Is Jaden Smith the World’s Next Great Philosopher?

You can learn much from the tweets of a 15-year-old child star—if you look closely enough. We did.

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Joe Klamar / AFP / Getty Images

Jaden Smith is only 15 years old, but he’s already an actor, a dancer, a rapper and an alleged dater of Jenner-Kardashian progeny. In the last week, it has seemed as though he’s intent on adding “budding philosopher” to his resume. The son of movie star Will Smith and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith has taken to Twitter to share his thoughts on society, education and the role of young people in the 21st century. Let’s take a look at what the After Earth star has to say:

Here it appears that Smith is decrying the evils of ageism in the modern world. For others to imply that a child should have higher aspirations for his future and not focus on his accomplishments up to that point is a clear demonstration of prejudice. By the age of 13, Smith had already starred in a blockbuster hit (2010′s The Karate Kid) alongside Jackie Chan and been featured on a track that went platinum (Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never”). In other words, he was just like all other 13-year-olds. What more did you want from him?

Next, Smith denounces the strictures set forth by society, suggesting that each one of us create our own rules. Assuming he doesn’t mean simply the laws of society—and it’s unlikely Smith would restrict himself to such a narrow scope—Smith’s statement demonstrates a clear rejection of Kantian ethics and the categorical imperative, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as, “a moral obligation or command that is unconditionally and universally binding.” Smith would instead prefer that we be bound only by the limitations we set forth for ourselves.

Now Smith turns his attention to the thorny issue of education. For thousands of years, philosophers have debated the role that schooling ought to have in the upbringing of children. The arguments they have made have been manifold and impossibly nuanced. Smith, however, boils the issue down to one essential truth. But it seems that in his quest for brevity, Smith may have overlooked the argument set forth in John Locke’s seminal 1693 treatise, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, in which the English philosopher posits that every human is born with a tabula rasa, or “blank slate.”  Taken as such, education would not be washing the brain, but rather filling it with information as Locke suggests: “I think I may say, that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education.” Perhaps, however, Smith is suggesting that the education is somehow intrinsically re-wiring the brain. As with many philosophical texts, it can be difficult to deduce the full meaning and nuance of the author.

Though it may seem that Smith thoroughly and completely contradicts his previous statement with the one that follows, there is perhaps more than initially meets the eye. Maybe the message is that rebellion is bad and conformity is good? Probably not though. Every great philosopher has his missteps.

After that brief tangent into the principles of educational warfare, Smith pledges his support of a more modern philosopher: 20th century American scholar John Rawls. See, one of Rawls’ best-known principles was known as the “Veil of Ignorance” (or “original position”), which states that “…no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status; nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength, and the like” and as a result, each person would prefer to be part of a society that was inherently fair and equal. By nature, newborns are entirely ignorant and thus are perfectly “veiled” themselves. Using Smith’s heady logic, this complete and utter ignorance enables them to truly appreciate the wisdom of original position. If only they were able to speak and share that wisdom with the rest of the world.

Finally, Smith concludes his treatise by returning to the matter of schooling, insisting that we would all be smarter without it.

He might be right: There are no confirmed reports of an educational institution at any level—from pre-school on up through masters philosophy programs—teaching the complete writings of Jaden Smith. Maybe that will change when he gets older—just don’t ask him about it.

48 comments
BillWeikart
BillWeikart

Best Onion article I have read for MONTHS!

YahooSantamaria
YahooSantamaria

This is the reason why Kylie said that her and Jaden are just best friends because this guy is sooooo stupid for saying that. GOD I FEEL SORRY FOR THAT GIRL BECAUSE SHE JUST FEELS GUILTY FOR HIM !!!!!

JacekChudy
JacekChudy

How can Mirrors be real if our eyes aren't real, This one really cracks me up :d. Perhaps he meant something along the line, that what we see is not who we really are, people tend to have misconceptions about themselves and do not voice their true opinions fearing judgment, he really needs to learn to voice his opinions properly. Education is not perfect, sure it needs some tweaking but world definitely wouldn't be smarter without it. As for the babies one there is some half truths there, a child in its first years of life have over 3 times as much synapses as an adult person, in essence babies are geniuses but without any knowledge to back it up there is no real use in such brainpower.

StephenAbbott
StephenAbbott

I hope everyone realizes this is satire. The kid is a typical petulant, self-important teen who thinks this is the first time these things have ever been uttered.

BobFromDistrict9
BobFromDistrict9

Jaden Smith was not brainwashed by public schools, nor by private schools, he was brainwashed by Scientology.

AuthorityFigure
AuthorityFigure

I have a lot of respect for this kid.  He has courage.  I've thought many of the same things, just not in those words.  Simply by the fact that TIME magazine follows his Twitter account and writes news articles about them shows you how much clout this kid has.  Experience will be his teacher, and we will all be here to watch him.  Too bad we don't give that much attention to our own lives. 

Inngus
Inngus

He might be onto something about schools brainwashing our youth. All the more reason to put your kids in private or home schools.

DickieVee
DickieVee

Having kids and raising kids are two different things.

IMHO it is a mistake to put children in the public eye- unless the family needs the money.

The Smith's (all of them) have let success go to their heads so now they think they are their own Gods. They will teach us all a lesson but not the lesson they THINK they will be teaching us.

trojaniam
trojaniam

The immense downside of being raised and pampered as an over-indulged, entitled Hollywood brat. 

lrgreen73
lrgreen73

he sounds like any 15 year-old that's read a lot and been allowed to voice his opinions. like he has a lot of ideas and theory and passion and needs a few years seasoning. 
remember how you were at 15 before calling him names. most teen-agers are insufferable 70% of the time and he has twitter to bleed onto. i'm SO glad it didn't exist for my angsty teen-age poetry. 

StacyR
StacyR

What an entitled, self-absorbed, no-talent little twerp.  Glad you are so much more intelligent than the rest of us, Jaden.  Not!

consciouspi
consciouspi

holy cow.  the golden rule is fact only.  moral truth is no opinion, -- or no one could be taught to behave.   honor to be with all people equally, will feel high self esteem actually.  ego is self excitement only.  it would have been me for who self corrects actually. is also why conceit is false.  living wages affords extras = healthy business = healthy money markets = permanent surplus.  empathy is our soul.  understand a person is no neglect.  we are in trouble in usa for neglect most. cows are people too.


JohnKovacich
JohnKovacich

whos the bigger fool the one talking or the one listening to the fool???

who cares what this spoiled semi-talented heavily insulated from reality kid has to say!!

Beersheva
Beersheva

Wow, this article is as intelligent as Jaden.

Smiffy.2020
Smiffy.2020

Is this for real? I find it funny how he preaches about people dropping out of school and how bad school is, then I read, "People Use To Ask Me What Do You Wanna Be When You Get Older And I Would Say What A Stupid Question The Real Question Is What Am I Right Now". Where's the grammar and punctuation in that tweet, and why are the start of all of his words capitalised? 

Then there's the tweet, "If Newborn Babies Could Speak They Would Be The Most Intelligent Beings On Planet Earth." Really? Does he know that what he says is absolutely ridiculous? 

This kid is not 'the world's next great philosopher' but merely a spoilt brat who needs to realise that there is more to life then his stupid ramblings.

JuanRodriguez
JuanRodriguez

Why must adult media continue to pay attention to such a spoiled brat?  His accomplishments and opportunities are directly the results of his father's fame and business connections.  Media outlets spewing his pouts and tantrums should question their own need for existence.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Jaden Smith is:

1) Only an actor, because of his dad.

2) A weak actor.

3) Only a rapper, because of his dad.

4) A poor rapper.

5) A dancer(?)...really, TIME Magazine?

6) Worse than One Direction when it comes to philosophy (i.e. nothing beats, "you don't know you're beautiful / that's what makes you beautiful").

Shelly_Miscavige
Shelly_Miscavige

This is really disheartening, because there are signs in all of his tweets that point directly to the insane ramblings of Scientology. I really feel for this kid, but I feel more for the public that has to listen to him for the rest of our lives.

What is really worth knowing, is that his parents opened a school in the image that they think the world SHOULD educate....and after 2 years it was swiftly closed down. It was run using Scientology "tech". Google it. This whole thing is literally insane, by insane people. 

This, my friends, is your brain on $cientology.

Nanuk
Nanuk

I find the whole article being just a tasteless attempt to ridicule and humiliate a teenager for trying to articulate his thoughts about the world around him. You can quote who said what and when as much as you want, but this doesn't make you educated as it is obvious that some important things about life are still mystery to you. It is about time to learn that it is not nice to humiliate anybody, especially not children for stating their ideas. If I would be his father I would sue you and I would laugh all the way to the bank. But it might help you to learn something.   

Shlomo_Goldberg
Shlomo_Goldberg

Yes, good children, ascend into an infantile, uneducated state of bliss.

CarmenB
CarmenB

The young man is expressing his choice for an unconventional education. He said "stay out of school" not "don't pursue an education." Those who believe the only path to education is "school" are ignorant of their choices, powers and rights to an education. The intent of his tweets is "explore". What could possibly be wrong with that? It's as American as Huckleberry Finn - and certainly not elitist.

Think_again
Think_again

Seriously. Do you call that "philosophy?"

JingYagunazie
JingYagunazie

funny. Have met a lot of kids like this. Wonder if he can do well on an IQ test. Play several instruments. Knows the laws of physics. Reads bio geography books. You know. The things my six year old knows about. 

jeffrey.sill
jeffrey.sill

How Can You Be Credited With Philosophy When You Feel The Need To Capitalize Everything You Write?

vrcplou
vrcplou

It's easy to be a philosopher when you've been handed everything in this life.  No one would care if he had been born to anyone other than Will Smith. The kid needs to flip burgers or work retail for minimum wage for about 5 years and then maybe I'll listen to what he has to say.

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

He has been brainwashed by scientology.  The cult teaches that babies are wise from living thousands of lives but somehow not corrupted by alien thetans that keep adults from being gods.

yoyoyoyoyo
yoyoyoyoyo

@JacekChudy The reason adults have less synapses is due to a process that takes place during puberty known as synapse pruning. What this means is that the brain takes information and clumps it into groups so that instead of having a million different paths for it to travel through and everything in the grey much generally being a mess it because streamlined and information flows smoothly along the newly formed brain highways. "In neurosciencesynaptic pruningneuronal pruning or axon pruning refer to neurological regulatory processes, which facilitate changes in neural structure by reducing the overall number of neurons and synapses, leaving more efficient synaptic configurations." Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synaptic_pruning (granted it's a pretty sketchy source but I'm not doing an essay for christs sake) 

Halfadichotomy
Halfadichotomy

@StephenAbbott Meanwhile, my cheese-string-theory gets rejected by publications! Maybe Jaden would be interested... 

Halfadichotomy
Halfadichotomy

@SeanBrazell I'm looking forward to his epistemological analysis on blank state newborn minds. I do wonder if he'd accept co-authorship with a neuroscientist, though, I mean, he'd only be held back by someone who's been made stupid by education.

AstronautXll
AstronautXll

@Smiffy.2020 Where has using punctuation marks gotten you in life? Where has your ability of using correct grammer gotten you in life? By the way it is common to write however you like on twitter,so stop being so biased.

And by saying his quote is ridiculous makes you sound dumb,every great philosopher say ridiculous quotes which when you think about it reveals a hidden truth.So sorry if they have to dumb down everything they say before you understand it.

Your comment just proves that  after all your years in school and you can't even think..SMH

talln45
talln45

@Shelly_Miscavige  

Hahaha....Love the username. We have been wondering where you got to. Oh...and you're right about the insanity both within Scientology and here on this webpage. Giving this little upstart this much ink, may be over stating things and worse yet legitimizing dysfunctional thought processes

Openminded1
Openminded1

@Nanuk bleeding heart moron. Sue someone the typical move by opportunist and jews.

StephenAbbott
StephenAbbott

@Nanuk The author should be sued... for satire? Yeah, good luck with that one. You may not believe in a free press and free speech, but the courts still do.

Smiffy.2020
Smiffy.2020

@Nanuk Nobody is 'ridiculing' him and this article is not doing so either. You're right, everyone can have their own opinions about life, but look at how many kids look up to him, look at how many kids are vulnerable and will do everything that there hero says. Education is important, if he fell of his skateboard and needed an operation, the surgeon who would repair his arm would have an education, right? He needs to think about what he says before he makes silly speeches. 

And as for you saying about suing, what would the Smith family need to go to court and sue? Oh, yeah, that's right, a lawyer, who has an education, do you reckon Jaden knows that?

PaulJMason
PaulJMason

The kid gets everything handed to him and doesn't know what it's like to struggle, worry or work. Nothing he says pertains to anyone; they're delusional theories of a young, out of touch mind.

And Will Smith can sue the author of this article. He'd lose, but at least he can afford the court fees.

agirlthatis
agirlthatis

@Nanuk  Jaden shouldn't be ridiculed but because has influence on his fan based--largely young blacks--he should encourage formal education. Jaden is badly in need of an education regarding the "real" world that 95% of people live in. 

Smiffy.2020
Smiffy.2020

@CarmenB School isn't the b all and end all of education, but it plays a very important role. Even the rich have home tutors, who are classified teachers, the same as you get at school. So really, even home schooling has a school approach to it. To some, school is the only path to education because a lot of the young cope and learn better in that environment. So, no, people who believe strongly in school are not ignorant, you're very ignorant for saying that.

PaulJMason
PaulJMason

@CarmenB He's promoting that teenagers drop out of high school.  Because surely everyone has parents that can make sure they stay gainfully employed, right?

 He's a kid who is out of touch; nothing he says pertains to anyone but himself and other rich kids.

BobFromDistrict9
BobFromDistrict9

@AstronautXll @Smiffy.2020  

Correct grammar makes the difference between speaking the truth and falsehood. 

Saying All people in this country are not republicans is false. Saying not all people in this country are republicans is true. 

Learning to speak and write correctly is the difference.

I have seen congressional hearings where a witness lied outright, and no one caught it because they did not understand the difference between a correctly stated and falsely stated testimony.

Smiffy.2020
Smiffy.2020

@AstronautXll @Smiffy.2020 Where has punctuation and grammar taken me to in life, let me give you a brief story, they got me perfect marks in my exams, they got me four firsts in university, they took me to Africa to volunteer teaching children the English language, and they got me into my English A-level teaching job. Also, I'm not being biased if it's true, he's contradicting himself. If he wants to say school is brainwashing at least use good grammar! That's like me saying, everyone should meditate when I have never tried it.

In a nutshell, I'm a successful teacher with amazing experience at such a young teaching age (24) while he is telling vulnerable children not to go to school... In your polite words, SMH.