The Hermeneutics of Babies

Baby_Watching_FireworksCecile Alduy at berfrois:

Babies are hermeneutic subjects par excellence. When they come out of the womb, none of our dichotomies apply, not even outside and inside one’s body, day and night, me and you. And every waking hour they start interpreting the world: noticing patterns (nap then lunch, bath-book-song then sleep), contrasts (wet/dry, mom’s arms/dad’s arms, banging on a small yogurt pot/on a large one), cruxes of signifiers (mom’s endlessly changing facial expression, sounds, movement, versus the mobile above the crib), and reference points that anchor their lives into a recognizable, hospitable, shall we say human world (the doudou, mom’s smell, the blankie, soon something like “home”). As much as we try to read them, they are readers of the world: they approach the most ordinary object as a universe to explore, a mystery to decipher. Not a single object is common, because at first nothing has anything in common with anything else. Before categories exist to sap our enjoyment of the here and now by concealing everything under a name, thus creating the illusion we know them, each thing is a unique instance of just itself. So here they are, navigating a sea of ever changing information, where very little is ever the same for lack of being remembered or even consciously differentiated or apprehended as separate from a magma of other singular experiences, in a learning experiment that spans everything from what air feels like in one’s lung to the difference between liquids and solids, experiencing the world without ever naming it. Quite an immersion program, where no possible translation into any reference language or culture exists, where the very shape of space and time, the boundaries of one’s skin are still fluid. The amount of “newness” in a single minute of a baby’s day is daunting. And the rate of their epistemological adjustment is staggering.

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