Monday, March 08, 2010

A Mysterious and Philosophical Baby

From Alison Gopnik's book, The Philosophical Baby:

It's possible that babies literally don't see a difference between their own pain and the pain of others. Maybe babies want to end all suffering, no matter where it happens to be located. For them, pain is pain and joy is joy. Moral thinkers from Buddha to David Hume to Martin Buber have suggested that erasing the boundaries between yourself and others in this way can underpin morality. We know that children's conception of a continuous separate self develops slowly in the first five years.

There's a good review of  the book here. And a few quotes from it below.

Gopnik speculates that early childhood prepares us for both the appreciation and creation of art: imaginary play among children hones the ability to entertain counterfactuals—the alternative worlds out of which art, and invention of any sort, are primarily made. ... Imaginary play is a rehearsal for understanding the minds and intentions of others, a basic survival skill.

Almost all of the 100 billion neurons in a human being's nervous system are in place at birth, and in early childhood the synapses—the points of contact between neurons that fire memory and sensation—are vastly overproduced. To a large extent, maturity is a neural pruning process, an uncluttering of consciousness so that what is most useful for getting through a day—driving to work, for instance, or negotiating the supermarket—is readily, and unconsciously, available. Our lives are far more organized around repetition than novelty. Less useful neurons weaken and die, a form of forgetting.

Gopnik offers the captivating idea that children are more conscious than adults but also less unconscious, because they have fewer automatic behaviors.

A Love Letter For You

A beautiful and inspiring project straight outta Philly (one the best cities in the USA for amazing murals):
The Love Letter For You project

Tuesday, March 02, 2010