It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


The Curious Case of Curiosity

page: 1

log in


posted on Feb, 8 2011 @ 12:50 AM
Curious isn't it? This curious case of curiosity? Was it curiosity that brought you here? How curious are you? You know what I found curios? Until recently, I was seemingly never really about curiosity. That all changed when I recently over heard some girl somewhere tell some guy that Curiosity Killed the Cat. It was curios indeed, because the first thing to came to mind is what does such a statement mean, really? Obviously the proverbial cat is a warning to us to beware the dangers of curiosity...but, does curiosity kill? Was it really curiosity that killed the cat, or was a series of events, that more than likely included hubris, that killed the cat? Even if that series of events began with curiosity does that necessarily mean that it was curiosity that killed the cat?

Often times when people - usually students - are asked - usually after being forced to read Shakespeare's Hamlet - why Hamlet kill Claudius, the answer is because Hamlet's father, (a ghost, no less), told him to do so...but, Hamlets ghost appears to Hamlet in the beginning of Act I, and there are five acts to this play, so Hamlet sure takes his sweet ass time killing Claudius simply because his father, (the ghost), asked him to do so. However, in the final act, when Hamlet finally does the deed and kills Claudius, he himself has just discovered, from Laertes, (his killer), that he has only moments left to live because while they were dueling with swords, and just before Hamlet thrusts the killing blow to Laertes, and his dying breath, Laertes informs Hamlet that the cut that Laertes caused from a blow from his sword has delivered a mortal wound because the sword had been coated in poison, Hamlet realizing his time is up and he must make a decision, only after all of this new knowledge does Hamlet kill Claudius.

What is my point, you may wonder? Curious, isn't it, that while discussing curiosity, I would seemingly digress into Hamlet? My point is that a series of events leading to ones death are complex, and it is a big leap - a huge leap - from curiosity to death. It is not as if we become curious about something and then just seconds later we're dead, although I suppose in some instances this can happen for both cat and human. I don't think it was curiosity that killed the cat, and of course, without more information as to what did kill the cat, I can't speak very intelligently about that poor cats death, but I can make an educated guess, and assume it wasn't curiosity that killed that poor little cat.

Why is it that curiosity has such a bad reputation? Just what the hell is Curiosity? Is it, as some would argue, an Emotion? Webster's definition would imply it is an emotion and that the emotion is rooted in desire, but isn't desire an emotion too? How curious that the more curios I become about curiosity the curiouser and curiouser curiosity becomes. Come down the rabbit hole with me, won't you, just for a brief amount of time, and let's discover, if we can, just what the hell this thing called curiosity really is.

Isn't it curious that a desire to know can sometimes be an intellectual pursuit, and at other times a physical one?
If I have a desire to know her, it is usually a physical desire, and not an intellectual desire. My curiosity about her is triggered by emotional responses to seeing, or even just thinking of her that must be something different than curiosity before curiosity gets the best of me, and I talk to her in hopes of maybe satiating my desire to know her. This is different, it seems, than the desire to know what a word like curiosity means. It's almost as if when I am curios about this mysterious girl I allude to that I am responding to emotional responses, but when I investigate more about the word curious, what it means, and how that better helps us understand...just what the hell is curiosity?

If emotion is a psychophysiological stat of mind, does that necessarily mean that all of our state of minds are dictated by our emotional state? What the hell is the story with emotions anyway? Are we controlled by our emotions, or do our emotions control us? Is a state of mind different from an emotional state, even if the two can include the other? Is there, I wonder, a nuanced difference between an emotional state, and a state of mind? How has our definitions of all these terms, curiosity, emotion, and state of mind affected the way we perceive curiosity, and how in turn has that affected our curiosity, emotional state and our state of mind? Curiouser and curiouser indeed. And even curiouser, is that when I began this thread, I had written a longer essay of which I failed to save as I go along, and then inadvertently closed that window before I was ready to. If everything happens as it is supposed to, and if I caused that, then what was I supposed to do with the limited time I had left for tonight? Curious indeed.

I have decided that this curious case of curiosity needs more than just a long winded - as well researched as it might have been - opening post, and while it needs much research, perhaps it is best to let that research happen organically, with help, as we as researchers analyze this curious phenomenon of curiosity together. So, come down the rabbit hole with me, won't you, and let's figure out just what the hell this mysterious thing called curiosity, this strange and terrifying place called curiosity, this monstrous metropolis we call curiosity really is. Let this thread serve as a collective attempt at inquiry in to the nature of inquiry, for surely curiosity deserves a thorough study where diligent care is taken to understand it...warts and all.

What do you say? Just how curious are you? Curious enough to discover what the hell this curiosity is all about?

posted on Feb, 8 2011 @ 01:37 AM
reply to post by Jean Paul Zodeaux

I was curious enough to click the link but not curious enough to accept the impending headache from reading the word curiousity time and again.
But as i was curious enough i will check back in and see if someone explains what it is that you have written.

posted on Feb, 8 2011 @ 09:39 PM
Hmmm, curious indeed. Not too many members, it would seem, are all that curious about curiosity. Even the one reply this thread got indicated that their curiosity was not compelling enough to investigate further than entering the thread and reading my O.P. Perhaps the curiosity was less a desire to know, and more a desire to have answers. Or, perhaps in the end, curiosity doesn't deserve much more than a cursory mention, a simple nod, and it is best when taken for granted.

Curiously, I tend to believe that curiosity merits much more investigation and discussion than this thread would indicate. After all, didn't most of the members in this site find this site out of curiosity, and didn't most join out of a need to satiate curiosity?

Here's the deal, it strikes me that curiosity has an undeserved bad reputation. Perhaps it is all the fault of William Shakespeare and his friend Ben Johnson, Johnson being the first to introduce the notion of a cat being killed because of curiosity, or as he and Shakespeare put it; "care".

...Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care will kill a cat, up-tails all, and a pox on the hangman.

- Every Man in his Humor, Ben Johnson -

What, courage man! what though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.

Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare -

However, and curiously so, "care" in this instance is defined as "worry" or "sorrow", which is entirely different than saying curiosity killed the cat. Isn't it curious then that Johnson and Shakespeare would be credited with the origin of this proverb?

Maybe not so curious since the etymology of the word leads us back to its Latin root of Curiosus, which means careful, diligent, inquiring eagerly, and meddlesome, but "care" in this sense is less "worry" or "sorrow" and more...well, "careful". According to Wikipedia, the proverb of curiosity killing the cat means to mind your own business, as in don't be nosy and do not get involved in unnecessary affairs that could lead to harm. What is curious is that the proverb, at least according to the Wikipedia article, remained pretty much the same until around 1898, then it seemed to evolve into what it has come to mean today.

What is even curiouser, is why a proverb that seems to warn against "care" as in "worry" or "sorrow" would use a cat as its example. It seems to me that cats are not much for worrying, although they may be inclined towards sorrow, I don't really know as I am not much of a cat person. Cat's are, however, quite curious creatures. As that artist who was for a while the artist formerly known as Prince, and is now again, as he was when he wrote When Doves Cry, said; "Animals strike curious poses". It appears that many animals are indeed quite curious, but even though this is a shared commonality between living beings, apparently curiosity is not an instinct because it is not a fixed action pattern.

For this reason, curiosity is labeled as an emotion. Yet, and curiously so, that state of curiosity seems to trigger many different kinds of emotions. As I alluded to in the O.P. the desire of a woman is borne of a certain curiosity, but that desire feels different - remarkably so - than the curiosity of the meaning of a word. The word curious is often used in terms of sexual experimentation, and for people who are wondering what their sexual preferences are, they might be bi-curious, which implies that the emotions behind this type of curiosity are borne of a desire more akin to lust than they are akin to a general need to know. One could be curious about bisexuality in an intellectual sense, but somehow when porn sites and magazines are advertising with the tag line "bi-curious?", I don't think they are appealing to an intellectual need to know, and are instead appealing to a physical desire much stronger than passing curiosity.

Further, and curious still, is the proclivity for all animals to explore, but is exploration necessarily borne out of curiosity? The need for space and food often leads to exploration, but should we accept that this desire for new places and food is a part of the curious nature, or is that something much more physical in innate to the body we inhabit, which brings up an even more curious notion; are we just our body's and nothing more? Does every emotion we feel, and every thought we have stem from the physiology of our body, or is there another aspect to "us" that is separate from our body?

In fact, Wikipedia, when discussing curiosity, asserts that "in fact", that curiosity that develops into wonder or admiration, it is curiosity that compels people to become an expert in a field of knowledge. The curious thing about this assertion is that becoming an expert in a field of knowledge requires a steady discipline that seemingly outlasts any emotional state. Emotional states are transient, even fickle, but the desire to become expert at knowledge is not so transient, and not nearly as fickle as any given emotion. So, once again, we come back to the question of emotion, and what such a thing is.

Love and happiness are often labeled an emotion, although, and curiously so, while Wikipedia declares Love an emotion, they seem to avoid labeling Happiness as an emotion, but is Love an emotion? While we have come, all too often in my opinion, to define Love as affection for another person, it seems that Love is much more than this. As parents, we do not always feel affection for our children, but for most of us, we always Love them. We always have a strong personal attachment to them, even when we are not feeling affection for them. The same goes for our spouses or mates. We do not always feel affection for them, but if we Love them, we weather through the periods of non-affection, at least those who define Love to be more than just a simple emotion. If emotions are transient states, and I am inclined to believe they are, then Love must be something more than just emotion.

The curious thing about emotion is that it seems to be poorly defined. To simplify it down to "any strong feeling" seems to be a great disservice to the state of emotions, and the more complex definition, being a mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort...well, seems to also miss the mark on what emotions really are. Indeed, defining it as a mental state implies that the emotion stems from thought first, and thought is generally considered to be an intellectual pursuit using reason, although not all thoughts are backed by reason, and indeed, and I suppose curiously so, thoughts can often times be products of our emotions.

How curious it is that a curiosity about the nature of curiosity would lead to a desire to better understand emotions and thought, and if possible to delineate between the two. This curiosity about curiosity is given a label as well, and it is called "meta curiosity", and it gets so curious that a label is placed upon the action of entering into this thread and taking the time to read all this wondering about wonder, all this curiosity about curiosity as being "meta-meta-curiosity"! How curious is that? We can be curious, and we can be "meta-curious" and we can even be "meta-meta-curious", which again, seems to imply that curiosity is much much more than just an emotion.

Even more curious is that it appears as if our lexicon is, to some degree, a poisoned well. If the etymology of the word curious leads us to the Latin word curiosus, which means to take great care, as in being careful to be diligent, or to be meddlesome, this doesn't explain such curious states as "bi-curious" or "sexually curious", or curious about certain substances such as drugs. One who tries out an illicit drug out of curiosity is not being careful even if they may be diligent in their usage of the drug, and often times when one succumbs to a sexual desire, being careful is not a high priority. Neither trying out an illicit drug, or trying sex for the first time, or a new sexual experience for the first time is particularly meddlesome, although these actions tend to invite meddling from others. It seems that the Latin usage of the word was much more precise than how it has come to be used today.

The poisoning of the well of lexicography seems to imply a lack of curiosity. Indeed, most of the time when we are introduced to a new word it is in the course of a conversation, or reading, but it is rare that we will make the time to look up the word to make sure we have a "proper" definition of it, and instead tend to contextually define the word. This becomes problematic, and many of us discover this problem when the day arrives where our contextual definition of a word is contradicted by the actual definition of the word, which means we have been using and understanding the word as something different than what it actually means. Perhaps this is how words become diluted and bastardized. A dictionary defines words as they are used in the everyday sense of the meaning, even if dictionaries will provide etymology and archaic usages as well. Lexicographers seem less concerned with how correct the usage of a word is, regarding its original meaning, and more concerned with what that word means today. Thus, if a word such as curiosity began by meaning careful diligent inquiry, or a meddlesome inquiry but now means that as well as other forms of desire, then the more precise definition becomes diluted and simplified down to "a desire to know".

However, when defined as "a desire to know", and when the proverbial cat goes from being killed by "care" to being killed by "curiosity", then we understand this to mean the "desire to know" comes with great peril. It is interesting to note, and curious still, that the Wikipedia article regarding "curiosity killed the cat" claims that the origin of the modern variation - that proverb that warns against a desire to know - is unknown. Even so, that article offers:

The earliest known printed reference to the actual phrase is found in the 1902 edition of Proverbs Maxims and Phrases, by John Hendricks Bechtel. On page 100, the phrase "Curiosity killed the cat" is the lone entry under the topical heading Curiosity.

The lone entry in a book of proverbs and maxims regarding curiosity is the grave warning that "curiosity killed the cat". Hmmm, curios indeed. This brings me back to why I started this thread, that was borne of a curiosity to know why a proverb was created to warn against curiosity, and as you may be wondering, what this has to do with a conspiracy site. I couldn't help but wonder if there has been a conspiracy against the word curiosity in order to keep people from learning too much. While the Wikipedia article I keep referencing seems to think that it was just a natural evolution form "care" killed the cat, to "curiosity" killed the cat, and indeed, it makes much more sense that curiosity would kill a cat than it does that care would do so. However, further inquiry into the curious case of curiosity and on the origins of the proverbial cat killed by curiosity, there is another article that, while it echoes much of what Wikipedia offered, it also goes further back than Johnson and Shakespeare for its origin suggesting that its roots might be found as far back as AD 397:

Curiosity hasn't received a good press over the centuries. Saint Augustine wrote in Confessions, AD 397, that, in the eons before creating heaven and earth, God "fashioned hell for the inquisitive". John Clarke, in Paroemiologia, 1639 suggested that "He that pryeth into every cloud may be struck with a thunderbolt". In Don Juan, Lord Byron called curiosity "that low vice". That bad opinion, and the fact that cats are notoriously inquisitive, lead to the source of their demise being changed from 'care' to 'curiosity'.

Curious, isn't it, that a Catholic such as St. Augustine would assert that inquisitiveness is less than holy, only to see the Catholic Church years later develop what became known as The Inquisition. Even curiouser is the fact that the very prolific St Augustine often engaged in inquiry, and even encouraged us to inquire. It does, however, make sense that the Catholic Church would engage in a campaign against the nature of inquisitiveness. Was there a conspiracy by the Catholic Church to slander curiosity so that it may become perceived that only the sinful and wicked are curious?

Of course, "curiosity killed the cat" could just be an easy way of parenting. A form of expedience. Children can be very, very curious, and most parents know just how difficult it can be keeping a watchful eye on their children 24/7, but the fear of what a child might do, even when in the presence of the parent is most assuredly a 24/7 fear. Their curiosity can lead to dire consequences if they are not properly monitored, so perhaps the proverb came about as a means of discouraging a natural state that might lead to harm a parent would never wish upon any of their children.

What makes me curious about this though, is if it is merely a parenting tool intended to keep children from harm, does suppressing curiosity cause more harm than the risk of unattended curiosity? Indeed, can curiosity be suppressed? Perhaps it can be, and it sometimes seem that the general laziness of people unwilling to verify facts, clear definitions, and find the source of references stems from a suppressed curiosity...or maybe its just laziness. I wonder...

While I hope this recent installment of mine in this thread has done more to explain why I think this thread is important, I suspect it only brings up more questions than it does answer. Why I think the curious case of curiosity is important is because I also suspect that curiosity is not at all an emotion - and by emotion I mean the physical feelings we experience - but is more a state of mind. I tend to believe there is a difference between an emotional state, and a state of mind, as nuanced as that difference may be. Certainly an emotional state, can and does create a state of mind, and conversely a state of mind, can and does create an emotional state, and yet, they are two different aspects of who we are.

It is my contention that a state of mind is less about our physical body, and more what would be a spiritual state of mind. Of course, we can take state of mind and break it down into several different states of mind, one of them being a spiritual state of mind, but this only adds to the confusion. I also suspect that emotions themselves may be something more than just a physiological phenomenon, and that our spirits can experience emotions as well. These are merely postulates, not even yet hypothesis', and certainly not theory. Just creeping suspicions that there is more between Heaven and Hell that is dreamt of in my philosophy, and certainly much, much more than meets the eye.

This is what has me so curious about curiosity, and why I think that curiosity, as a state, or phenomenon, deserves more attention than it gets. In terms of education and media, curiosity tends to carry a bad reputation, and with this thread, perhaps I will have accomplished nothing more than adding to the burial of curiosity, but curiously, I come not to bury curiosity, but to praise it.
edit on 8-2-2011 by Jean Paul Zodeaux because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 10 2011 @ 08:20 PM
You know what's curious?

About half way through reading the OP, something in my brain started nagging at me saying that the word "curious" was spelled wrong. I checked it with a spell checker but, my brain kept telling me there was something wrong with that word.

It must have something to do with the phenomena that happens when you keep repeating a word over and over again until it becomes meaningless.

I guess that seeing the word "curious" repeated so many times in the OP triggered the same type of reaction inside my head. Who would have thought that it worked when reading as well?

Pretty curious huh?

posted on Feb, 12 2011 @ 05:19 AM
reply to post by Jean Paul Zodeaux

Curious, indeed. Words are funny things, eh?

Take the words conspiracy and theory. Apart, they are harmless yet together they are a epithet, conjuring images of Mel Gibson in the movie of the term(also curious because in the movie he was right - a wee bit ironic, methinks) or even worse, the tinfoil-hat wearing crowd. A nut-case.

It only takes two to conspire to create a conspiracy. Yet we here at ATS are all kooky because we are curious about things that happen all the time, on lesser levels obviously, to pretty much everyone. Ever had a surprise party? That's a conspiracy to keep the truth from you that, while not nefarious, it proves my point somewhat.

I'll keep up with this thread out of curiosity, as I'm always curious what JPZ's big(say big-big) brain will come up with next.

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 01:55 PM
reply to post by Jean Paul Zodeaux

That was a very fascinating stream of consciousness! I apologize that you aren't going to generate a lot of discussion with this topic but that's more for the fault of others for not reading your topic than for your OPs. Anyhow, I think curiosity has been given a bad name because of all the negative things correlated to it. People think of drugs and other things that are considered criminal or sinful, like one's sexuality. Then people don't like it when they do it. Curiosity about knowledge is nothing bad at all. It is not a bad thing to continually question things or ask questions. People are taught that curiosity killed the cat so they shouldn't be curious but yeah, it s silly that they don't like to look beyond their own world. People really are stuck in their own worlds.

top topics

log in