Throughout life I’ve been given several different markers for when I’ve become an adult or man.
Once you’ve worked a full-time job, then you know what it’s like to be an adult.
Once you’ve lived on your own, then you’re an adult.
Once you’re able to give up what you want for your spouse, then you’re a man.
Once you’ve held your child, then you’re a man.
I’m 27 years old. I don’t struggle with the question of whether I’m a grown-up. Some people find a rebellious glee in relaying that they will never grow up. But it’s interesting – what is the difference between a child and an adult person? Answer must be in a sense in which many full-sized people are still children, and young people have become adults at an early age, since that’s what we mean when we talk about “really” being an adult. Answer must be methodical. It must have to do with the way an adult approaches a problem vs. the way a kid approaches a problem. It is a way of life.
How’s this? An adult sees what is as it is -- not the way they’d like it to be, but as things are. They’re not prone to complaining because there’s an acceptance of the way things are. They’ve overcome their fantasies, and clearly distinguish between make-believe and reality. They fantasize, but at the end of the day their dreams remain imaginary to them. They don’t try to bring their fantasies out into real life. They repress the tendency to make everything normative. They’re done playing cops and robbers. They concern themselves not as much with good vs. evil, but real vs. not real, and though real vs. not real might lead into whether it be good or bad, the question of reality is primary and cognitive power is appropriately allocated that way. There is a deeper need to understand the complicated mechanics of life then to describe life using good words or bad words (for example, merely describing mankind’s relationship with nature as rape or development”" is understood as an invalid argument) Metaphysics is more basic than ethics.
With this definition, many people are childish about somethings and adult about other things. I think that that’s right. Everyone behaves childishly when the right subject comes up. Another way to articulate this idea is that adults overcome their biased meta-narratives. They have an overview of how they think the world works and they cram all the evidence so that it fits into the narrative. They skeptically reject evidence that doesn’t fit the meta-narrative, and naively accept the evidence that does.
Another way of looking at it is this – people grow into three stages of how they look at the world. They’re born seeing things from the ego. Empathy is difficult for them. They can’t see things from other people’s eyes, or walk in other people’s shoes. They’re stuck in their own worldview and can’t see anything else. This view is associated with being a child.
Past that there is the second stage of looking at the world – it is an empathetic way. They can switch between worldviews and see how other people could disagree. This view often leads into relativism and post-modernism, which empties factual statements of meaning. One person’s fact might be another’s fiction. They can walk in other people’s shoes and that makes deeper relationships possible. This view is associated with being a teenager.
The third stage is associated with being… an academic. I fear that most grown up people oscillate between the first two points of view, and rarely touch the third one. It is an objective way of looking at things. It’s seeing things from the logos perspective. It is adhering to the logos and accepting it’s implications. It is not just weaving between you and your neighbor’s worldviews, but transcending them. It is seeing the world in terms of systems. It’s not about people, but about reasons. There is confidence in determining who has better arguments, and humility in being able to change when better arguments present themselves. Academia is connected up with this state of mind over matters abstractions or impractical life. While non-academia adulthood is connected up with this state of mind of concrete day-to-day life.
Does that accurately capture adulthood?