Friday, February 29, 2008

Knowledge of Self


A Scientist's Observations of Certain Ways of Children

Dr. Sully remarks that children begin to acquire a knowledge of "self" when they are a few months old, and may be observed grasping, striking and biting their own hands or feet.

A boy, whose feet were stained with new stockings, cried to his mother, "These ain't the feet I had this morning." The trunk is first recognized as part of self; then the head is regarded as the seat of intelligence. A child will "make believe" that it is more than one self and personify its members.

When only a few months old a baby does not know its own face in a mirror until it finds out by experience. Children are often afraid of a shadow at first, but in time refer it to the sun. They attach every importance to their bodily appearance, can scarcely believe that an earlier photograph of them as babies is really meant for them and feel almost new beings when dressed for church on Sunday.

In time the conscious self which thinks, suffers and wills is dimly discerned. A girl of 3 years shut her eyes and believed her mother could see her body, but not her real self. One day she asked, "Mother, am I real, or only a pretend like my dolls?" The same child pitied the fallen leaves dying on the ground. A well known lady novelist when a child was amazed to think that she could feel and act by an internal self, and the consciousness of self came to George Sand one day as a sudden revelation.

Children want to know how their thoughts come to their tongue or limbs and imagine they travel down.

Metamorphosis of self is a common idea among children, who fancy they have been something different at one time. They also find it hard to believe they never existed at all and will ask where they were a hundred years ago. A little boy of 5 asserted that the world only began to go round when he was born. Another gravely said, when passing a street pump, "There are no pumps in heaven, where I came from." Children have a standard of time from adults, an hour seeming very long to them.

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