Whenever I come across the words "authentic", "authenticity", etc. in (modern) philosophy texts, the manner and context in which they are used often give me the impression that the author intended them in a sense (a "technical" sense?) that differs significantly from the one I am familiar with.

I would like to understand the concept of authenticity a lot better than I now do. IOW, I'm basically looking for the moral equivalent of a "Phenomenology of Authenticity for Dummies". (No primary sources please, not yet.)

Also, is there a generally accepted "locus classicus" for the "modern philosophy sense" of "authentic"/"authenticity", etc? (By "modern" I mean certainly the 20th century, but it wouldn't surprise me if such usage of "authentic", etc. went back to the 19th century or earlier.)

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    When you say "modern philosophy texts", what specifically are you referring to? Authenticity was a huge deal for Sartre, and I actually wrote a paper on this very topic that would be helpful and I could share with you if this is what you are looking for. However, if neither Sartre nor Simone de Beauvoire are the works you are referring to, then it is unlikely that would be useful. – smartcaveman Sep 21 '12 at 8:13
  • Wow, I would like to read that. – iphigenie Sep 24 '12 at 11:51

"Authenticity" is a concept that is often assumed and rarely defined; some notable responses to this problem are Adorno's The Jargon of Authenticity and Marshall Berman's The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society.

In short: you are not mistaken-- "authenticity" (and it antonym "alienation") is often used in a manner that gives the impression that the author intended them in a technical sense which is not rigorously defined.

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  • This seems like a particularly narrow definition. – smartcaveman Sep 21 '12 at 19:44
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    @smartcaveman: What definition, exactly? – Michael Dorfman Sep 21 '12 at 20:38
  • defining authenticity as an antonym to "alienation". These concepts are definitely distinct. I am not familiar with the specific works that you cited, however. However, the concept of "authenticity" that I have most encountered in philosophical study is that of Sartre. In his paradigm, the antonym of "authenticity" would be "bad faith", which is not at all related to a concept of "alienation". I am not saying that your vantage point is wrong, but that there is not sufficient evidence that this is the same concept to which the OP has been exposed. – smartcaveman Sep 21 '12 at 21:39
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    For Sartre, "bad faith", "inauthenticity", and "alienation" are near-synonyms; in fact, in his Notebooks, he writes of "Our original form of alienation" as being "our original pursuit of being, our primitive bad faith, our futile bad faith pursuit of for-itself-in-itself, our original sin, and even our Hell." – Michael Dorfman Sep 22 '12 at 11:15
  • I believe that you are misinterpreting this. Alienation is a special case of bad faith. From Notebooks: "By alienation we mean a certain type of relations that man has with himself, with others and with the world, where he posits the ontological priority of the Other". Authenticity is the "radical escape" or recovery from bad faith. The concepts of bad faith and alienation are related, but they are not synonymous. I would suggest a safer description of their relationship as complementary. At the very least, bad faith consciousness is an antecedent of alienation. – smartcaveman Sep 24 '12 at 16:03

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