Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age
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Our culture is obsessed with youth-and why not? What's the appeal of growing old, of gaining responsibilities and giving up on dreams, of steadily trading possibility for experience?
The philosopher Susan Neiman argues that the absence of appealing models of maturity is not an accident: by describing life as a downhill process, we prepare young people to expect-and demand-very little from it. In Why Grow Up? she challenges our culture of permanent adolescence, turning to thinkers including Kant, Rousseau, and Arendt to find a model of maturity that is not a matter of resignation. In growing up, we move from the boundless trust of childhood to the peculiar mixture of disappointment and exhilaration that comes with adolescence. Maturity, however, means finding the courage to live in a world of painful uncertainty without giving in to dogma or despair. A grown-up, Neiman writes, helps to move the world closer to what it should be while never losing sight of what it is.
Why Grow Up? is a witty and concise argument for the value of maturity as a subversive ideal: a goal rarely achieved entirety, and all the more worth striving for.
it bad. At this point history and poetry can teach him what he now needs to know about the human heart and soul. For by turning a natural drive into a search for the ideal erotic object – a woman who is as good as she is beautiful – the educator can create a love for the ideal itself that produces forms of striving that will be of real value. If properly managed, sexual desire can be the natural connection between self-interest and morality. Like many others, Rousseau sought the right sort of
had no idea where I would sleep each night, and I was still on the move when the first star pierced the sky … Often I could not bear the thought of being cut off from grass and trees and sky: at least I wanted to keep their scent with me. So instead of taking a room in the inn, I would trudge on another four or five miles and beg hospitality in some hamlet, and the smell of hay would drift through my dreams. (The Prime of Life, p. 217) I can’t shake a feeling somewhere between envy and
shape’ against the best-selling Decline of the West, in which Oswald Spengler presented a two-volume argument for downfall and doom. Neurath chose a different path. In addition to writing and teaching logic, political economy, philosophy of science and sociology, he was a leader in developing housing for low-income workers, as well as the founder of the Viennese Museum for Social and Economic Affairs. His most passionate projects involved education, and he invented a system of graphic design for
much good if I cannot determine whether this act is honourable or that one despicable. Without judgement, you may understand a universal principle without ever being able to determine whether a particular case falls under it or not. About such people Kant adds the only (faintly) funny footnote in the entire first Critique: Deficiency in judgment is just what is ordinarily called stupidity, and for such a failing there is no remedy. An obtuse or narrow-minded person to whom nothing is wanting
principles. Her job is to listen to a series of reasonable arguments, then withdraw, reflect and make a decision: it wasn’t murder, it was manslaughter. Without judgement reason is paralysed, unable to apply its ideas to the world. Kant is often ridiculed as rule-bound, particularly with regard to his moral philosophy. His categorical imperative – the moral law that tells us to treat other people not as means to our ends but as ends in themselves – is often caricatured as a sort of machine that