Annoying Questions

Paul’s Random, Annoying Question of the Moment

What makes someone an adult to you?

I’ve never seen a summary answer to that question.  I doubt one exists.  How could it be possible to lump at least a dozen or so facets of “adult” together and then summarize them?

Recently, the facet or aspect of being an adult most interesting to me is the co-equality of adults.  In theory, adults are coequal to each other — if only on the deeper levels.  All have — or should have — the same legal rights, obligations, and freedoms, for instance.

If you trace some of your values back to the European Enlightenment, then you most likely believe in the epistemic equality of all equally informed and sane men and women.  It’s an ideal to say, “You know as much as I do about water, you are just as rational as I am, therefore your considered opinion on the subject of water can no more be dismissed out of hand than my own.”  It’s an ideal, but arguably an ideal crucial to the sciences, democracy,  and much else.  The ideal even played a role in the toppling of European monarchies, and the dissolution of empires.

And for me, the epistemic equality of the Enlightenment informs my views of what it means to be an adult.  Ideally, adults do not play snobs to each other’s honest beliefs. They do not dismiss each other’s honest beliefs on superficial grounds, but rather only the basis that some belief is not demonstrably true, or perhaps even likely to be true.

Beyond those ideals, I think — in actual practice — an adult is someone fully capable of respecting their own views even when respecting the views of someone else.

What makes someone an adult to you?

7 thoughts on “Paul’s Random, Annoying Question of the Moment”

    1. Good luck! I myself believe I’ve met a few adults in this world — some of whom have even commented on this blog. But adults are certainly relatively few in comparison with the world’s children. Children, of course, can be good, decent people — just they’re not adults yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. “an adult is someone fully capable of respecting their own views even when respecting the views of someone else.” That is true, Paul, and a good and valid statement about adulthood. BUT here are some other thoughts: they come from my work experience. Being a pharmacist in a retail setting, I work with a team of pharmacy technicians, for the most part capable and intelligent young people. Although they can handle many situations, phone calls, ornery patients and sticky insurance problems, there are moments when they can’t go any further without the expertise/experience/finesse of the pharmacist. One of my techs has taken to (smilingly) saying, “I need an adult!” when faced with these situations. Picking up on this theme, when faced with an issue or problem that involves (my nemesis) the cash register, I summon my tech by announcing, “Help! I need an adult cashier!” after which I smilingly turn to my patient and say, “I’ve been using a cash register for decades, and have never managed to get out to Cashier Kindergarten!” Though these interactions are amusing and anecdotal, and (on the surface) refer more to acquired skills/education than adulthood, I propose that another facet of being an adult is (whatever their skills or education) to be one who can adeptly handle situations which arise, with a smoothness and authority that inspires others to put faith and confidence in them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “One who can adeptly handle situations which arise, with a smoothness and authority that inspires others to put faith and confidence in them.”

      Here’s why that strikes me as a brilliant definition of one aspect or facet of being an adult, Carla. Simply put, it fits every person who I think of as measuring up to my “fire fighter standard”.

      Perhaps you recall I put myself through uni working as a fire fighter. The experience, if nothing else, taught me to sometimes assess people according to a combination of their competence and loyalty. That’s what I mean by “fire fighter standard”. Someone who gives me the honest impression — based on their usually years long track record with me — of being both sufficiently competent and sufficiently loyal is someone I would trust to have my back in a fire.

      Your definition jives with my fire fighter standard perfectly, Carla. We see eye to eye on this aspect of being an adult. I think the way you put it is a bit more explicit than how I think of the same measure. But my way of thinking about is more colorful. So there!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is an interesting question you pose. I often hear my “twenty-something” daughter say she is “exhausted from adulting”. I’m sure the word will appear in the dictionary soon. From her perspective it’s about doing the difficult things, paying bills, dealing with conflict, buying a car, and that damnable insurance policy!
    I like your thought that being adult is having the capacity to respect others views while holding your own. I would like to think that is true of adults, but sadly, I think the more proper term would be wisdom, or even maturity. I am amazed how child-like adults can be when their beliefs are challenged. Don’t even get me started on politics. The ability to have a civil conversation about politics is all but dead. I think we take everything so seriously and personally that we can’t see the forest for the trees.
    Oh, I’m rambling. Good job at sparking a conversation! I shall go back to adulting now and do the laundry. LOL


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