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Descartes' Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Paul Bloom


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Kurzbeschreibung

13. April 2004
A leading cognitive scientist reveals how insights from the study of babies explain the rise of such uniquely human traits as humor, disgust, religion, art, and morality. "If you really want to understand human nature, you must observe people as they are before they are corrupted by language and culture, by MTV and Hebrew school. You must look at babies. " So contends psychologist Paul Bloom-whom Steven Pinker calls "the wunderkind of cognitive science"-in this fascinating account of how we learn to make sense of reality. All humans see the world in two fundamentally different ways: Even babies have a rich understanding of both the physical and social worlds. They expect objects to obey principles of physics, and they're startled when things disappear or defy gravity. Yet they can also read emotions and respond with anger, sympathy, and joy. In Descartes' Baby, Bloom draws on a wealth of scientific discoveries to show how these two ways of knowing give rise to such uniquely human traits as humor, disgust, religion, art, and morality. The myriad ways that our dualist perspectives, born in infancy, undergo development throughout our lives and profoundly influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions is the subject of this richly rewarding book.

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"Paul Bloom is an excellent ambassador for cognitive developmental psychology.... Descartes' Baby incorporates the most recent and provocative theoretical ideas in cognitive science." American Scientist "[Bloom's] prose abounds with lively examples from conceptual art, contemporary fiction and his own child-rearing observations. The result is a delightful and humane study that makes rewarding reading for those interested in cognitive psychology's broader implications." Publishers Weekly" -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .

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A leading cognitive scientist reveals how insights from the study of babies explain the rise of such uniquely human traits as humor, disgust, religion, art, and morality. "If you really want to understand human nature, you must observe people as they are before they are corrupted by language and culture, by MTV and Hebrew school. You must look at babies. " So contends psychologist Paul Bloom-whom Steven Pinker calls "the wunderkind of cognitive science"-in this fascinating account of how we learn to make sense of reality. All humans see the world in two fundamentally different ways: Even babies have a rich understanding of both the physical and social worlds. They expect objects to obey principles of physics, and they're startled when things disappear or defy gravity. Yet they can also read emotions and respond with anger, sympathy, and joy. In Descartes' Baby, Bloom draws on a wealth of scientific discoveries to show how these two ways of knowing give rise to such uniquely human traits as humor, disgust, religion, art, and morality. The myriad ways that our dualist perspectives, born in infancy, undergo development throughout our lives and profoundly influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions is the subject of this richly rewarding book.

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Amazon.com: 3.7 von 5 Sternen  18 Rezensionen
21 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A fantastic book! 22. April 2004
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Engaging and funny cognitive scientist Paul Bloom's second book is a fascinating read. In it, he argues that we are wired to view the world as containing both bodies and souls. Bloom argues convincingly that it is for this reason, that even when the idea of psychophysical dualism clashes with our intellectual understanding of bodies and souls, we still maintain vestiges of a belief in the immaterial soul. His discussions of a huge range of fascinating issues make this book a must-read.
Descartes' Baby is incredibly fun to read, and is smattered with bits of humor and amusing anecdotes about real children and adults. Indeed, one of the most humorous moments in this lively book is Bloom's account of a neuroscientist colleague's culinarily-motivated search for animals without a certain neural structure, because, he reasoned, animals without this certain structure surely didn't have consciousness and therefore we safe to eat.
Another strength of the book is Bloom's treatment of disgust. His view is both interesting and nuanced and falls naturally from his argument that we are intuitive dualists at heart. Other high points are his discussion of art and forgery, and his quite funny discussion of humor.
It's not often that I read nonfiction. Normally I find it either too pedantic or too technical and narrow in scope to appeal to an outsider. One of the tremendous strengths of this book is that someone without training in developmental psychology or philosophy can follow it with ease, while still finding it intellectually satisfying.
This book is truly a gem -- both entertaining and important. It's a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered about human nature.
12 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Superb-Written with great clarity, grace and intelligence 19. April 2004
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This is an amazing book. It is written with great clarity, insight, and humor while at the same time preserving scientific and conceptual rigor-a very rare combination indeed. How often is one lucky enough to pick up a book covering complex issues in science and philosophy and find that it is so riveting that one stays up all night reading it?
Bloom addresses one of the deepest and most profound issues of what makes us human, our tendencies to see others as comprised of utterly distinct bodies and minds, that is the dualism of Descartes. While modern philosophers and cognitive scientists may largely reject dualism, the rest of us , and even those philosophers and scientists in their less reflective moments, embrace dualism so completely that it colors every aspect of our interpretations of others and of their activities.
Bloom's book brilliantly shows how this dualism is not some late emerging impression made by one's culture or society, instead it is a fundamental part of how our minds are built, and can be seen in rudimentary forms even in infancy. He explains how it emerges and why it makes sense that we should all be endowed with this assumption, even if it is in many ways severely misleading. He shows how our dualism explains an extraordinary range of otherwise puzzling phenomena in domains as diverse as disgust, art forgery, humor, religion and altruism. Bloom is a leading researcher on the development of children's minds who is also an award winning writer; and this book shows how these two skills can mutually reinforce each other in ways that create fascinating, enlightening, and engaging reading. Any one interested in children, in cognitive science, or simply in human nature, will find themselves adoring this book. This book is science writing at its very best.
37 von 46 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen From baby steps to leaping to conclusions 6. Mai 2006
Von David Weinberger - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
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.
14 von 16 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Embarrassing, disgusting, and immoral 11. Mai 2004
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Paul Bloom explains how it is that humans come to feel embarrassment, disgust, or moral revulsion (among other things). He argues that these feeling can be traced to our earliest development, in which we learn about the properties of objects and other people. These parallel developments interact to result in special feelings towards certain objects such as great works of art or decaying meat. Although feelings of embarrassment and disgust may not be limited to humans, he argues that without even negative emotions and feelings, we would not be fully human.
The book is full of witty and fascinating anecdotes, as well as thought-provoking questions. The first chapters lay the groundwork by reviewing recent findings about the development of infants. The book steadily gains in interest as these findings form the groundwork for intriguing discussions of emotion, morality, and religion.
Although the author is apparently a professor at Yale, the book can be read by anyone who is interested in children or in how we end up the way we are. In fact, as I got further and further into it, I could not put it down.
9 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Great book from a giant intellect 19. April 2004
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
In this rare combination of entertaining writing and serious scientific review, Bloom argues that human beings are natural-born dualists--meaning that from infancy we perceive the world as being made of "bodies" (material objects) and "souls" (things with intentions, desires, and other mental states). Using this explanatory scheme, Bloom is able to explain a variety of puzzling phenomena--from autism to art forgery. What makes Bloom's book a gem is that it performs a rare feat in modern psychology in that it actually explains social life rather than simply redescribing it using psychological jargon.
Whether you are an interested student of psychology, a serious academic, or a curious parent, this book will satisfy your curiousity about the current state of knowledge surrounding human development. (It goes without saying that this is also a must-read for any cognitive science junkie!)
With this book Bloom has elevated his status as a serious intellect who has maintained an ability to communicate to a wide audience--joining others like Pinker, Dennett, and Gould.
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