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Descartes' Baby: How the Science Of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human Hardcover – Apr 13 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 13 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046500783X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465007837
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 15.8 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 540 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #701,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Format: Hardcover
The name of this rather fascinating book is somewhat misleading: there is not too much in this book about child's psychology and a lot about psychology in general. Mr. Bloom, who is evidently a professional psychologist himself, created a very readable fusion of psychology, evolutionary biology and great multitude of historical and scientific facts.
When reading I could not stop recollecting myself as a child and juxtaposing the facts from the book with episodes from my childhood. For example, Mr. Bloom describes kids' imagining of God. As per one of the studies, they think that God is a human like creature with a voice and a face. Many kids in my kindergarten shared their vision of God in similar terms, but I remember a debate (if you can call it that) between other kids and me when we were arguing if God was a man or a woman. For some reason, the majority of kids were absolutely convinced that God was a man even though they could not explain why. The vision of God was changing with age - when I was a student, my professor of a set theory told me that God was infinity in its most abstract version. He was absolutely serious about that.
The book is practically infested with a great deal of facts and citations, which eloquently illustrate author's points. I have to admit that the author reminds me of Borges in this regard, whom he also mentions when describing some aspects of how human memory functions. Some of such illustrations are quite unusual. For example, when discussing the art and its role in human life, Mr. Bloom mentions a weird habit of Aristotle Onassis to have his barstools upholstered with the scrota of killer whales. Many might find it unusual at least and disgusting at most but it does perfectly illustrate how different human beings are in demonstration of status and power.
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By A Customer on May 11 2004
Format: Hardcover
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.
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By A Customer on April 22 2004
Format: Hardcover
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.
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