The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life

Alison Gopnik, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25 (287p) ISBN 978-0-374-23196-5

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. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/01/2009
Release date: 08/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-312-42984-3
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4299-5944-5
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