The Child's Conception of the World

The Child's Conception of the World

The Child's Conception of the World

The Child's Conception of the World

Excerpt

Let us imagine a being, knowing nothing of the distinction between mind and body. Such a being would be aware of his desires and feelings but his notions of self would undoubtedly be much less clear than ours. Compared with us he would experience much less the sensation of the thinking self within him, the feeling of a being independent of the external world. The knowledge of a being inwe are thinking of things severs us in fact from the actual things. But, above all, the psychological perceptions of such being would be entirely different from our own. Dreams, for example, would appear to him as a disturbance breaking in from without. Words would be bound up with things and to speak would mean to act directly on these things. Inversely, external things would be less material and would be endowed with intentions and will. We shall try to prove that such is the case with the child. The child knows nothing of the nature of thought, even at the stage when he is being influenced by adult talk concerning "mind," "brain," "intelligence."

The technique is briefly as follows. The child is asked: "Do you know what it means to think of something? When you are here and you think of your house, or when you think of the holidays, or of your mother, you are thinking of something." And then when the child has understood: "Well then, what is it you think with?" If, as seldom happens, he has not grasped the idea, the matter must be further explained: "When you walk, you walk with the feet; well then, when you think, what . . .

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