Adult Life

Aging, Responsibility, and the Pursuit of Happiness

By John Russon

Subjects: Continental Philosophy, Phenomenology, Philosophy Of Psychology, Philosophy, Social Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438479507, 237 pages, January 2021
Hardcover : 9781438479514, 237 pages, August 2020

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Table of contents


Vignette #1: The Generation Gap
Vignette #2: Worldly Engagement
Vignette #3: Mortality and Character
The Plan of the Book

Part I: Human Experience and the Meaning of Adulthood

1. Perception and Its Norms
Perception and Possibility
Reality and Maturity
Character and Aging

Part II: The Form of Adult Life: Maturity and Aging

2. Character and Reality
Exposure: Outer and Inner
Healthy Developments of Character
Responsibility and Happiness

3. Aging
Time: Indifferent and Personal
On Aging
The Spatiality of Adulthood

Part III: The Content of Adult Life: Adult Occupations

4. Domains of Settlement and Engagement
Intimacy: The Family
Economics: The Market
Politics: The State

5. Bearing Witness: Honesty and Wisdom
Philosophy: Wonder, Science, and Wisdom

Appendix: Notes for Further Study

Drawing from philosophy and psychology, offers a clear and compelling interpretation of what it means to be an adult.


What does it mean to be an adult? In this original and compelling work, John Russon answers that question by leading us through a series of rich reflections on the psychological and social dimensions of adulthood and by exploring some of the deepest ethical and existential issues that confront human life: intimacy, responsibility, aging, and death. Using his knowledge of the history of philosophy along with the combined resources of psychology, sociology, and anthropology, he explores the behavioral challenges of becoming an adult and examines the intimate relationships that are integral to healthy development. He also studies our experiences of time and space, which address both aging and the crucial role that our material environments play in the formation of our personalities. Of special note is Russon's provocative assessment of the economic and political contexts of contemporary adult life and the distinctive problems they pose. Engaging and accessible, Adult Life is for anyone seeking the profound lessons our human culture has learned about living well.

John Russon is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph and the Director of the Toronto Summer Seminar in Philosophy. He is the author of Bearing Witness to Epiphany: Persons, Things, and the Nature of Erotic Life and Human Experience: Philosophy, Neurosis, and the Elements of Everyday Life, both also published by SUNY Press.


"Russon's strength, in Adult Life, is his unwavering commitment to presenting the challenges of aging and the norms that must be respected if one is to age in a socially healthy manner. He accomplishes this with both conceptual and affective force." — Symposium

"John Russon is one of the best phenomenologists in contemporary philosophy. He uses the phenomenological method to cast light on some of the most important issues in our lives. In this book, Russon offers a sensitive description of what it is like to navigate the world as an adult, displaying the ways in which adulthood involves a development of our relations with the world, one another, and ourselves. In doing so, he allows us to see afresh the ways in which our lives unfold over time." — Todd May, author of Kenneth Lonergan: Filmmaker and Philosopher