How to make a Greek god smile

Lorraine Daston

  • Wonder, the Rainbow and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences by Philip Fisher
    Harvard, 191 pp, £21.95, January 1999, ISBN 0 674 95561 7

‘Wonder,’ Descartes wrote, ‘is a sudden surprise of the soul,’ reserved for what is rare and extraordinary. In his classification, it is the first of the passions, the only one unaccompanied by fluttering pulse or pounding heart. Disinterested but not indifferent, wonder is a cool passion that fixes on objects for what they are, instead of what they are for us. The wonder of wonder consists in the paradox of a cognitive passion: it has all the force of other passions like love or hate, but it helps rather than hinders reason. It is the passion aroused by anomalies, and the anomaly among the passions.

You are not logged in