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The Experience of Enchantment and the Sense of Wonder

Pages 115-129 | Received 08 Jan 2021, Accepted 06 May 2021, Published online: 19 May 2021


This paper begins by drawing on accounts of enchantment as wonder by three authors (Alain-Fournier, Aldous Huxley and J.R.R. Tolkien) to explore its basic characteristics and dynamics. It then draws a contrast with the disenchantment attending will and the will-to-power, noting the internal affinity of the latter with the project of modernity and its contrast with enchantment as a non-modern experience. It then proceeds to a critique of three influential philosophers’ portrayals of enchantment (Philip Fisher, Jane Bennett and Akeel Bilgrami, as well as Charles Taylor), which it faults for not paying closer attention to the implications of the experience of enchantment. It closes with a plea for philosophy aligned with the humanities rather than sciences.


I would like to thank John Parham for his helpful editorial suggestions. An earlier version was given at the symposium on ‘Enchanted Environments’ at the University of Worcester, 6 March 2020. For other, overlapping work on the same subject see (Curry Citation2012, Citation2017a, Citation2017b, Citation2018, Citation2019). Finally, this paper is dedicated to the memory of Wendy Wheeler.

Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).


1. See Viveiros De Castro (Citation2004).

2. See Zwicky (Citation1992) on ‘radiant specificity’.

3. I have also borrowed from Hadot’s (2006, 309) translation.

4. See (Bortoft Citation2012, 103).

5. See (Latour Citation1993).

6. For a strangely similar account by a very different sort of author, see Fermor (2004, 358, 355).

7. From a notice next to one of her paintings in an exhibition in Basle in 2017.

8. See (Drout Citation2013).

9. I except (Vasalou Citation2015) and (Lloyd Citation2018), but not, unfortunately, (Meijer and De Vriese Citation2020).

10. This is the burden of much of Wittgenstein (Citation1998). See also my 2017b.

11. See e.g. Midgely 2001 and Nagel (Citation2012).

12. E.g.Wittgenstein and music, Merleau-Ponty and painting, Zwicky and poetry.

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Patrick Curry

Patrick Curry is a former lecturer at the universities of Kent and Bath Spa. He remains a Tutor at the University of Wales. He is the author of several books, most recently Enchantment: Wonder in Modern Life (2019), and editor of the online journal The Ecological Citizen. For more information see http://www.patrickcurry.co.uk/

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