Authority, Autonomy, Authenticity: An Etiological Understanding

Abstract

This essay attempts to understand the search for authenticity in terms of the breakdown of authority in the modern world. The sense of autonomy, I argue, emerges from the need to choose the authorities one will accept. The ever-increasing difficulty of choosing from among authorities is internalized and is experienced as a difficulty of choosing, or “finding” oneself. The shattered authorities on the outside become a fragmented self on the inside. The search for the authentic self, then, is the search for an authority on the inside that has been broken and lost on the outside. The prospects for achieving such selfhood are criticially evaluated.

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