Date of Completion


Embargo Period




Major Advisor

Lewis Gordon

Associate Advisor

Michael Lynch

Associate Advisor

Jane Gordon

Associate Advisor

Frederick Lee

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This work offers a philosophical examination of human maturity. Its argument is that maturity in a human world has an infinite structure because such maturity demands taking responsibility for the world. A world is a product of constitution: human beings produce the world, which is functionally the extent of meaningfulness; but while each human being constitutes the world, each human being also enters a world already constituted. Maturity thus demands taking responsibility not only for that which is brought about through one’s own agency but also that which precedes one’s agency. The structure of the world so understood is such that it can never fully be complete. Hence, the responsibility such a world occasions is infinite rather than finite.

This notion of maturity as infinite responsibility is examined through an inquiry into four questions. The first three concern maturity in the domains of reason, action, and the human sciences. Mature reason is argued to involve the development of critical responsibilities. It denotes a responsibility to expand the range of evidence evaluated and to expand the means of critical evidential assessment, which requires efforts that transcend rationality. Mature action, in turn, must account for the ambiguity of acts and intentions, since the meanings of these within a human world are never fully constituted. This calls for critical efforts to distinguish needs from wants to establish intersubjectively meaningful criteria by which one may be held accountable. The human sciences, then, are called upon to examine human “needs” despite the fundamental contingency of human life. This requires mature human sciences to repudiate a deterministic metaphysics in favor of a relational conception of human reality. The fourth and final question taken up concerns how maturity can be chosen. Maturity is conceived as the product of a multiplicity of human acts of valuing, such that it is not the product of an individual’s efforts toward personal maturity but is rather produced through political agency to value maturity.