Helen De Cruz


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Princeton University Press
26 March 2024
ISBN: 9780691232126
232 pages

From the publisher

A philosopher explores the transformative role of wonder and awe in an uncertain world

Wonder and awe lie at the heart of life’s most profound questions. Wonderstruck shows how these emotions respond to our fundamental need to make sense of ourselves and everything around us, and how they enable us to engage with the world as if we are experiencing it for the first time.

Drawing on the latest psychological insights on emotions, Helen De Cruz argues that wonder and awe are emotional drives that motivate us to inquire and discover new things, and that humanity has deliberately nurtured these emotions in cultural domains such as religion, science, and magic. Tracing how wonder and awe unify philosophy, the humanities, and the sciences, De Cruz provides new perspectives on figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Adam Smith, William James, Rachel Carson, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Abraham Heschel. Along the way, she explains how these singular emotions empower us to be open-minded, to experience joy and hope, and to be resilient in the face of personal troubles and global challenges.

Taking inspiration from Descartes’s portrayal of wonder as “that sudden surprise of the soul,” this illuminating book reveals how wonder and awe are catalysts that can help us reclaim what makes life worth living and preserve the things we find wonderful and valuable in our lives.