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The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love,… (2009)

by Alison Gopnik

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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258875,379 (3.89)6
A revelatory examination of how babies and young children think draws on new scientific understandings to identify links between key behaviors and subsequent abilities, explaining how the latest findings offer profound insight into the nature of being human.

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Showing 5 of 5
Mildy interesting book about babies and toddlers Even though they can't really do much for themselves or talk, author Gopnik takes the reader through a baby's development and shows us how they understand the world a lot more than people give them credit for.
Various experiments and scientific findings show how a baby grows and develops. Watching someone fiddle with a box, whether or not they do what they intend allows children to observe and experiment on their own. They too may figure out what's wrong with the box or not, but they experiment based on what they saw and remember. Babies understand probability of what will likely happen and can understand cause and effect. And so and and so forth.
While I really enjoyed these sections, sometimes the author goes off a bit either discussing the nitty gritty of the science (down to the anatomy and biology) or about the philosophical teachings of various people (Freud, Piaget, etc.) and I really didn't care for that too much.
Still, I picked it up based on the curious title (I studied philosophy in college) and because of the name: I thought this might have been Adam Gopnik's (who has written books about his family) wife but it's actually his sister. Parents might find this interesting, but I'd recommend borrowing it from the library. ( )
  HoldMyBook | Feb 11, 2018 |
Enlightening, thought-provoking and often amusing. In someone else’s hands, all the concepts covered in this book could have been turned into pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo. Gopnik, however, is an engaging thinker and writer who a) knows her stuff and b) can explain it to laypeople in a way that’s clear without being dumbed-down. Even if small children aren’t aware that they’re constantly developing, testing and revising their theories about how the world works (and imagining how it coulda shoulda woulda been different had things gone this way instead of that way), they -- and we -- certainly do it all the time. ( )
  bostonian71 | Mar 1, 2017 |
As this book points out, babies are not merely adorable little lumps. They're learning, observing and absorbing, on their way to the adults they'll become. She cites research but the book is written for the layman, so it's pretty readable although it can get dense here and there. Definitely a read for anyone who cares about children or has an interest in child development. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Quite enlightening. ( )
  Mithril | Dec 6, 2010 |
I found this an extremely interesting and enlightening book. Theories of development, neuroscience, genetics, psychology, evolution, ethics, and philosophy were all there. The book presented, in understandable terms, the latest studies on how the minds of children 6 and younger work. Those observations are then used to draw conclusions in the various realms listed above. Although some of those theories were presented more emphatically than seems appropriate and I may not agree with every conclusion, the journey and the thought the book provoked were fascinating. ( )
2 vote snash | Sep 30, 2009 |
Showing 5 of 5
In her new book, "The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life," Gopnik incisively and compassionately highlights the extraordinary range of mental capabilities of even the youngest child. (short review plus an interview.)
added by lquilter | editSalon.com, Robert Burton (Aug 13, 2009)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alison Gopnikprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pietiläinen, KimmoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A one-month-old stares at her mother's face with fixed, brow-wrinkling concentration, and suddenly produces a beatific smile.
This protracted period of immaturity is intimately tied up with the human capacity for change. Our human capacities for imagination and learning have great advantages; they allow us to adapt to more different environments than any other species and to change our own environments in a way that no other animal can. But they also have one great disadvantage - learning takes time. You don't want to be stuck exploring all the new possible ways to hunt deer when you haven't eaten for two days, or learning all the accumulated cultural wisdom about saber-toothed tigers when one is chasing you. It would be a good idea for me to spend a week exploring all the capabilities of my new computer, as my teenage son would, but with the saver-toothed tigers of grant deadlines and classes breathing down my neck, I'll just go on relying on old routines.
      An animal that depends on the accumulated knowledge of past generations has to have some time to acquire that knowledge. An animal that depends on imagination has to have some time to exercise it. Childhood is that time. Children are protected from the usual exigencies of adult life; they don't need to hunt deer or ward off saber-toothed tigers, let alone write grant proposals or teach classes - all of that is done for them. All they need to do is learn. When we're children we're devoted to learning about our world and imagining all the other ways the world could be. When we become adults we put all that we've learned and imagined to use.
     There's a kind of evolutionary division of labor between children and adults. Children are the R&D department of the human species - the blue-sky guys, the brainstormers. Adults are production and marketing. pp 10-11
In Germany there are more avoidant babies than in America, and in Japan there are more anxious babies. (p. 182)
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A revelatory examination of how babies and young children think draws on new scientific understandings to identify links between key behaviors and subsequent abilities, explaining how the latest findings offer profound insight into the nature of being human.

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