The Emerging (Thinking? Moralizing?) Life of Babies

Towards Day 18 of Evolving Systems course



I. coursekeeping
* after-thoughts re: our "cultural clash"--and what we can do with it? regarding our own evolution as a class?

* by 6 p.m. Friday evening (new date for all papers in our section): research the biography of an individual whose life evolution interests you; e-mail me all your notes towards/draft of/questions regarding...and then (if you'd like), post a short summary of the information you found, and your (related-to-yourself AND class-discussion!) commentary

* By Monday evening: also post on-line your response to this week's discussion of the evolution of individual(s)

* an extra faculty meeting has been scheduled (to share a new vision of the College's future!) so I need to re-schedule all my Wednesday afternoon conferences next week; I can see Erin, Paige and Meredith, as usual, in the morning; here are the alternatives I can offer Karina, Summer, Olivia, Aimee, Prianna (and Sarah?): 9:30, 10, or 11 a.m. on Wednesday; 4-7:30 on Thursday. What's your pleasure?

II. what have we learned (so far!) about the possibilities of individual evolution (of Russell in particular, of others, ourselves....?)

Olivia: The evolution of Russell is also in accordance with the evolution of Logic.

MC: Oh! I hate the term "personal" or "individual" evolution. It promotes the use of the term evolution in what I feel are misprepresentative ways. Personal or individual change is fine, but not evolution.

Individuals are just cultures ... on a teeny tiny scale. They are the combination of tidbits from every which way fitted into different shapes. The greatest difference is that it usually takes slightly less time to notice the change in an individual than in a culture. But only usually. That ... has something to do with genes. Not possibly, in fact, but definitely

....individuals change based on cultural change based on biological change based on geological change based on cosmological change. And what's cosmological change based on I wonder?

elisagogogo: Other than focusing on the evolvement of Russell’s logic, I find myself also interested in Russell himself ... passionate, curious but depressed and sad at the same time ... [he believed] there is a particular rule about the world that we can finally find if we think about everything rationally .... Russell represents .. a kind of people in the world, who are constantly researching the truth that are good to have but hard to reach ... is it a “black-hole” that will trap the ones who are highly evolved and drive them crazy?

ecollier: I think that desensitization is an unfortunate product of life experience.

paige on "street efficacy"??

III. (since I seem to have acquired the reputation of being interested in form) what might we learn, from Logicomix, about the evolution of literary form?

Lemon Koala: I have to tell myself to be more focused on the contents instead of the colorful pictures

paige: I like my books wordy, real wordy. Lines upon lines of text please and thank you .... because the images of a graphic novel are so immutable they are less vivid in my mind .... I felt like I was searching for the story, getting somewhat befuddled with the speech blurbs and irritated with the matter of fact, absolute scenery. Because more is left to the imagination ... in real novels, I "see" the story ...

elisagogogo: Frankly speaking, I have always felt hard to read cartoons since I was a little child .... How could they spend much more time drawing those silly pictures just to make the simplified word more difficult to understand? ... Even though the book brought up tons of interesting ideas as well as an amazing inner-world evolution, I still didn’t see the point of putting them into pictures. Last lantern night totally changed my idea ... I suddenly realized that there are a lot of things on earth that could not be ... described by words...

Hillary G: it was a really good way to combine philosophical and mathematical concepts in a visually narrative way. I'm a visual learner so that was wonderful for me (I finally grasped a few concepts that my Philosopher class lectures have only attempted to help me understand).

@ my conference, the
Friday night plenary was by Jay Hosler, “Science Comic Books as Agents of Stealth Education”:
science depends desperately on images --
graphs, figures, drawings -- as a powerful way to convey an idea: perceived rather than received information, constructing visual explanations

Scott McCloud defines comics as "sequential art":
you put two images into 1 idea, and “closure” happens in the gutter

comic panels fracture both time and space, offering a jagged, staccato rhythm of unconnected moments --
but closure allows us to connect these moments and
mentally construct a continuous, unified reality:
the sequence of images map out a process

iconography/vocabulary of comics:
most are not photorealistic--
eye movements focus on basic components of an image
the brain keys in to simple images:
caricatures are more easily identified than a real person
comics facilitate rapid access to received information;
function as an intermediate step to difficult concepts
see ComicBookSyllabus.com, a disciplinary list


IV. Cf'ing two more papers

V. As set up/background/foil for discussing today's assignments:

  • Alison Gopnik, How Babies Think, Scientific American 303 (July, 2010): 76-81.
  • Paul Bloom, The Moral Life of Babies, NYTimes Magazine (May 5, 2010).



  • might morality come "in the package" we are born with?
  • might morality be the result of individual predisposition, rather than a social construction?
  • what happens when we rub this material "up against" all the research so many of you have been doing, about the "inherent evil" of human beings?
  • cf. Bloom's claim that "the notion at the core of any mature morality is that of impartiality" with the feminist critique (developed by Carol Gilligan and others), which replaces the "ethic of justice" with an "ethic of care" and responsibility that is grounded in personal relationships
  • and what do you make of the claim, @ the end of Gopnik's article, that "the very qualities needed to act efficiently...may be intrinsically antithetical to the qualities that are useful for learning, such  as flexibility"?


randomness