The Experience of Aging: A Reconstruction of the Meaning of Time's Passing within the Classical American Philosophical Tradition
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The provocation for this dissertation is a brief contention: aging is not synonymous with disease. This contention is a corrective reaction to the pervasive sensibility that aging is a disease, and which therefore casts the character of time’s passing as a process of destruction. The upshot of this corrosive sensibility is that we are not aging well. Guided both by the belief that we can reconstruct the meaning of time’s passing and an ameliorative sensibility to heal human suffering, the dissertation offers an alternative, more fruitful understanding of aging in which the character of time changes from a process of destruction into one of creative individual genesis. This is how we should experience time as time passes. Living in this way is an achievement: It is the activity of ferreting out the best possible ways in which to live so that life is deep and robust with concatenated meaning. This philosophical diagnosis of aging is situated within two philosophical traditions—first, existentialism and, second and primarily, the pragmatism of classical American philosophers. The deceptively simple insights from existentialism at work in the dissertation are this: that we are ontologically free to choose our own persons and that our freedom resides in the ever-present possible. The next philosophical move that is made is the pragmatic turn: that, with a sense that there is always something better, we attend to how it is that we press into our possibilities by listening to and heeding experience so that we adapt and grow as individuals.
Gerhart, Olga S (2013). The Experience of Aging: A Reconstruction of the Meaning of Time's Passing within the Classical American Philosophical Tradition. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from