Philosophy of Aging, Time, and Finitude

J. Baars, T.R. Cole (Editor)

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Human aging has not drawn much philosophical attention in the past. This is true not only of philosophy but also of other ways of reflecting human life. When the famous theologian Karl Rahner (1980) was in his late seventies, he wondered what theology said about aging. He could conclude only that it dealt with the subject neither explicitly nor in any great detail. The question arises why so much thought has been given to death in philosophy and so little to aging, as can be seen in any handbook or encyclopedia of philosophy. The reason for this may be that when only a few people in a society reach “old age” and death is a threat at all ages, death will attract more attention than aging. In the work of the eminent philosophers of the past we find references to aging only in the margins of their work. Plato, for instance, introduces the old Cephalus in his Republic (trans. 1941) but grants him only a short presence, as if to demonstrate that an advanced age is hardly relevant in discussing what “justice” might be. For Plato and in Greek philosophy as a whole, such matters are decided only by argument--or so they thought--and age has no role to play. When older people are considered wise in Greek philosophy, this is because they have devoted a long life to study and thought, not because of their age.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationA Guide to Humanistic Studies in Aging
PublisherJohns Hopkins University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780801894336
ISBN (Print)9780801894336
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

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