Just Babies by Paul Bloom
The Origins of Good and Evil

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I would have liked to see greater discussion of the different routes through which people develop their moral codes...
-NY Times


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.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Paul Bloom

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Paul Bloom is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology at Yale University. His previous books include the highly acclaimed How Pleasure Works, and his writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, American Scholar, Slate, the Atlantic Monthly, and The Best American Science Writing. His 2011 TED Global talk on the origins of pleasure has been viewed more than one million times. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Author Residence: New Haven, CT
Published November 12, 2013 by Crown. 290 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Law & Philosophy, Self Help, Professional & Technical, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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on Sep 09 2013

A developmental psychologist warns against a facile explanation of the origins of morality...An engaging examination of human morality.

Read Full Review of Just Babies: The Origins of G... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

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Reviewed by Simon Baron-cohen on Dec 27 2013

I would have liked to see greater discussion of the different routes through which people develop their moral codes...

Read Full Review of Just Babies: The Origins of G... | See more reviews from NY Times

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