioral” and the other “conceptual”. We may then pose our question as, “what are the conditions for a being to enjoy conceptual curiosity that may be expressed in language?” This I take to be the more interesting question from a philosophical stand point.