If a newborn was left alone on an island, what could it know?

To adapt a passage from St. Robert Bellarmine, such a person could know from His creatures that God exists; then be stimulated by God, through His prevenient grace, to believe in God, that He exists and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him: and from such faith, he could be inspired, under the guidance and help of God, to pray and in this way obtain from God a still greater light of faith, which God would communicate to him, either by Himself or through angels or through men (say by having a ship arrive or even miraculously, like with St. Philip the Apostle and the Ethiopian eunuch or Mary of Jesus of Ágreda and the Jumanos).

So he could know enough to reach the end God created him for. Other than that, I don’t know.

As others have pointed out, obviously a new born couldn’t survive without that miracle you mention (who would feed it until it can crawl and run and hunt, etc)…

But assuming that survival, we actually know plenty about the limitations of children who grow up separate from society, because it’s happened. Usually one of the most notable things is that the ability to learn language sort of… stops, at a certain point. Like, if they grew up alone in the wild and never had human language spoken to them while their brain was at the necessary stages of formation, they can learn bits of language and perform the most rudimentary of tasks – but they never reach the linguistic level that a human raised normally does. I’d suggest googling for the case studies if you’re curious for specifics.

And I’d imagine that the language limitations would affect what they can internally ‘know’, too – since certain kinds of conceptual thinking may remain beyond them, since they don’t have the language to articulate complex thoughts, even to themselves.

This scenario is actually very different. John the Baptist went into the wilderness, but he started in society, and he regularly spoke to other humans (and especially, as a baby, we can know that other humans spoke around him, enough to gather the necessary language skills during critical brain-formative years that when he was eventually an adult, he was cognitively normal enough to think and speak like other humans, which is very different from what happens to humans who actually grow up without human contact or exposure to language). Most psychology classes eventually look at case studies of such ‘feral children’, who are rare but such cases have happened and do get studied, so this is a scientific question not just a thought experiment.

Because they’re witches?


Gorgias! Oh how I’ve missed your caustic wit.

What can I say? Sometimes, the whole world looks like a Monty Python skit to me…

I can imagine that assessment easily. What saddens me is that I also recognize being a character in the skit, not that I didn’t find Monty Python entertaining but I knew I could turn it off when I wanted. In the real world unfortunately I find less and less humor and I realize I cant escape this skit of my own accord.

Well I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition.
Dominus vobiscum

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What If?, eh… ?

I doubt that. You knows how the compromised the person would be after so much isolation. I would think he would end up lacking some intellectual capacity as well as communication and might behave more like an animal than a human in some ways due to its environment. I think the saint was talking about a normal person within society of they take the time to wonder and think about it. Even then they may come to different conclusions

This What If? opens the door into SpeculationStan - whereby Zillions of Responses could unfurl…

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