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Just babies : the origins of good and evil / Paul Bloom.

By: Bloom, Paul, 1963- [author.].
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London : The Bodley Head, 2013Description: 273 pages ; 23 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9781847921628 (hardback); 1847921620 (hardback).Subject(s): Ethics -- Psychological aspects | Good and evil | Values | Child developmentDDC classification: 155.41825
Contents:
Machine generated contents note: 1.The Moral Life of Babies -- 2.Empathy and Compassion -- 3.Fairness, Status, and Punishment -- 4.Others -- 5.Bodies -- 6.Family Matters -- 7.How to Be Good.
Summary: Psychologists have long believed that we begin life as moral blank slates. Most of us take it for granted that babies are born selfish and that it is the role of society - and especially parents - to transform them from little sociopaths into civilised beings. This book argues that humans are in fact hardwired with a sense of morality.
List(s) this item appears in: 9. Your Best Reads of 2017
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Psychologists have long believed that we begin life as moral blank slates. Most of us take it for granted that babies are born selfish and that it is the role of society - and especially parents - to transform them from little sociopaths into civilised beings. Now, in Just Babies , Paul Bloom argue that humans are in fact hardwired with a sense of morality. Drawing on groundbreaking research, Bloom demonstrates that even before they can speak or walk, babies judge the goodness and badness of others' actions; act to soothe those in distress; and feel empathy, guilt, pride and righteous anger.

Still, this innate morality is limited. We are naturally hostile to strangers, prone to parochialism and bigotry. Drawing on insights from psychology, behavioural economics, evolutionary biology and philosophy, Bloom explores how we have come to surpass these limitations. Along the way, he examines the morality of chimpanzees, criminals, religious extremists and Ivy League professors, and explores out often puzzling moral feelings about sex, politics, religion and race.

Bloom rejects the fashionable view that adult morality is driven mainly by gut feelings and unconscious biases. Just as reason has driven our great scientific discoveries, it is reason and deliberation that makes possible our moral discoveries. Ultimately, it is through our imagination, our compassion and our uniquely human capacity for rational thought that we can transcend the primitive sense of morality we were born with, becoming more than just babies.

Vivid, witty, and intellectually probing, Just Babies offers a radical new perspective on our moral lives.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Machine generated contents note: 1.The Moral Life of Babies -- 2.Empathy and Compassion -- 3.Fairness, Status, and Punishment -- 4.Others -- 5.Bodies -- 6.Family Matters -- 7.How to Be Good.

Psychologists have long believed that we begin life as moral blank slates. Most of us take it for granted that babies are born selfish and that it is the role of society - and especially parents - to transform them from little sociopaths into civilised beings. This book argues that humans are in fact hardwired with a sense of morality.

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Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Bloom (Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale Univ.; How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like) delivers a well-researched, up-to-date, and witty survey of child development and the evolution of morals throughout the human life span and history as a whole. Unfortunately, the title is misleading and for this reviewer detracted from the reading experience by implying a focus on infants when Bloom's thesis addresses people of all ages. He argues that humans are granted at birth a sense of morality and that, ultimately, it is reason and deliberation that allow for moral revelations. Certain topics such as the development of a "disgust" response are discussed at length in chapters that include "Fairness, Status, and Punishment," "Others," and "Bodies," though their relationship to the subject of morality feels tangential. VERDICT Despite the problems mentioned, Bloom offers an excellent resource for developmental psychology students or professionals who need a quick review on the latest research findings. Pop culture and political references will quickly date the book, but the clever writing style and contemporary analogies will engage more readers than titles of a similar nature. [See Prepub Alert, 5/20/13.]-Chrissy -Spallone, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Lib. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

With wit and passion, Yale psychology professor Bloom (How Pleasure Works) explores the nature of morality, drawing on current research in psychology, evolutionary biology, and philosophy while discussing which factors appear to be innate and which are culturally determined. Bloom's discussion of choices made by babies-three-month-olds through two-year-olds-and researchers' ability to assess those choices is fascinating and relies heavily on original research performed by him and his colleagues. He documents both good and bad news: "Babies are moral animals" who appear to have the ability to judge others' actions and to prefer both fairness and kindness; but they also are distressed by strangers and "prone toward parochialism and bigotry." His analysis spans the moral spectrum from empathy to disgust and demonstrates how labile and open to manipulation some of our emotions and opinions are. When asked about their political leanings, for example, college students who were approached near a hand sanitizer in a public hallway claimed to be more conservative than students questioned elsewhere in the hallway. Because the vast majority of the research conducted has been on individuals in Western societies, drawing robust conclusions is difficult. Nonetheless, Bloom convincingly establishes that the nature of morality is open to scientific investigation. Agent: Katinka Matson, Brockman Inc. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

CHOICE Review

In his previous groundbreaking works--among them How Pleasure Works (CH, Sep'10, 48-0565), Descartes' Baby (CH, Nov'04, 42-1874), and How Children Learn the Meaning of Words (CH, Oct'00, 38-0748)--Bloom (psychology, Yale) achieved an admirable blend of wit and wisdom, with the result that these interdisciplinary explorations are marked by a rare combination of solid analysis and deep understanding. In Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, he does it again. Grounded in experimental research that is both creative and academically sound, the book presents firm challenges to the contemporary notions that human beings are born naturally selfish and irrational. What is even rarer about Bloom's work is that he succeeds in making his argument without completely rejecting prior work. He outlines what seems to be accurate and useful from previous views and then builds on them--challenging what seems limited or biased without rejecting all that each view offers. The result is an almost unshakeable set of premises with anecdotal, experimental, historical, cultural, and philosophical roots. This reader--a father who has watched his child grow from infancy to adulthood--can attest to the accuracy of Bloom's notions--and from a purely objective and impartial view! Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. R. E. Osborne Texas State University--San Marcos

Booklist Review

Does a baby possess a moral compass? The answer is a surprising yes. Drawing on his work as a professor at the Yale University Infant Cognition Center, a land of puppet morality plays where infants' expectations are measured by how long they look at things, Bloom presents a two-part explanation for human morality. The first part involves the rudimentary moral capabilities of babies that serve as the underpinnings for moral life; the second involves how morality matures over the course of both individual and larger cultural development. With his account sharply tuned to the general reader, Bloom skims along assuredly through the research. He uses the findings to nimbly springboard into discussions of philosophy and psychology, exploring the bases of large moral debates, such as acceptable sexual practices or when killing is justified. Of interest both to parents curious about the inner lives of their little ones and to those seeking a more general, thought-provoking examination of morality, the book offers remarkable insight into our first baby steps as moral beings.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2010 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

A developmental psychologist warns against a facile explanation of the origins of morality. Bloom (Psychology/Yale Univ.; How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like, 2010, etc.) supports the views of Adam Smith and Aristotle, who believed that we are naturally endowed with morality, and he substantiates their intuition with modern research findings. This research shows how even infants recoil at perceived cruelty, but the author warns against reducing our moral responses to inborn wisdom. "[O]ur imagination, our compassion, and especially our intelligence give rise to moral insight and moral progress and make us more than just babies," he writes. Throughout the book, Bloom describes experiments suggesting that "some aspects of morality come naturally to us" and can be identified in babies as young as 3 months. Young children often show distress when witnessing a sympathetic individual in pain. We tend to smile unconsciously when someone smiles at us, and suffering distresses us; nevertheless, we are not necessarily prompted to express compassion and intervene. Bloom makes a convincing case that morality demands compassion but sometimes also overrides it, as in instances of triage for lifesaving treatment. In any event, our moral instincts are shaped by cultural values--e.g. racial bigotry and attitudes toward sex--as are the rewards and punishments we view as appropriate for proper behavior. The author argues that we cannot explain adult moral judgment as either innate or solely a matter of habituation; there is a "third option"--"the product of human interaction and human ingenuity." Bloom disagrees with "the current trend in psychology and neuroscience [that] downplay[s] rational deliberation in favor of gut feelings and unconscious motivations." An engaging examination of human morality.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.