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Book Descartes' Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human by Paul Bloom (2005-04-27)

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Descartes' Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human by Paul Bloom (2005-04-27)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Descartes' Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human by Paul Bloom (2005-04-27).pdf | Language: UNKNOWN
    Paul Bloom(Author)

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Review Text

  • By thomas e. on June 22, 2015

    Quality book that arrived in a timely way and in an as-advertised condition. Thanks.

  • By davidjoho on May 6, 2006

    In Descartes' Baby, Paul Bloom engagingly writes about research that shows babies are more sophisticated than we usually give them credit for. At a very early age, babies are aware of the constancy of objects, that appearances may be deceptive, and that other people may hold false beliefs. The problem is what Bloom makes of this.Bloom thinks those experiments prove babies are Cartesian dualists because they distinguish objects from belief-holding humans. But dualism isn't simply the belief that there's a difference between people and objects. We were making that distinction before Descartes. Cartesian dualism conceives of the mental and the physical as so distinct and different that it doesn't seem the two could ever even interact. And that's not a distinction babies make. If "dualism" means that we distinguish conscious critters from inanimate things, then, yes, we're all dualists. But what have we learned except a new definition of "dualist"?Baby dualism isn't even necessary dual. I can believe that you are different from a log because you are aware of and care about your world without thinking that you are made of two types of substance. I don't think Bloom has shown much more than that babies are aware that logs don't think and feel but people do.This "insight" doesn't give Bloom much of a lever for understanding the Big Issues he deals with: Art, philosophy, religion, ethics... For example, he wonders how we can be moved by "anxious objects," i.e., art such as Warhol's Brillo boxes or conceptual art such as a dead horse hung from the ceiling. Most of the chapter goes through the predictable explanations of why we respond to art. At the end he acknowledges that he hasn't yet explained the appeal of "anxious" art. The big explanation: "...We enjoy displays of skill, of virtuosity, both physical and intellectual." But that's true of non-anxious art, and not true of all anxious art. Without acknowledging this, he moves on to say that we enjoy anxious art because we can see the human intention in it. But, again, that's true of all art, not just anxious art. His investigation does not come close to answering the question he raises. (Artworks are a good example of the impossibility of separating the physical and the intentional...evidence against dualism.)Likewise, his explanation of why children tend to believe in Creationism (AKA Intelligent Design) - it is "a natural by-product of a mind evolved to think in terms of goals and intentions" - doesn't help. Animism also seems to be a "natural by-product." So what? How does this socio-biological explanation help? Likewise for his explanation of altruism, his discussion of essentialism - which waters the concept down the way the book waters down "dualism" - his consideration of the origin of religious beliefs, etc.The book is exceptionally well written and engaging. The baby research is fascinating. But I think it fails as an attempt to make something big out of that research.

  • By Eric Ekstrom on April 10, 2010

    Although the author does discuss Descartes, and the author is brilliant, I have to say that, again, as with most books on philosophic studies and opinions, this presentation lacks the structural detail that a student might use to an advantage. Far too much bits and pieces, too much dialog not addressing Descartes really immature ventures in his method of finding self, which is not a self anyone sane would realize. Just, eh, brillant man, but who cares when Descartes is so limited in personal and creative consciousness.

  • By Deb on February 14, 2012

    What makes us human?Paul Bloom's book of _Descartes' Baby_ offers a rich and satisfying exploration of this existential question. At the core of this book is the premise that "we are dualists who have two ways of looking at the world: in terms of bodies and in terms of souls." (p.191). In other words, we see our bodies and souls as separate entities and "we do not feel as if we *are* bodies; we feel as if we *occupy* them." (p. 191)This dualistic lens allows us to come into this world with a basic understanding of physical bodies as well as an innate empathy which allows for an appreciation of souls. As the author notes, "these two modes of seeing the world interact in surprising ways in the course of development of each child, and in the social context of a community of humans they give rise to certainly uniquely human traits, such as morality and religion." (p. xii) Dualism also helps us approach the concepts of self, identify, consciousness, and life after death, and also create and appreciate art.Our innate dualism also underlies how we respond towards others: our intuitive feelings of empathy towards their souls allow them in, while our visceral feelings of disgust towards their bodies keep them out. And, it is the interplay between our empathy and intelligence that allows for an evolved moral understanding which results in our abilities to understand the beliefs, experiences, drives, motivations, desires, intents, and goals of others--traits that define the essence of being human.I enjoyed this book so much that I read it twice. (Interestingly, the last time I did that was with the author's more recent book of _How Pleasure Works_.) And, as I sit here and write this review and reflect on the book's engrossing content and skillful writing, I find myself tempted to read it yet again. Clearly, the physical book has excited my immaterial soul. (Dualism in action!)


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