Yet, this impulse truly defines the normal human being, doesn't it? It is what perpetually pushes us beyond ourselves to look for the Answer we know we can never fully attain. This is no less true of the (intellectually honest) atheist than it is of the theist, except the latter is fully conscious of the fact that the goal cannot be reached in this life, and he's cool with that.
If he is a little more conscious, he realizes that it is only because it can't be reached that the search can take place at all -- similar to Thomas's idea that it is only because things are not ultimately knowable that they are knowable at all. (In short, the reason things are intelligible is that they are created; the reason they are not ultimately knowable is that we aren't their Creator.)
It has a name: Meno's Paradox. But this is a True Orthoparadox, as true as they come. In other words, in its way, it is an Ultimate Answer, or at least a boundary beyond which the mind cannot venture. It cannot be "resolved" in thought because it is one of the bases of thought.
Here is how Socrates phrases the paradox: "A man cannot search either for what he knows or for what he does not know. He cannot search for what he knows -- since he knows it, there is no need to search -- nor for what he does not know, for he does not know what to look for."
Socrates tries to resolve the paradox via a theory of vertical recollection, which is adequate as far as it goes, but it still doesn't explain our ignorance or our drive to know. Why are we in this cosmic situation?
Pabst agrees with Bob that our "natural desire for the supernatural good discloses the divinely infused self-transcendence of all things." So, first of all, we must begin with the principle that man is the microcosm, or in the image and likeness of the Creator. What does the Creator do?
Well, for starters -- IMHO -- he is in a perpetual state of ecstatic self-emptying, or kenosis. This emptying has its human analog in the form of not-knowing, or of the emptiness that precedes any act of knowing.
It also has its analog in human relations, in that only by giving love do we receive love. The person who is "full of himself" -- the narcissist -- can neither give nor receive love, because he is already "complete" (in a pseudo manner, of course, i.e., a kind of aping of the completeness of God).
"Divine goodness is that which endows us with the natural desire for the supernatural Good in God" (ibid.). Thus, our innate epistemophilia isn't really natural at all. Nor is it unnatural or anti-natural. Rather, it is always supernatural, or to express it with a less loaded term, transnatural.
It is also a prolongation of childhood, or neoteny. Other animals play, but pretty much only as babies. In fact, play for most animals is a kind of rehearsal for adulthood -- for example, in the way kittens practice stalking and attacking one another. Such play has a clear telos, or instinctual end, that is hardwired into the genes (and/or in a nonlocal morphic field).
But human learning-play has no end -- not chronologically, ontologically, developmentally, or epistemologically. Or, it has an end, but again, this is not like an animal end, since it can never be reached. There is no fixed and final form, because we can never stop learning unless something has gone wrong. If a man does reach an end, it is almost by definition a pathological state. You might say that we cannot reach the end because we may search for it (and vice versa).
To reach the end -- whether via ideology or just laziness -- is pathological for reasons alluded to in that little quote in the comment box: "The quest, thus, has no external 'object,' but is reality itself becoming luminous for its movement from the ineffable, through the Cosmos, to the ineffable."
We mean this quite literally. Again, the existence of this spiroid movement is itself an answer beyond which there can be no more adequate one, because it represents the actualization or prolongation of intelligibility in concert with the deepening of intelligence.
Thus, reality "reaches out" to us, even as we reach in, which means that reality is intrinsically relational, and it is ultimately relational because God is irreducibly so. There is no atom, no fact, no datum, no theory, no answer answer beneath or beyond eternally orthoparadoxical relationality.
To not be puzzled by such a queer state of affairs is to have a queerly defective puzzler.