I'm just wondering who has taken Kant's ideas and still explicates on duties to oneself including the duty of being true to who you are, to be authentic. I know existentialism also considers the notion of choosing to be yourself. Is this still an active topic of philosophical discourse, and if so, which philosophers, schools, and theories are active in discussing this?

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    – J D
    Nov 9, 2020 at 5:44
  • Edited to avoid 'clarity' objection.
    – J D
    Nov 9, 2020 at 5:45
  • While not an answer, you might be interested in SEP: Neo-Kantianism and SEP: Existentialism.
    – J D
    Nov 9, 2020 at 5:46
  • 1
    It is active, see e.g. Johnson's book Self-Improvement (2013) and Bauer's paper To be or Not to be Authentic (2017) for modern Kantian perspectives.
    – Conifold
    Nov 9, 2020 at 6:19
  • "A self is the last thing the world cares about and the most dangerous thing of all for a person to show signs of having. The greatest hazard of all, losing the self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed..” ― Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death. Authenticity is a key term for existentialists en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/… But goes back to at least the Delphic maxim 'Know thyself'
    – CriglCragl
    Nov 10, 2020 at 6:16

1 Answer 1


I think Kant's notion of duty isn't so much as a responsibility or necessary completion of any task that one is tasked to do. Rather, he is referring to "duty" as a moral imperative in the sense that, we all ought to do things, especially moral things, that can be willied as universal laws i.e. these things can also be done by others. So, if being true to who you are can be willied into a universal law, then I suppose Kant would say that we have a duty to being true to who we are. But, once again, I think Kant would not directly label any acts as "to-do" or "not-to-do" in that connotation of a duty, rather, his answer would rely on the entailment relationship he created to sieve out what we ought to do and/or ought not to, so if anything passes his entailment "test", then we ough to do it and vice versa.

  • The question is which contemporary philosophers discuss this. Thus, the OP is looking for you to point him in the direction of journals, theories, schools, and entries that talk about 'duty to oneself'.
    – J D
    Nov 9, 2020 at 5:48
  • Hmm I'm not so sure if Exitentialism talks about choosing to be oneself because that sounds rather prescriptive whereas the movement as I understood it took on a diagnosis approach and sought to understand how we get 'here' and what makes us 'us', which is why we get thinkers like Sartre and Heidegger talking about notions of vacancy and absence. Hmm...I think Nietzsche is relevant if you are looking for philosophers who have touched on duties to ourselves Nov 9, 2020 at 5:54

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