Does writing — and talking — about growing up actually contribute to it? Why Grow Up? was written to call attention to the many contradictions in our attitudes towards adulthood: while children generally want nothing more than to grow up, grownups idealize the stage of life between 18-28, a period few honest people would care to repeat. What is the function, then, of describing what are usually the hardest years of one’s life as the best ones? I’ve argued that the point is to prepare young people to demand very little from the world, and expect even less. The reactions to the book in different countries have revealed differences in assumptions about adulthood, and I’ve probably learned more about growing up since its publication than while writing it. This lecture will therefore reflect on what should be added to the original book.
Susan Neiman is director of the Einstein Forum. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Neiman studied philosophy at Harvard and the Free University of Berlin. She was professor of philosophy at Yale University and Tel Aviv University before coming to the Einstein Forum in 2000. Her works include Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin (1992); The Unity of Reason: Rereading Kant (1994); Evil in Modern Thought (2002); Fremde sehen anders — Zur Lage der Bundesrepublik (2005); Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists (2008), and Why Grow Up? (2014).