I was arguing with someone about Brassier and the claim that Heidegger's authenticity is absolute bunk.

Not an appealing thesis, but understandable. Could I claim that authenticity (be that Heideggerian, or not) is actually a more efficient way of doing something: that you're not selling some immaterial spirit "self" short - but could be more (scientifically) rational in your behaviour?


So does anyone claim that authenticity equates to efficiency in its domain?

Does Bernard Williams claim something like that in Truth and Truthfulness?

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    What do you think authenticity (Eigentlichkeit) means in Heidegger? I'm not at all following your argument in the second paragraph, because I don't see the link between authenticit and being "more (scientifically) rational" nor the reason it would "selling some immaterial spirit 'self' short" on any reading. Consequently, I'm also lost as to your third and fourth). – virmaior Oct 1 '15 at 13:18
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    ahh :( i suppose i usually think of someone as "authentic" when they take responsibility for their choices - and that heidegger suggests that's not possible without a different relation to death – user6917 Oct 1 '15 at 13:19
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    a very minimal definition ofc, and one i'm not sure of – user6917 Oct 1 '15 at 13:26
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    Authenticity for Heidegger is Da-Sein [roughly (though not literally) a human existence] living with full consciousness of the reality that she is going to die. Or at least that's my working definition. See for instance pdcnet.org/pdc/bvdb.nsf/… – virmaior Oct 1 '15 at 23:30
  • What's confusing for me is the term 'Efficiency'; it's a term that I associate with economics; is it a term used by H in some way? – Mozibur Ullah Oct 3 '15 at 9:38

Heidegger would reject the connection between rationality and authenticity. When we seek rational grounds for actions, we seek a principle beyond our finitude that can ground the justice or rightness of our activity. Kant is a primary example of a thinker who seeks rational grounds for practical activity, and is also a good example of the type of thinking Heidegger rejects with his theory of authenticity.

According to Kant, we are moral when we act not in conformity with the law, but out of respect for the law. Though the law is something we discover in ourselves, it is universal and necessary, and transcends our particularity and finitude.

For Heidegger, on the other hand, our finitude is radical and inescapable. The pretense of universal laws or principles is an escape from the responsibility for ourselves that this radical finitude demands. We are being authentic only when we act while being consumed by that finitude - without any grounding in reason.

He would also reject the correlation between authenticity and efficiency. This sounds more like the way of thought he associates with Nietzsche's nihilism and modern society's technological thought, which equates being with value. There is no sign by which one can distinguish an authentic action from an inauthentic one (interestingly, this is true of moral actions in Kant's view as well - one never knows if someone has acted out of respect for the law or merely in conformity with it). The thought of being, as Heidegger says in a later work, changes nothing.

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    I think you're basically right, but it would help to put some references to the text in (e.g., for the second half "Question concerning Technology" seems to be a good proof that he opposes the reduction of man to efficiency -- though the same idea can be found in ready-to-hand ready-for-hand in Being and Time). – virmaior Oct 2 '15 at 4:14
  • Sure - For Kant take a look at the Critique of Practical Reason, for Heidegger the place to start reading about authenticity is Division II of Being and Time, while his thoughts about Nietzsche are summarized in "Nietzsche's word: God is dead" in Off the Beaten Track and the last reference I make is to the "Letter on "Humanism"" from Pathmarks – Jonathan Basile Oct 2 '15 at 13:51
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    Well, two things. First, my point was that you can edit -- rather than place them in a comment. Second, Off the Beaten Track and Pathmarks are actually the names of two different English compilations that have several essays in common (though I think the translations differ). – virmaior Oct 2 '15 at 14:14
  • You're correct that they are two different books, but not that they have essays in common - "Nietzsche's Word: God is Dead" is in Off the Beaten Track, and "Letter on 'Humanism'" is in Pathmarks, as I said. – Jonathan Basile Oct 3 '15 at 14:35
  • @JonathanBasile i'd accept the answer if it had some references :) – user6917 Oct 5 '15 at 11:28

I would define efficiency as follows: to accomplish something with the least effort. Efficiency, as a way of accomplishing something, is in the jargon of Sein und Zeit a mode of ready-at-handness (Zuhandenheit). Authencity (Eigenlichkeit) on the contrary is a existential modification. Reducing this to a mode of ready-at-handness would be a kind of category mistake.

Furthermore, efficiency is a way of being busy. Being busy is part of inauthenticity:

Die Uneigentlichkeit kann vielmehr das Dasein nach seiner vollsten Konkretion bestimmen in seiner Geschäftigkeit, Angeregtheit, Interessiertheit, Genußfähigkeit. (SuZ p. 43)

(Rather it is the case that even in its fullest concretion Dasein can be characterized by inauthenticity - when busy, when excited, when interested, when ready for en joyment.) (Being and Time [Macquarrie trans.], p.68)

To pursue this further, you can check this by comparing your definition of efficiency with Heidegger's 'definitions' of (Un)eigentlichket ([in]authenticity) in Being and Time like the one above.

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    hey thanks for the reply, i think the other answer about rationality was more in keeping with what i meant by "efficiency" - by which i did mean a way of doing but not really "having lots to do". it looks like quite a silly question now :) – user6917 Oct 2 '15 at 16:49
  • For most folks, efficiency is a way of not being busy, by being done already. (The Master in the Tao Te Ching is, being of perfect Tao, absolutely efficient, and being of perfect Te, never inauthentic.) Besides, the purpose of 'being busy' is defending your planning: your decision to be doing something right now rather than anything else. But plans are never ready-at-hand as planning is never authentic -- it requires immersion in the nonexistent future. So knowing that being busy is inauthentic does not address the question. So the links that hold this all together make no sense to me. – user9166 Oct 5 '15 at 16:56

Philosophies of mind or rational psychologies seldom speak to efficiency concerns. So I would fall back on cognitive psychology.

All forms of psychoanalysis including Jung's complex theory, and a lot of other clinical psychology models including most of CBT and DBT would consider authenticity an efficiency, since it involves presenting more impulses closer to their original forms, it would reduce internal processing necessary to track and contain the impulses being falsified.

These cognitive models are supported by some notions from neurology, such as dual-activation models like LeDoux's http://www.cns.nyu.edu/ledoux/the_emotional_brain/. Since the activation of the 'lower' path cannot be totally cancelled by the 'higher' path in retrospect, preparations to react get wasted every time an impulse is suppressed which are not wasted when the natural response gets expressed.

But in even slightly more intense scenarios, this notion conflicts with other obvious aspects of efficiency in physiology. A full emotional reaction which ends up not accomplishing anything involves more resources than one that gets prepared for, but cancelled. And untempered reactions build, http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/08/11/catharsis/ so a fully natural response that is not resisted will cause more emotional activation in the future, to the point where it will need to be tempered.

  • interesting reply ! – user6917 Oct 5 '15 at 11:28

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