Child, Adolescent and Family Psychology
THE PHILOSOPHICAL BABY
What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life
Alison Gopnik, Ph.D.
EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES The reader will be able to:
• Describe how babies draw accurate conclusions from data and statistical analysis
• Describe how they conduct clever experiments
• Describe that babies are capable of counterfactual thinking
• Describe when they start to feel empathy
• Describe when they are able to understand that hitting hurts
• Describe when they can be expected to understand rules
• Describe that young children don't have the same self narrative adults have
• Describe that children can easily distinguish between imaginary, possible, and real objects and between role-playing and imaginary friends
Alison Gopnik, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. She is coauthor of Words, Thoughts, and Theories and The Scientist in the Crib.
For most of us, having a baby is the most profound, intense, and fascinating experience of our lives. Now scientists and philosophers are starting to appreciate babies, too. The last decade has witnessed a revolution in our understanding of infants and young children. Scientists used to believe that babies were irrational, and that their thinking and experience were limited. Recently, they have discovered that babies learn more, create more, care more, and experience more than we could ever have imagined. And there is good reason to believe that babies are actually smarter, more thoughtful, and even more conscious than adults. This new science holds answers to some of the deepest and oldest questions about what it means to be human. A new baby's captivated gaze at her mother's face lays the foundations for love and morality. A toddler's unstoppable explorations of his playpen hold the key to scientific discovery. A three-year-old's wild make-believe explains how we can imagine the future, write novels, and invent new technologies. Alison Gopnik - a leading psychologist and philosopher, as well as a mother - explains the groundbreaking new psychological, neuroscientific, and philosophical developments in our understanding of very young children, transforming our understanding of how babies see the world, and in turn promoting a deeper appreciation for the role of parents.
Psychologist Gopnik (The Scientist in the Crib) points out that babies have long been excluded from the philosophical literature, and in this absorbing text, she argues that if anything, babies are more conscious than grownups. While adults often function on autopilot, getting through their busy days as functional zombies, babies, with their malleable, complex minds and penchant for discovery, approach life like little travelers, enthralled by every nuance of their exciting and novel environment. Gopnik compares babies to the research and development department of the human species, while adults take care of production and marketing. Like little scientists, babies draw accurate conclusions from data and statistical analysis, conduct clever experiments and figure out everything from how to get mom to smile at them to how to make a hanging mobile spin. Like adults, the author claims, babies are even capable of counterfactual thinking (the ability to imagine different outcomes that might happen in the future or might have happened in the past). As she tackles philosophical questions regarding love, truth and the meaning of life, Gopnik reveals that babies and children are keys not only to how the mind works but also to our understanding of the human condition and the nature of love. --Publishers Weekly
The Philosophical Baby offers a refreshing alternative to the current dominance of an evolutionary perspective in popular books on cognitive science, such as those of Steven Pinker. Not that Gopnik doubts that evolution has shaped our brains, but she places less emphasis on hardwired cognitive modules that evolved for a Stone Age environment and more on the cognitive capacities that allow us to transcend our biological predispositions and create completely new environments. -- American Scientist