Alison Gopnik is the author of The Philosophical Baby. This wonderful, deeply humane, survey of what we have learned of how babies learn is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. (Here’s the review from The New York Times.)
Dr Gopnik has a short interview up on Big Think:
Imagine that you had a novel where a woman found someone on the street who couldn’t stand and couldn’t wash and couldn’t take care of himself and the second that she saw him she felt totally and completely utterly in love with him and then she dedicated her life to him for the next 15 years and did everything. I mean, literally. Fed him and raised him and woke up in the middle of the night and tended to him when he was ill and then 15 years later she said, “Go and find yourself a nice young to go and marry.” You’d say, “Boy, that’s creepy.” That’s love that’s kind of so out there it’s really weird, right? But of course that’s every single mother. That’s exactly what we all do. That’s our lives as mothers and fathers and great-uncles and anybody who cares for a baby; that’s what it’s like.
And in fact, I think if you look at some of the examples of in the spiritual traditions about the kind of love that bodhisattvas are supposed to feel, or saints are supposed to feel, or others are supposed to feel. An idea that you see a lot in religion traditions about the highest [love] God is supposed to feel. The highest form of spiritual love is this love that has this combination of utter particularity.
So it’s not just kind of abstractly I love mankind; it’s I love this person with that kind of intensity and utterly selfless that I love this person so much that they’re more important than I am.
There’s more. And you really really need to read The Philosophical Baby.