Topic description / abstract:
Two questions about infant consciousness are especially central. First: are infants conscious? Second: what is infants’ conscious experience like? These are fundamental questions to be answered if we aim to understand the infant mind. They raise important epistemological problems that are closely related to the traditional problem of other minds.
I argue that newborn babies are conscious at birth and that it is possible to know something about what infants’ experiences are like. I propose a methodology for investigating infant consciousness, and I present two approaches to determining whether infants are conscious. First, I consider behavioral signs of consciousness. I present two behavior-based arguments for consciousness: an argument from pain behavior, and an argument from flexible behavior. Second, I discuss what the major theories of consciousness, including both philosophical and scientific theories, predict about infant consciousness.
Claudia Passos-Ferreira is a philosopher and a psychologist in the Center for Bioethics at New York University. She works on the development of consciousness and self-consciousness, moral psychology, and other topics in the philosophy of psychology and philosophy of mind. She was trained as a psychologist and has a Ph.D. in public health and a second Ph.D. in philosophy.