The Sense of Wonder and the Humility It Takes

Student Author(s)

Lauren Madison

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger

Document Type


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Rachel Carson’s posthumously published work, The Sense of Wonder, provides us with insight into the philosophy behind her passionate defense of the earth and stands as a naturalist’s testament to wonder’s moral significance. This paper further explores the role of wonder in earthkeeping, and argues that, when purposefully cultivated, it can be a key ecological virtue. Wonder as an ecological virtue is necessarily facilitated by the possession of ecological humility, understood as a proper knowledge of one’s place on earth. Wonder and humility are frequently articulated in the field of environmental literature, which provides narratives that inform readers of these virtues’ many implications, from reverence for non-human life to living simply. In this way, stories can be a powerful influence in the cultivation of ecological virtue. This paper therefore also discusses the value of narrative in cultivating virtue, and utilizes the writings of Annie Dillard, Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, and many more to illustrate that wonder and humility should be understood as key ecological virtues.

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