The concept of authenticity

The concept of authenticity -- the idea of `being oneself' or being `true to oneself' -- is central to modern moral thought. Yet it is a puzzling notion. This article discusses two accounts of it. Essentialism holds that each individual has a `true' nature or self. Feelings and actions are authentic when they correspond to this nature. This approach is contrasted with views of the self as a complex entity in which all parts are essential, and in which authenticity involves the harmonious functioning of all parts together. This approach is illustrated from Freud and Plato, and defended against the charge of conservatism (Marcuse) and the postmodernist rejection of the very idea of an integral self (Rorty).
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