Just Babies

Just Babies

The Origins of Good and Evil

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. 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.

Reviews

  • Take a tour through the latest and most amazing research in child psychology and come back with a better understanding of the strange things adults do. Bloom shows us how a first rate scientist integrates conflicting findings, broad scholarship and deep humanity to draw a nuanced and often surprising portrait of human nature, with all its beauty, horror and hope.
    Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis

About the author

Paul Bloom

Paul Bloom is Professor of Psychology at University of Toronto and the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University. His research explores the psychology of morality, identity and pleasure. Bloom is the recipient of multiple awards and honours, including most recently the million-dollar Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize. He has written for scientific journals such as Nature and Science, and for the New York Times, New Yorker, Atlantic and Guardian. He is the author or editor of eight books, including Just Babies, How Pleasure Works, Descartes' Baby, Against Empathy and most recently The Sweet Spot.
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