24 September 2014

Explorers on the farthest edge

If imagination helps children find the truth, finding the truth also increases the power of the imagination. Very young children can use their causal maps of the world – their theories – to imagine different ways that the world might be. They can think about counterfactual possibilities. As those theories change, as children learn and their ideas about the world become more and more accurate, the counterfactuals they can produce and the possibilities they can envision become richer and richer. These counterfactuals let children create different worlds and they underpin the great flowering of pretend play in early childhood. Eventually, they enable even adults to imagine alternative ways the world could be and make those alternatives real.
...So imagination depends on knowledge, but it also depends on love and care. Just as children can learn so freely because they are protected by adults, they can imagine freely because they are loved. More, counterfactual thinking necessarily has a normative element – imagining the future also means evaluating which futures you should bring about. From the time they are very young children root these decisions in moral responses. They try to do good and avoid harm. And those responses are themselves rooted in the deeply empathic, intimate, and...selfless interactions between babies and caregivers.
from The Philosophical Baby by Alison Gopnik (2009)

Image via electronicintifada.net

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