Philosophy of Education: Essays and Commentaries

By Hobert W. Burns; Charles J. Brauner | Go to book overview

Introduction: Man, Maps, and Philosophy

Philosophy begins in wonder. And, at the end, when philosophic thought has done its best, the wonder remains. There may have been added, however, some grasp of the immensity of things, some purification of emotion by understanding.

Alfred North Whitehead

With what he has inherited and what he has invented, man has cultivated his own wonder. He has wondered about all things-- Why is . . . ? What is . . . ? Where is . . . ? How is . . . ? --and he has expressed his wonderment in many ways.

Because he is a wanderer as well as a wonderer, he is a maker of maps; when he wonders he explores, when he explains he maps the regions explored. Some make maps with brush and charcoal, others with nouns and verbs, still others with numbers alone. Drawings etched on the walls of prehistoric caves no less than paintings recently dripped from the brushes of Jackson Pollock offer direct expression and explanation of man's wonder. The geocentric universe of Ptolemy, the heliocentric universe of Galileo, the mechanistic universe of Newton, and the expanding universe of Einstein all testify to yet another dimension of man's wonderment and explanation.

Beyond the direct expression of the arts, yet short of the boundary of scientific explanation, lies a no man's land of wondering. He who works there is the philosopher. His work, often bridging the direct, expressive domain of the arts and the indirect, abstract realm of science, implies not only the creativity of the artist but the discipline of scholarship and logical thought which distinguishes explanation from expression.

This worker ventures out beyond fact in his exploration of the meanings of human experience, but while he may lose touch with fact now and again, he never loses contact with experience. He may be the physicist who speculates about the nature of the cosmos, and he may well expect that astronomers will eventually confirm as fact his speculative conclusions; he may be the metaphysician who speculates about the nature of human nature, dealing with insights into the spiritual qualities of man which he never

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