In the last decade there has been a revolution in our understanding of the minds of infants and young children. We used to believe that babies were irrational, and that their thinking and experience were limited. Now Alison Gopnik -- a leading psychologist and philosopher, as well as a mother -- explains the cutting-edge scientific and psychological research that has revealed 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 more conscious than adults. In a lively and accessible tour of the groundbreaking new psychological, neuroscientific, and philosophical developments, Gopnik offers new insight into how babies see the world, and in turn promotes a deeper appreciation for the role of parents in shaping the lives of their children. Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of "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. " Gopnik's] account of what the science of recent decades has had to say about infants' minds tells a fascinating story of how we become the grown-ups that we are." --"The New York Times "
" Gopnik's] account of what the science of recent decades has had to say about infants' minds tells a fascinating story of how we become the grown-ups that we are."--"The New York Times
""In "The Philosophical Baby," cognitive scientist Alison Gopnik asks what the study of developing minds can tell us about philosophical mysteries. The human capacity for wild imagination, for example, presents a puzzle for a species whose survival depends on representing reality as accurately as possible . . . As a guide to the field of cognitive development, there can be few people better qualified than Gopnik. This eminent developmental scientist writes with wit, erudition and an admirable aversion to jargon, and her book provides an intriguing perspective on some philosophical questions."--Charles Fernyhough, "Financial Times
""I've often wondered, peering into those wide, unblinking eyes, just what it's like to be a baby. Now, thanks to Alison Gopnik's fascinating new book, "The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life," I have a pretty good idea . . . Gopnik] likens a baby's attention to a lantern, casting its light in all directions, illuminating the nooks and crannies of a strange, new world--perfect for learning a great deal in a short time . . . It's that lantern-like consciousness that allows a baby to construct a mental map of her world and how it works. Contrary to Sigmund Freud and Jean Piaget, who believed young children were limited to a 'here and now' existence, Gopnik's research proves that even 1-year-olds are capable of counterfactual thought--that 'coulda-woulda-shoulda' thinking that allows us to learn from experience, consider possibilities and change our future behavior accordingly. Humans have by far the longest childhood of any primate species. Gopnik presents compelling evidence that this period of extended helplessness is actually a key to our evolutionary success. Lantern consciousness, counterfactual thinking and imaginative play allow children to explore alternative worlds and scenarios. During this period of 'paradoxically useful uselessness, ' children learn to see the world as it could be, and to make plans to create that world--skills that will be crucial in an ever-changing adult society. Play is indeed the work of childhood, and it has been since the dawn of Homo sapiens. Gopnik is a fine writer, and her wit enlivens a subject that could easily veer into the overly abstract. Her willingness to poke gentle fun at herself, her own parenting foibles and her hometown of Berkeley make for enjoyable reading. She is also passionate about her subject. "The Philosophical Baby" isn't simply a summary of recent research on young minds. Rather, Gopnik seeks to place early childhood in the context of 2,500 years of Western philosophy. Children, she writes, help provide answers to deep, meaning-of-life questions. They 'put us in touch with important, real and universal aspects of the human condition, ' such as awe, magic, beauty and truth. Babies and children are our future, in more than the simple genetic sense. They will one day dramatically reshape our world, as every generation before them has done. We would be wise in this era of diminishing resources and test-obsessed education to provide them with the love, security and unstructured time they need to play