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Summary

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.

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.

©2013 Paul Bloom; 2013 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"One comes to Paul Bloom for his unfailingly brilliant psychological research; one stays for the wise and relaxed way he writes about it."
--Jim Holt, author of Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story

"The rich cognitive and moral life of babies is among the most fascinating discoveries of twenty-first-century psychology. Paul Bloom explains how this work illuminates human nature, and does it with his trademark clarity, depth, discernment, and graceful style."
--Steven Pinker, professor of psychology, Harvard University; author of How the Mind Works

"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 wonder."
--Jonathan Haidt, Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership, New York University Stern School of Business; author of The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind

"Just Babies is an extremely important book. Today it is received wisdom that morality is unreal: our evolutionary instincts are purely selfish. We're also told that human society is built on irrational impulses, that reason and choice count for nothing.  A leading experimental psychologist, but also a skilled reader of philosophy, Bloom authoritatively punctures both of these errors.  Lively and deftly argued, with admirably fair treatment of opposing views, Just Babies shows that humans inherit a rich basis for morality, but also some disturbing tendencies.  Making the best of the good and doing what we can to inhibit the bad is the job of history, culture and reason."
--Martha C. Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago; author of Political Emotions

What members say

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It's good

Good for anyone new to moral concepts. Maybe not so much new to someone who studied Philosophy or Psychology.

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Morality and it's origins.

The subject of morality and it's origins. Adds to the work of Stephen Pinker and Sam Harris, both of whom are authors I highly recommend, and this book deserves high praise for managing to expand on their already extensive coverage of the topic in new and interesting ways. (See "The Moral Landscape" and "Lying" by Sam Harris and "The better Angels Of Our Nature" by Stephen Pinker).

Unfortunately, Like other authors (Chris Stringer) he refers to the concept of group selection in a way that suggests he doesn't understand the group selection hypothesis (And why it's false), and therefore needs to read or re-read Dawkins "Selfish Gene". But this is an incredibly small nitpick of an excellent book that I would recommend to anyone, but is probably even more interesting to parents and teachers, or anyone who works with children.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Joshua
  • 20-12-13

Interesting but short

Where does Just Babies rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is a great book for someone who can't stomach lets say a 30+ hour book by other notable authors on the same subject matter. Its very much a Malcom Gladwell like attempt to ad short story narrative to much larger subjects.

Any additional comments?

This book is an overall interesting but somewhat short and incomplete look at human behavioral psychology. It begins with a novel hook that fades somewhat early in the book and gives way to more classical information on the subject matter. A great read as a primer on the subject but dwarfed by the likes of Pinker etc.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Aubrey
  • 08-04-17

Loved it

The narrator was clear and articulate. The book was compelling and concise. It did a wonderful job of arguing a scientific foundation for inborn morality.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • CBlox
  • 19-11-13

What the he!! do babies know?

Provocative and engaging, this book will make you think!
I really enjoyed this well-written and well presented book by Paul Bloom which takes the reader on a quick and sometimes cringe-worthy ride through the science behind moral decisions made in our infancy. Are we born evil or good? While that sub-title is slightly mis-leading it nevertheless portrays the idea behind the work.
I also liked the chapter on morality versus compassion and the pitfalls of over-compassion.

if this helped you in your Audible search, please hit YES below. Thanks

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Christian M. Adriano
  • 19-01-17

Feels like taking a hot shower

Author touches many scientific studies in a very fast pace. In my opinion this makes the book a good pointer to these studies.

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  • M. M. Jack
  • 20-11-13

This was so terrible I didn't make it past intro

What disappointed you about Just Babies?

The methodology behind Paul Bloom's research was unscientific to the point of ridiculousness. He bases his theories on "If I haven't seen it, it doesn't exist," which is a) stupid and b) a concrete example that his studies are nowhere near wide enough to support his sweeping generalizations.

What could Paul Bloom have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Actually studied the cultures he dismissed as non-existent

What three words best describe Mike Chamberlain’s performance?

Engaging

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

No

Any additional comments?

The short time I listened to this was entirely wasted

2 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Robyn
  • 28-07-14

Excellent science, irritating narrator

I'm biased because I really dislike narrators with American accents and far prefer listening to the author read their own work. I found the narrator really grating on the ears. But the science and content of the book is excellent, as expected from Bloom who did an amazing MOOC on Coursera on morality (which led me to read the book)

0 of 5 people found this review helpful