Wonder, Magic, and Skepticism


On the one hand, in Plato’s Theaetetus, Socrates says (famously), “The sense of wonder is the mark of the philosopher. Philosophy indeed has no other origin.” On the other hand, when magicians write about their aesthetic aims (which they do), they almost always describe themselves as trying to instill wonder in their spectators. In my presentation, I’ll be discussing the character of wonder and the peculiar aesthetics of magical performance. I’ll suggest that it is worthwhile to compare philosophical arguments (especially arguments for one or another sort of radical skepticism) with magic tricks and that by doing so, we may come to somewhat better understand what is both appealing and frustrating about the study of philosophy.