Babies have the answers

The great thing about being a philosopher is that you can write any old rubbish and speculate wildly without the need to support what you say with real data. The same can also be said for psychologists writing books for a general audience. (And of course I do the same if anyone ever made the mistake of asking me to write such a book.)

Thomas Nagel famously asked, “What is it like to be a bat” That question has become a staple of Philosophy 101 courses, but we might be better served asking a more basic one: What is it like to be a baby? Though all of us experience life as a baby firsthand, we’ve long held misconceptions about what babies are capable of thinking, feeling, and understanding. Only recently have we overturned dominant theories of development in which very young children were thought to be barely conscious at all.

In The Philosophical Baby developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik compiles the latest in her field’s research to paint a new picture of our inner lives at inception – one in which we are, in some ways, more conscious than adults. Gopnik spoke with Seed’s Evan Lerner about how babies and young children learn from us and what we can learn from them.


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