The Sir Douglas Robb Lectures 2012 look really interesting. A series of three lectures by Professor Alison Gopnik, 17, 21, 23 May 2012, 7pm
Titled: The philosophical baby: What children’s minds can teach us about the big questions
Venue: Fisher & Paykel Applicances Auditorium, Owen G Glenn Building, 12 Grafton Road
Cost: Free admission and all are welcome. No booking required
The blurb on the University website states:
“Philosophers and psychologists used to think that babies and young children were irrational, egocentric and amoral. But the last 30 years of scientific research has completely overturned that view – in some ways children are smarter, more caring and even more conscious than adults are. This new view of babies and young children has brought new and sometimes startling insights about some of the Big Questions of philosophy: questions like How can we find the truth? Where does consciousness come from? What is the nature of morality?
Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley. She received her BA from McGill University and her PhD from Oxford University. She is an internationally recognised leader in the study of children’s learning and development and was the first to argue that children’s minds could help us understand deep philosophical questions. She is the author of over 100 journal articles and several books including Words, thoughts and theories (co-authored with Andrew Meltzoff), MIT Press, 1997, and the bestselling and critically acclaimed popular books The Scientist in the Crib (co-authored with Andrew Meltzoff and Patricia Kuhl) William Morrow, 1999, and The Philosophical Baby; What children’s minds tell us about love, truth and the meaning of life, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009. She has also written widely about cognitive science and psychology for Science, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, New Scientist and Slate, among others. And she has frequently appeared on TV and radio including “The Charlie Rose Show” and “The Colbert Report”. She has three sons and lives in Berkeley, California with her husband Alvy Ray Smith.
• Lecture 1 – Thursday 17 May: The power of possibility: Truth, imagination and learning. How can we ever come to understand the world around us? And, even more puzzling, how do we learn from imaginary tales of fictional characters? Those questions are even more vivid for young children who learn so much so quickly, and who spend hours in fantastic pretend worlds. I will show that truth and imagination, learning and play are closely connected from very early in our lives. Even the youngest children use the same techniques for learning about the world as the most brilliant scientists. And I will explain the link between these scientific techniques and the literary imagination.
• Lecture 2 – Monday 21 May: What is it like to be a baby? Consciousness, attention and memory. The conventional wisdom is that babies and young children are less conscious than adults are. I will show, based on both neuroscience and psychology that, in fact, babies may be more conscious than adults, and in particular more vividly aware of the world around them. Moreover the consciousness of babies and young children may be qualitatively different from the consciousness of adults, in ways that illuminate the nature of consciousness itself.
• Lecture 3 – Wednesday 23 May: Love and law: Caregiving and morality. For most parents, having a baby is one of the most morally and spiritually profound, and unique, experiences of their lives. At the same time new studies show that even infants have many of the foundations of morality in place. And yet philosophers and theologians have said very little about children. I will argue that many of our deepest moral and spiritual feelings are rooted in the relationships between children and the people who care for them.”