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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19172

Title: Being Your Self: Identity, Metaphysics, and the Search for Authenticity
Authors: Bialystok, Lauren
Advisor: Kingwell, Mark
Department: Philosophy
Issue Date: 1-Mar-2010
Abstract: It has been widely held in our culture for centuries that one ought to “be oneself,” an imperative often referred to as authenticity. The meaning of authenticity, however, remains contested among philosophers and largely shapeless in most people’s minds. In order to make sense of this compelling idea, one must reconcile authenticity with the metaphysics of selfhood and identity. In all of its applications, ‘authenticity’ refers to a convergence between how something presents itself and what it actually is. Yet the marriage of authenticity, with its essentialist structure, and personal identity, with its built-in temporal openness, is prima facie dubious. Authenticity appeals to something true and unchanging, but a person’s identity evolves throughout her life. Furthermore, the ideal of “being oneself” requires that it also be possible to be “not oneself,” but it is difficult to explain how any individual could be other than who she is. I argue that previous theories of authenticity have not adequately negotiated these structural requirements. Heidegger provides an account of authenticity as a formal existential possibility for Dasein. Because of its restriction to ontological phenomena, his analysis fails to show what authenticity actually means for Dasein and how its authentic existence is connected to its identity. Sartre likewise describes authenticity as an ideal ontological state, but his belief in radical freedom translates into a denial of the metaphysics of identity that could explain the content of authenticity. Despite being the locus of the most influential twentieth century accounts, existentialism cannot capture authenticity because of its inability to investigate who one is and how certain choices are more or less essential to our selves. I pursue such an investigation by distinguishing between authenticity and related notions such as originality, sincerity, wholeheartedness, and narrative unity. I argue that authenticity must account for change in personal identity as well as the social and interpretive dimensions of selfhood without forfeiting the criterion that there is something true about who we are. In my view of authenticity as reflective consistency I argue that we can be ourselves by acting in accordance with our necessary dispositions in a certain situation.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19172
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Philosophy - Doctoral theses

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