“Babies are … obviously narcissistic, but not in the way adults are, not even Spinoza's God, and I am a little afraid that Freud sometimes forgets that the narcissistic baby has no sense of self.”
Let’s dive in shall we?
Human beings are far and away the dominant species in the world. Though deposable thumbs are a unique advantage that we share with monkeys and certain other types of animals, our primary superiority is in our intelligence. But our intelligence requires a large brain. And since human females are not large enough to allow for a huge brain to come out of them during the birthing process, there had to be some sacrifices made.
When we are born, our brains are underdeveloped by quite a lot. Thus, as babies, we are helpless when compared to most animals who, at birth, are capable of a range of tasks from the outset. For instance, baby horses are often galloping around day-of, and there are some varieties of birds (whose specific names escape me at the moment) that are capable of flight within hours of hatching. In contrast, human beings are incapable of independent living for years (sometimes even decades). It takes them several weeks in some cases to even hold their heads upright. But are babies evil?
As babies, when we want something, we scream our heads off for it. We want our needs met right away, and we aren’t afraid to make fools of ourselves in public in order to achieve our whims. Describing baby behaviors definitionally, it seems that human babies have no qualms about engaging in highly narcissistic and indulgent behaviors with a complete disregard for the consideration of others. If we described an adult in this way, we might also call that person a psychopath.
Freud hypothesized that we are born evil, and learn goodness. Where you fall in depends on how you view evil and morality.
Take the cheetah for example: Obviously, the cheetah’s brain is not up to par with a human brain. They don’t discuss geo-political politics with each other, and they aren’t embarrassed about being naked in front of members of the opposite sex in broad daylight. But like a human, cheetahs have needs, and when the cheetah feels hungry, this animal isn’t going to have a whole lot of internal dialogue on the morality of whether chasing down and eating gazelles alive is right or wrong. The cheetah wants meat, the gazelle has meat, so in order to get that meat the cheetah kills the gazelle. There’s really no negotiating process about this transaction.
But as adult humans we are much more selective about giving in to our desires. If we see someone else on the street, and we think that this person has money, we aren’t going to just chase the person down and eat them alive in order to get their money. Our developed human cortex helps us sort out the reasons why.
A baby is different. Babies learn behaviors as their cortex (the outermost portion of their brain) develops. The inner parts of the brain are already there because they are necessary to keep us alive and just small enough for mothers to safely give birth, and these are the parts that control simple things like heartbeat, breathing, and appetitive behaviors such as satiation. So when a baby screams for milk, they simply do not have the brain capability to develop a compelling plan on how to get that milk.
Also, we know that baby brains are incapable of long term memories until around the age of three. So you could theorize that they are not self-aware just yet. Think about it… can you remember anything prior to the age of three? In the famous horror movie Halloween, Michael Myers is described as someone who is more akin to a body with no one behind the wheel. I don’t know about you but the thought of this creeps me out. For babies, is there anyone behind the wheel so to speak?
But we asked the question, are babies evil. Indulgence is described in many religions to be sinful or evil. Contrasting with Christianity, which teaches restraint and conservation, Satanism (which most would consider evil) teaches to indulge in whatever you feel like. So since babies can readily be described as hyper-indulgent, are they evil?
I would have to say yes and no, and your mileage may vary depending on what types of philosophies describing morality you subscribe to. Personally, I believe that evil is more the absence of goodness, just as darkness is the absence of light rather than an actual physical entity. Likewise, chaos is the absence of order. So for babies, since they are clearly indulgent, my own personal view would be to describe them as simply lacking the capacity for human moral goodness due to their underdeveloped brain capability. Through their ability to learn to bring forth order into their worlds, we shine light on what we call goodness, and there remains the human soul, that spark of consciousness from which we derive the experience of reality. So in my view, when we describe human development, we are looking squarely at the development of the human soul, and our intellectual capacities for goodness thereof. Consciousness is the key, and I believe that free will is the greatest gift in all the universe.
Don't forget to subscribe to the FREE Google Currents edition of our magazine, Dallas Psychology Review. Please follow the link here: Dallas Psychology Review.
| || |