Theories of a unique humanity have evolved enormously throughout history, with a significant tendency in recent times to diminish our claim to be truly distinctive. Still, most scientists and philosophers do believe that we are, in some sense, different from any other lifeform on the planet. But what sets us apart? According to Jesse Prinz, distinguished professor of philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), our unique position among animals is rooted in a particular emotion that has long been overlooked: the emotion of wonder. In Aeon Video 's first original interview, Prinz argues that wonder may be 'the most important emotion for understanding human uniqueness'. It is the linchpin of inspiration and inquiry and the genesis of three distinctly human institutions: art, science and religion.
Jesse Prinz is the author of five books, including The Emotional Construction of Morals (2007), Beyond Human Nature (2012) and The Conscious Brain (2012). His newest book, Works of Wonder: The Psychology and Ontology of Art, is forthcoming. For more on the history and psychology of wonder, read Prinz's essay 'How Wonder Works'. ...[Continue reading on Aeon Magazine]