Everyday living is filled with outstanding kindness and appalling cruelty. Many instances make us stop and shake our heads, wondering what in the world someone could possibly be thinking. I have always been interested in the debate of Nature vs. Nuture, so when I received the opportunity to review Paul Bloom’s book Just Babies, I quickly requested my copy!
Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil provides an insightful look into human nature while still being accessible (and often times funny). “Much of this…book describes how developmental psychology…favors the view…that some aspects of morality come naturally to us” (5). Bloom makes sure to point out that although some aspects of morality are automatic and unconscious, others require a conscious choice to be made.
Although it wasn’t a light read by any means, Bloom made sure to follow up any heavy writing with lighter explanations. The chapters were broken up into different topics, such as “Empathy and Compassion” or “Family Matters”. Although that helped “chunk” information for processing, there was still a lot of information to try to digest and fit into a personal schema.
I was disappointed after reaching the conclusion: “It turns out instead that…[our morality] has two parts. It starts with what we are born with….[but] a critical part of our morality…emerges over the course of human history and development.” While there are only so many conclusions one can draw regarding the basis of morality (classic nature vs. nurture debate), I had high hopes for Bloom to make a strong case for one or the other. The book felt betrayed by time–how can the bulk of your writing and research be so strong, only to be concluded so weakly? Where did Bloom run out of steam?
In the acknowledgements, Bloom mentions this book began as an article written for the New York Times. Personally, I would rather have simply read the article.
I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books, and obviously was not required to write a positive review!