Research Article

DOI :10.26650/senectus.2023.1.1.0002   IUP :10.26650/senectus.2023.1.1.0002    Full Text (PDF)

Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject

Emine Canlı

This study will examine from a philosophical point of view the relationship between the design of the modern subject and modern individuals developing resistance to old age while being at peace with youth. Philosophical theories in the pre-modern period that addressed experiences as experimentation and that which has been lived have attempted in the modern period to rule out experimentation and that which has been lived by constructing the background of experience in the objective field while attributing wisdom to old age as the indicator of experience. Youth and old age are not considered accidental elements that point to individuals’ physical and mental changes as singular entities but rather as having an epistemological importance in terms of philosophical theories due to being indicators of the temporality of the subject established in the objective field. For this reason, the aims of the study will be to indicate the tension between philosophy’s design of the subject as established in the intelligible sphere and the temporal existences of individuals as singular entities, such as the states of youth and old age, and to present evidence as to whether or not that tension can be eliminated. The study will touch upon the philosophical theories that have included or excluded youth and old age in their theories in the context of their relevance to experience and will question the possibility of a nonmodern reading of the experience problem that ends with the design of the modern subject.

DOI :10.26650/senectus.2023.1.1.0002   IUP :10.26650/senectus.2023.1.1.0002    Full Text (PDF)

Öznenin Nesnelliği ve Tarihselliği Problemi Açısından Gençliği ve Yaşlılığı Yeniden Düşünmek

Emine Canlı

Bu çalışmada, modern bireyin gençlik ile barışık iken yaşlılığa karşı direnç geliştirmesi ile modern özne tasarımı arasındaki ilgi, felsefi açıdan incelenecektir. Modern dönem öncesinde deneyimi tecrübe ve yaşanmışlık olarak ele alan felsefi kuramlar; onun göstergesi olan yaşlılığa bilgelik atfederken, modern dönemde deneyimin zeminini nesnel alanda kurgulayarak tecrübeyi ve yaşanmışlığı bertaraf etme çabasında olmuştur. Gençliğin ve yaşlılığın, salt tekil varlıklar olarak bireylerin bedensel ve zihinsel değişimlerine işaret eden ilineksel unsurlar olmadığını, aksine, nesnel alanda kurulan öznenin zamansallığının göstergeleri olmaları sebebiyle felsefi kuramlar açısından epistemolojik bir önem arz ettiklerini düşünmekteyiz. Bu nedenle amacımız, felsefenin düşünülür alanda kurulan özne tasarımı ile tekil varlıklar olan bireylerin gençlik ve yaşlılık gibi zamana tâbi varoluşları arasındaki gerilime işaret etmek ve söz konusu gerilimin bertaraf edilip edilemeyeceğinin izini sürmek olacaktır. Çalışma boyunca gençliği ve yaşlılığı deneyim ile ilgileri bağlamında kuramlarına dahil eden veya dışlayan felsefi kuramlara değinecek, modern özne tasarımı ile sonlanan deneyim probleminin, modern olmayan bir okumasının imkanını sorgulayacağız.


From the ancient thinker Heraclitus to Benjamin as one of the thinkers of the last century, youth and old age have either been excluded or included when dealing with the objectivity and historicity of the subject. Youth and old age can be said to be accepted as direct indicators of the temporality of the subject that has been drawn in the intelligible sphere within the process, and therefore they accompany the history of philosophy by being excluded or taken to heart. This is because Being young and being old signify being in the rupturing power of time, which not only brings everything but at the same time takes everything away (Heidegger & Fink, 2006, p. 188). For this reason, many philosophical theories are seen to exclude youth and old age when addressing the subject’s objectivity and to include these when addressing the subject’s historicity. According to Heraclitus (88th Fragment, n.d.), who claimed that everything is subject to the flow (panta rei), the law regarding life transforming into death is the one and the same law of youth turning into old age. According to Plato, an aged person is one who has achieved a measured and wise spirit by remaining away from temporary whims such as passion and desire (2010, p. 328e). With regard to Aristotle (1997, p. 123), however, youth and old age are studied together through experience, and the reason why a youth who knows geometry and mathematics cannot be rational is that they lack the experience of old age. Therefore, youth and old age have been ontic and ontological subjects in terms of the subject design that would be constructed regarding formation and decomposition throughout the history of philosophy, because for the design of the modern subject, mortality is as resistant to thought as it is to the idea of immortality (Adorno, 2016, p. 337).

During antiquity when philosophy was accepted as wisdom, due to man being subject to time like all other beings, man did not constitute a subject in the intelligible field. Alongside man’s subjection to time not constituting a problem for the thinkers of antiquity, the passage of time and aging were even seen as conditions for wisdom as intended by philosophy. According to common belief in the thoughts of antiquity, the relationship between man’s way of knowing and wisdom progresses naturally due to the purpose and function of a thing being intertwined. For this reason, the thinkers of antiquity from their point of view did not consider epistemology and ethics, which question the possibility of knowing and the source of knowledge, separate from one another. Man naturally has the ability to know and is both a social and ethical being with no categorical distinction existing between the two. On the other hand, philosophy is an activity that on one hand researches the principles of coexistence and that which is designed to keep something alive while on the other hand attempting to distinguish the various characteristics and abilities of humans from other beings. However, the methods and sources of knowledge that change and transform with the process also transform the disciplines that create this struggle, such as how humans have transformed the ways of understanding and explaining nature, the universe, the world, and themselves. 

While the holistic perspective of philosophy had shaped scientific methods during antiquity when philosophy was determinant, the objectivity of the sciences has shaped the methods of philosophy in the age when the science of the nature of mathematics is determinant. One of the processes through which this transformation can be traced is the transformation of man into the subject as established in the intelligible sphere and thus guaranteeing its objectivity. This has become possible by suspending the structure of man that is subject to time and the individual experience one gains over time. In the modern period where man is conceived as the subject and human existence is affiliated with the ability to think, temporality has begun being recognized as the most significant obstacle to objective knowledge. This is because in modern thought where the purpose of philosophy is the possibility of objective knowledge instead of wisdom, the reference point of objectivity is the subject that has been established in the intelligible sphere as conscious existence. Due to being established in the intelligible sphere, the modern subject is no longer a human subject to time or able to age (to be experienced): It is objective and immortal. Modern philosophical theories that aim to design man as an objective being in the intelligible sphere attempt to eliminate the elements that are subject to time by analyzing them and to ascertain the aspects that remain unchanged and that enable objectivity. This approach, which had started with Descartes and reached its zenith with Kant, began being criticized again in the modern period because eliminating historicity from the analysis of experience, experience being the basis of subject analyses, is seen to be impossible, and the possibilities of the objective design that gave room to historicity and that could establish its legitimacy are being challenged.

Walter Benjamin was the thinker who noted the interest of this debate that modern philosophy had conducted as a problem of method in the form of objectivity and historicity through how the concept of experience itself had been constructed and through which concepts it was expressed. According to Benjamin, the basic question of modern thought is whether experience will be handled as the sum of lived experiences and attributed to man, or if experience will be attributed to the subject by designing it in the intelligible sphere. Benjamin drew attention to the fact that the concepts used for experience by Kant and Hegel, the defining names in the debate on objectivity and historicity, were not accidental, pointing out that Kant preferred Erfahrung [journey], whereas Hegel preferred Erlebnis [to live]. Stating Erfahrung to imply youth, which implies the dynamism and permanence contained within, and Erlebnis to imply experiential knowledge and old age, which can only be achieved by living, Benjamin presented a critical perspective that encapsulated the problem of modern objectivity and historicity. 

This study attempts to show how youth and old age had been included as indicators of human historicity and also been accepted as what molds knowledge in antiquity, when experience was addressed as the sum of all that has yet been experienced. However, the study indicates that the subject in the modern era, where experience has been designed as an objective and universal plane in the intelligible sphere, has been designed not as an aging, experiencing creature but as an immortal being and also indicates why and how temporality has been excluded on account of objective knowledge. The importance of youth and old age for the current study and for a philosophical reading is the meaning their having been excluded through a modern approach carries due to them not being accidental elements that just indicate the physical and mental changes of individuals as singular beings but also being indicators of the temporality of the subject as established in the objective sphere. For this reason, aside from defending the criticisms of Walter Benjamin and Kojin Karatani regarding how the subject cannot be a project that is able to be designed and completed in the intelligible sphere, the study also supports the argument regarding how the still-current philosophy Cicero had put forth regarding old age and the interests of philosophy should preserve the holistic view of human beings instead of the view that eliminates the historical structure and does not allow objectivity. The study attempts to make this defense by rethinking modern theories using the idea of experience, which philosophy in antiquity had revealed as the love of wisdom and in which the human being had been considered as a whole. For this purpose, the study will point out theories that involve youth, which signifies the structure of the subject that is subject to formation and decomposition (i.e., time), and that in particular involve old age, which signifies that which has been experienced and temporality; the study will also reexamine from this perspective the texts of Plato and Aristotle, which are accepted as the founding texts of philosophy, and point out how the need for a holistic view of human beings (similar to the other humanities) is still relevant in terms of philosophy by referring to Cicero’s theories on old age and experience. 

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Canlı, E. (2023). Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject. Senectus, 1(1), 1-18.


Canlı E. Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject. Senectus. 2023;1(1):1-18.


Canlı, E. Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject. Senectus, [Publisher Location], v. 1, n. 1, p. 1-18, 2023.

Chicago: Author-Date Style

Canlı, Emine,. 2023. “Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject.” Senectus 1, no. 1: 1-18.

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Canlı, Emine,. Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject.” Senectus 1, no. 1 (Sep. 2023): 1-18.

Harvard: Australian Style

Canlı, E 2023, 'Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject', Senectus, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-18, viewed 21 Sep. 2023,

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Canlı, E. (2023) ‘Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject’, Senectus, 1(1), pp. 1-18. (21 Sep. 2023).


Canlı, Emine,. Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject.” Senectus, vol. 1, no. 1, 2023, pp. 1-18. [Database Container],


Canlı E. Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject. Senectus [Internet]. 21 Sep. 2023 [cited 21 Sep. 2023];1(1):1-18. Available from: doi: 10.26650/senectus.2023.1.1.0002


Canlı, Emine. Rethinking Youth and Old Age in Terms of the Historical Objectivity of the Subject”. Senectus 1/1 (Sep. 2023): 1-18.


Published Online20.03.2023


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