The Structure of Fallen Curiosity in Augustine and Heidegger


The study of the Judaeo-Christian sources of Heidegger’s thinking developed into an established field of scholarship nowadays. This article explores a lesser- known yet significant topic, namely the relation between Augustine’s understanding of curiosity in the Confessions and Heidegger’s interpretation of the matter in Being and Time. Despite the multiple and decisive differences between Augustine’s Christian anthropology and Heidegger’s phenomenological ontology, we will argue that when it comes to making sense of curiosity there is a particular common ground. Heidegger extracts what we label as a formal structure of understanding curiosity out of the tenth book of Confessions, purifies the Augustinian curiositas (concupiscentia oculorum) of its moral, theological, and epistemic connotations, and adapts it to the requirements  of his Analytics of the Dasein. The three elements of this formal structure of curiosity are: the dynamics of temptation (attraction), the orientation towards the new (spectacularity), and the failed finality into the world (distraction), which conceals one’s authentic possibilities. Nevertheless, due to the fact that the shared formal structure of curiosity can be made explicit only in the light of the fundamental differences, we will firstly address throughout a close reading the inner specifics of curiosity in Confessions and in Being and Time.

Keywords: Keywords: curiositas, concupiscentia oculorum, wonder, Neugier, thaumazein, Augustine,

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