Cognitive Decline and the Peak Age for Philosophy


Speaking of video games, Starcraft 2 is a “military science fiction real-time video game” that is used in at least one classroom to teach “critical thinking, problem solving, resource management, and adaptive decision making.” It also has been used by researchers at Simon Fraser University to demonstrate that “measurable declines in cognitive performance begin to occur at age 24.” The study has an overblown title, “Over the Hill at 24,” but all it seems to show is that subjects playing Starcraft 2 play worse the further past age 24 they get. I suppose that “Kids Better than Their Parents at Video Games” is a less earth-shattering title. The authors take their study to capture age-related declines in cognitive motor function better than other studies because their subjects are tested on a “real world” task. Of playing a video game.

The authors of the study note that cognitive motor function is not the only relevant variable in perfomance, and that, for example, “academic psychologists seem to be most productive at 40 years of age, suggesting that any earlier age-related decline is trumped by skill development.” What about philosophers? There have been very few philosophical prodigies (Mill, Kripke, others?), and 24 seems on the young side. Is there an average age at which philosophers tend to peak?

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John Schwenkler
7 years ago

Hume was only 28 when the Treatise was published!Report

James Camien McGuiggan
James Camien McGuiggan
7 years ago

My late friend Norman Kreitman was a psychiatrist until his retirement, after which he kicked it in to become a philosopher and a poet. I have one of his collections of poetry, which I know very poorly but by which (for what little it is worth) I am not convinced. His philosophy, on the other hand, I find intelligent and wise. (He’s published a handful of very decent articles.) His subdiscipline was aesthetics, as mine is, and I always found our conversations – I knew him only when he was eighty or so – edifying, instructive and humbling. And I’m in my mid-twenties, so if there is any such thing as age-related philosophical decline at all I should have had the upper hand.Report

Bill Lawson
Bill Lawson
7 years ago

This article inclines me to wonder, What is the most favorite color of philosophers?Report

Luke Ford (@lukejf01)
7 years ago

There are also few young comedians. I wonder if this is related…Report

Mike Nance
Mike Nance
7 years ago

Schelling was publishing very significant work by age 20.Report

Travis
7 years ago

I think Ayer was 25 when he finished Language, Truth and Logic.Report

Alan White
Alan White
7 years ago

Whitehead was 65 after being hired by Harvard for his philosophy of science and logic (Principia Mathematica; Concept of Nature; Principles of Natural Knowledge; The Principle of Relativity among others)–yet he then produced all his metaphysical works (Science and the Modern World; Process and Reality; Religion in the Making; Adventures in Ideas, etc.). While one may criticize his later works as more speculative, they anticipated Chalmers on panpsychism, which is a now a more or less standard view, e.g.Report

Tobias Fuchs
Tobias Fuchs
7 years ago

Kant was at his most productive around 60. He published a string of canonical works starting in his late 50s into his 70s. Schopenhauer, who wrote his principal work in his 20s, accused Kant of senility. If only we could have them play video games against each other…Report