Relativity of Curiosity and Its Satisfaction
There are diff erent forms of relativism that could be said to apply to curiosity and its satisfaction. If my earlier claim that interest is a precondition of curiosity is correct, that is, the things that one is or could be curious about is correlated with the interests of that person, then we may say that curiosity is an interest-relative notion. Merely becoming aware of your ignorance about something that you desire to know is not suffi cient for you to become curious. You must have an interest in the topic that your object of curiosity relates to, and the degree of your curiosity will depend on how much interest you have on that topic. Curiosity is also relative to the open-mindedness of a person. People who are less dogmatic and able to reﬂ ect on what they are ignorant of are more apt to become curious about those things. Lack of epistemic self-reﬂ ection may also reveal itself in the standards one employs in the subjective satisfaction of their curiosity. People who trust authority, for instance, are more easily satisﬁ ed on hearing an answer to their question coming from such a source than people who are willing to question what the authority says. However, when the object of curiosity is a person or a place, for instance, as I have discussed previously, people easily get a feeling that their curiosity is satisﬁ ed on getting answers that let them know of the standard name of the object of their curiosity. Someone who is curious to know who proved the Incompleteness Theorems may feel satisﬁ ed on being told that it was Gödel, even if that person has no other knowledge of Gödel other than that he proved those theorems. Someone who is more open-minded may reﬂ ect on his epistemic status with regard to his knowledge of the referent of such a name and in eff ect may not be satisﬁ ed by the same answer. It should be quite obvious that people have diff erent standards for the subjective satisfaction of their curiosity. So one’s epistemic character traits, the kinds of issues one is interested in, how open-minded one is, how much one is willing to reﬂ ect on one’s epistemic connection to an object, and how much one is willing to realize one’s fallibilism with respect to one’s beliefs will determine what one will be curious about and what would be required for one to satisfy one’s curiosity in a particular case. All of these issues are important in various ways. If curiosity is taken to be an
epistemic value or a virtue of some sort, then it becomes more important. Especially it has various implications for the philosophy of education. If we wish to make our students to become more curious beings, then we should ﬁ nd ways to arouse their interest in topics that they may otherwise not be interested in. But we should also encourage them to be more openminded and inquisitive by making them realize how fallible their beliefs are, to make them become aware of their own ignorance, and so on. All of this should be quite uncontroversial. But an issue that appears to have been neglected concerns how the use of language relates to curiosity. From all the previous discussion, it follows that what one can be curious about is relative to what one can refer to by using the language of one’s idiolect. So curiosity in this sense is also relative to the richness of one’s language. A good educational system should not only give students the epistemic skills to become more open-minded and inquisitive, and thereby encourage them to ask questions out of curiosity, but it should also broaden their idiolects by giving them a richer vocabulary and the linguistic skills to construct novel inostensible terms.