Philosophical Perspectives on Aging: Vulnerability and Imperfection

May 17, 2021 - May 18, 2021
La Sapienza, Università di Roma

Via Omero 18
Roma 00197

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  • Department for the Study of Culture (Philosophy), University of Southern Denmark
  • The Danish Institute in Rome


Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza
University of Southern Denmark

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The seminar will develop philosophical perspectives on aging and the life course. One central focus is vulnerability and imperfection. Elderly people are standardly categorized as vulnerable, but vulnerability tends to be understood in a narrowly biomedical way, rather than being seen as a part of life, conceived biographically and existentially and tied to the life form. Dominant approaches to aging are based, explicitly or explicitly, on age-neutral standards or inflated notions of flourishing, health or managing life. The seminar will explore conceptions of aging that take into fuller account the intricacies of human nature and the human condition and are sensitive to the particularities of different stages in life. The notion of dignity is often invoked in attempts to state the conditions for a sufficiently good life in old age; but it is either defined very abstractly, e.g. on the model of Kantian ethics, or left more or less obscure. Ideas of aging “dignified” or “gracefully”, of “coming to terms with aging” or of “maturing” or “achieving wisdom”, as well as notions of the “melancholy” or “tragedy” of aging deserve closer scrutiny and interpretation. As against this mainstream understanding, or at least in order to complicate it, we invite participants to consider existential and transformative aspects of aging (not necessarily restricted to old age) and coping with life. The seminar is philosophical, but open to contributions from other disciplines, such as literary studies, psychology and qualitative empirical research. 

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