The Power of Curiosity

The explosion of information in the 21st century has centralized the role of curiosity in our everyday lives. Never have the production mills of detail been more active. But how should we engage with this burgeoning of information in both an innovative and ethical way? In this course, we begin by investigating the basic contours of research ethics, asking how professional curiosity is typically activated and governed. We then turn to classical and contemporary philosophies of curiosity, in order to understand how curiosity is already imbricated in our theories of knowledge, personhood, and right and wrong. Finally, we explore how modern narratives of discovery caution us against forms of curiosity that objectify and exploit already marginalized communities. Throughout the course, our aim is to unpack curiosity’s promise for intellectual creativity and political imagination.  This course mobilizes a compelling series of questions. How is curiosity defined (both quantitatively and qualitatively)? How can curiosity be facilitated in a variety of settings and how is it tied to enhancing the flexibility of our intellectual and affective capacities? How can science help us understand curiosity more clearly, and how does philosophy help us to pursue scientific discovery and technological development more ethically? Finally, how is curiosity best deployed in the service of social justice and civic engagement, at both the national and international level? Throughout the course, students critically analyze a variety of academic and social innovations that model curiosity.