Saturday, November 12, 2005

More Notes on Curiosity

(We're running around today. These are notes for me mostly.)

Curiosity is a mixed bag in the ancient world- the Greek Homer treats it as a danger- a distraction from the path of duty. Ulysses and the sirens is the perfect example of this. Note that the temptation is auditory. Later Latinate Christian writers would see curiosity as primarily visual. Saint Augustine famously deals with it as "Concupiescence of the eyes", an occular lust. Going from an oral tradition to a literary tradition, the ear is traded for an eye and one's duty becomes an issue almost exlusively of looking. The oral requires attentive listening, and the written requires attentive looking. Augustine himself is horrified to see a reader who is not reading aloud because he is cut off from others. But, the visual bias is already a part of Augustine's own thinking.

Of course, the tradition of curiosity as sin is but one tradition- Aristotle begins the Metaphysics by stating that "all men by nature have a desire for knowledge"- all men are curious. Similarly, the lack of curiosity of Plato's cave dwellers seems to be their sin. But, for later Latin Christians, such as Saint Jerome, or again Saint Augustine, curiosity is sin, because the Christian should be in the world, but not of the world.

Yet why does it become a sin between Lucian and Apuleius' separate handlings of the tale of Lucius and the ass?

No comments: