Monday, July 11, 2005

L&S: Adulthood, Then and Now

James Taylor is working his way through J. S. Mill's "Harm Principle." There was a brief exchange with a student about how Mill defined an "adult" for the purposes of the "rational adult" in his theory. James' response was that, in fact, "rationality" defines adulthood. We know an adult because he or she is rational. Ignoring the complexities of determining rationality, I'm more interested what this means in a society where adolescence has been extended in the ways that it has been in our own. Would Mill's rationality test have likely included more children of younger ages than would be the case today? Would a 13 year-old chosen at random been more likely to meet the rationality test in the mid-19th century than today?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Teenagers are biologically and cognitively capable of being adults. They need the training to support themselves and the motivation to act like adults that they currently lack. This is not doing anyone any good, and is opening up massive windows of opportunity for these people to get themselves into deep trouble (out-of-wedlock births being a good example)

It just isn't right to deny them the Blessings of Liberty for one minute longer than absolutely necessary; it also doesn't really do them any good to make them pointlessly mark time in their own vicious little subculture for several years and then have them make the exact same rookie mistakes they would have made several years earlier and already recovered from if we'd let them grow up faster.