Saturday, June 24, 2017

Book Review: Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil

As a psychology major, these types of books are so interesting to me. I am still in school so I consider myself pretty much a lay person. This is completely approchable. There is no pretentious language, and no talking down to you. Even if you are not educated on much of the subject you will be able to get something out of this book. 

The majority of this book is written about infants and toddlers, and their morality. Although to be honest, much of the book is completely relevant for all of life. So don't let the "just babies" title freak you out. This book is divided into seven rather interesting chapters. Like most psychology books the chapters are rather long and are packed with interesting.

 The first explains most of the technical terms and lays out the guidelines, and various aspects or challenges with testing babies. Along with what the results of the experiements. I enjoyed learning about the variou

The book is divided into seven chapters, with the first explaining at length the technical aspects of testing babies, along with the results of these various experiments. This first chapter is fascinating not only because of the results but because of the experiments themselves; the researchers’ ingenuity in devising ways to test babies is impressive. 

“Even moral philosophers don’t agree about what morality really is, and many non philosophers don’t like to use the word at all. When I tell people what this book is about, more than one has responded with ‘I don’t believe in morality.’ Someone once told me--and I’m not sure that she was joking--that morality is nothing more than rules about whom you can and can’t have sex with.”

I find it super interesting how Bloom examins the mechanisms in which natural impulses occur in the action of action morally are overriden. An example of this is listed on page 131, Disgust is a powerful force for evil. If you want to exterminate or margalize a group, this is an emotion to elicit. He also examines the means in which religion is used to either include or exclude groups from certain circles of moral people.
"When the moral circle contracts, perhaps because of war or some other external threat, people “tend to find a scriptural basis for intolerance or belligerence.” When it expands, “they’re more likely to find the tolerant and understanding side of their scriptures.” Believing that scripture itself causes these changes is like concluding that newspaper headlines cause plane crashes."
This isn't so much a review as a bunch of information of what I find interesting. I really like this whole idea of the book. 

Links to purchase: Amazon // Barnes and Noble // Abe Books // Book Depository

Goodreads Description: 

A leading cognitive scientist argues that a deep sense of good and evil is bred in the bone.

From John Locke to Sigmund Freud, philosophers and psychologists have long believed that we begin life as blank moral slates. Many of us take 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 civilized beings. In Just Babies, Paul Bloom argues that humans are in fact hardwired with a sense of morality. Drawing on groundbreaking research at Yale, Bloom demonstrates that, even before they can speak or walk, babies judge the goodness and badness of others’ actions; feel empathy and compassion; act to soothe those in distress; and have a rudimentary sense of justice.

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

In his analysis of the morality of children and adults, Bloom rejects the fashionable view that our moral decisions are driven mainly by gut feelings and unconscious biases. Just as reason has driven our great scientific discoveries, he argues, it is reason and deliberation that makes possible our moral discoveries, such as the wrongness of slavery. 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.

Paul Bloom has a gift for bringing abstract ideas to life, moving seamlessly from Darwin, Herodotus, and Adam Smith to The Princess Bride, Hannibal Lecter, and Louis C.K. Vivid, witty, and intellectually probing, Just Babies offers a radical new perspective on our moral lives.

About the Author: 

Paul Bloom is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University. 

His research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with special focus on morality, religion, fiction, and art.

 He has published more than a hundred scientific articles in journals such as Science and Nature, and his popular writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, Slate, Natural History, and many other publications. 

He has won numerous awards for his research and teaching. His newest book--Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil--is coming out in November. Paul Bloom lives in New Haven with his wife and two sons.

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