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Originally I had titled this as concerning "being yourself" but it appears this concept is already defined in Philosophy as "Authenticity".

A few specifics to clarify on Authenticity then:

  1. Does it mean to be what you feel you are by nature (never change), or to be what you would like to be (strive for ideal)?
  • Example 1; if you like two things and you like A more than B, but you start to do B more and then start liking B more than A, are you being true to yourself still or forcing yourself to change into something you're not?
  • Example 2; if you grew up around certain beliefs that when older you realise are racist for example, and you don't want to be like that so you change yourself to not be racist, does that also mean you are not being true to yourself even though it is for the better?
  1. Is it even realistic to think that you will not be influenced/changed by external factors (people, media etc), thus rendering the whole concept of Authenticity/Being Yourself not really possible in the practical sense?

  2. Similar to the above, if being yourself is also understanding who you are than is it not also at an extreme level pointing out to yourself all the ways in which you are different from everyone else around you and thus always destined to make you an outcast of sorts?

  • Example 1: If Person 1 likes A, B & C but hates D & E, and Person 2 likes A, D & E but hates B & C, would becoming friends with Person 2 influence Person 1 over time, or would it make more sense to find someone who also only likes A, B & C?

Happy to provide additional clarification wherever needed.

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  • Dunno if this is really a question of philosophy, as opposed to explaining the meaning of a phrase in self-help books and other "pop psychology" (usually pseudo-scientific) or in popular culture ("pop philosophy"??) contexts. Perhaps English SE is a better place to ask this... – Fizz Mar 15 at 15:37
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    I'd say it's very much a philosophical question, related to what Sartre called "bad faith". I'm not at all an expert, though, and cannot help with the answer. – Schiphol Mar 15 at 15:45
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    It's about integrating, between core values & deeper/persistent self, and day-to-day behaviours. What flavour thing you like is irrelevant to that. Being open to experience, & not constantly trying to please others, might not be. For a white nationalist expressing rather than hiding racism might be their authenticity. It's about what now will contradict your intentions or ambitions or wellbeing later, what you will regret. Choosing good influences, & companions you admire & wish to be like, is a way to gain skills and support for how we want to be. It sounds like you haven't read any ethics. – CriglCragl Mar 16 at 14:09
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    I'd say authenticity means you shouldn't do what everyone else is doing just because they're doing it. You should do what you do for reasons that seem good to you personally. This means you can change over time, as long as you aren't just doing it due to peer pressure. Change only for reasons that truly make sense to you at the time. – causative Mar 16 at 18:25
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Authenticity means you should do things for reasons that make sense to you, as an individual, and not just because you're being socially pressured to do those things. Change only if you are persuaded to change, don't change just because someone is pressuring or coercing you to.

  1. Does it mean to be what you feel you are by nature (never change), or to be what you would like to be (strive for ideal)?

You should do what makes sense to you. If it seems to you that striving for an ideal is the thing to do, then do it. If it seems to you that staying the same is the better path, then do that.

  • Example 1; if you like two things and you like A more than B, but you start to do B more and then start liking B more than A, are you being true to yourself still or forcing yourself to change into something you're not?

You're being authentic, as long as you honestly are liking B and not just pretending to like it for social reasons.

  • Example 2; if you grew up around certain beliefs that when older you realise are racist for example, and you don't want to be like that so you change yourself to not be racist, does that also mean you are not being true to yourself even though it is for the better?

Being authentic doesn't mean you always stay the same. Now that you honestly see that your past views were wrong, it would be inauthentic of you to keep them.

  1. Is it even realistic to think that you will not be influenced/changed by external factors (people, media etc), thus rendering the whole concept of Authenticity/Being Yourself not really possible in the practical sense?

You may be influenced by external factors, and still be authentic, as long as you do not allow the external factors to coerce you. Look at society with a critical eye and be the gatekeeper of your own mind. Allow through the gate only those influences you approve of before the fact.

Be aware that authenticity is not an absolute yes-or-no deal. You can be more authentic in some ways and less authentic in other ways.

  1. Similar to the above, if being yourself is also understanding who you are than is it not also at an extreme level pointing out to yourself all the ways in which you are different from everyone else around you and thus always destined to make you an outcast of sorts?

Yes, being authentic runs the risk of making you an outcast. We have social instincts to conform for a reason; if you conform, you fit in better and others approve of you more. This is the challenge of authenticity. Being totally honest does not usually make one very popular. If you decide authenticity is not worth the potential downside, then go be a fake person.

However, it's also possible that if you are authentic, you may find a community of people who are authentic in a similar way that you are, and this may be gratifying, because it lets you act as you honestly approve of and be among others who also approve of that way of acting. If you're lucky, you get to have your cake and eat it too.

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  • Fantastic answer! Easy to understand and very detailed, thank you. I suppose the only thing left to probe is what it truly means to "like" something, but that's a whole other question and probably digging into things that the average person would just not have time to think about every time they are choosing a preference. Eg. do I really like carrots, or am I coerced because they are healthy :) – FrontEnd Mar 16 at 23:49
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2. Is it even realistic to think that you will not be influenced/changed by external factors (people, media etc), thus rendering the whole concept of Authenticity/Being Yourself not really possible in the practical sense?

You need to make critical judgements on significant external information - whether you sought it or it found you - as to whether it is rational and useful in regard to "knowing thyself": what really is a human being, and also, what is human society (I would include, because knowing the part does not necessarily reveal much about the whole that it interacts with).

3. Similar to the above, if being yourself is also understanding who you are than is it not also at an extreme level pointing out to yourself all the ways in which you are different from everyone else around you and thus always destined to make you an outcast of sorts?

It sounds like you are talking about individuation - the process of becoming self-determining and apperceptive of your existential reality. Sooner or later others around you will go through this process too, on the road to authenticity, and you can all be outcasts together.

Addition

1. Does it mean to be what you feel you are by nature (never change), or to be what you would like to be (strive for ideal)?

I would say, what you actually are, by nature. Also what drives you, makes you tick. At its most basic, this won't change, although day to day it can, just as one's interests change.

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  • Would you like to add a response to (1) in your answer as well. Also, curious about "be outcasts together", wouldn't their very nature cause them to not come together and remain an outcast, even from other outcasts? – FrontEnd Mar 16 at 14:53
  • @FrontEnd Why do you presuppose that a) people are not authentic and thus authentic people will be outcasts and b) people are solitary peculiar beings that have nothing in common to base authentic recognition between them on? Authenticity does not imply complete difference in any way. – Philip Klöcking Mar 16 at 15:18
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    Re. "outcasts together" - I could well imagine friends from school days each going off to 'find themselves' and maybe later, if they come back, being friends almost the same as before. A little bit older and a little bit wiser. – Chris Degnen Mar 16 at 15:29
  • I suppose it would come down to whether differences bring the various individuals together or separate them. Subcultures are great examples of this; individuals may prefer to stay within a specific (common interest) subculture only or interested in exploring others that may differ to them. Eg. you may not be a Goth, but you may have Goth friends and you understand/accept each other's differences – FrontEnd Mar 16 at 23:40
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When being viewed by the platonic perspective ,authenticity is attached to the eternal truths which are unmovable (otherwise known as qualia). Contrary to the flux ,that is a notion relative to matter that is in a continuous change ,qualia are the prototypes that lend to common objects certain qualities that can be addressed as mores -one can bring in mind the aspect of 'classic' in relation to everlasting and authentic (something that retains its qualities through time ) in contrast to 'modern' ,which is something that follows a trend or the zeitgeist and is either going to fade or reappear according to the myth of eternal recurring.
Now to face the question ;'Does it mean to become good (αγαθος) following an alleged source that is good in essence or to follow the Aristotelian entelechy and strive to reach to the self essence no matter what this is?' A dichotomy appears here and relative schools provide different responses , but a simple approach is to see how nature works and to cling to this certain aspect trying to integrate with the statistical way that mass of people believe is the good living standard I do believe that instinctively ,one can decide on how to best live. Tradition; which is the code on how to be and incorporated values from ages ago is a good guide ,while it is there for different times and places

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  • Can u elaborate more on the difference between "Aristotelian entelechy and strive to reach to the self essence" and Plato's "alleged source that is good in essence"? I intuitively feel they may not mutually exclusive to each other from my understanding of both schools... – Double Knot Mar 16 at 18:38
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Platonic good in itself is the notion we come to know as god. It is not an element that can be wholly found to the people which is why People are always having an opinion (δοξαν) ,otherwise a partial saying in things and not a full view on issues. In Neo-Platonism man is a spark of the fire that is declared as the divine. Although in the myth of the cave in 'republic' the philosopher can attain a total understanding of the thing in itself. So as declared in 'Timaeus' the creator has created cosmos but ever since the trajectory is left to its own devices.

Aristotle on the other hand appears more pragmatic and believes that man ,the entities and the whole universe is leading to the perfect end and this occurs through the process of dialectics ,whereas every substance is mastering over certain conflicts and subtracting the non-necessary to reach to a complete level of existence. Thus in Aristotle the route is immanent ,all is in this world and all will be perfected within this world , while in Plato cosmos is subordinate to the sublime and transcendent and there is a chasm between beings and the divine retinue.

*See Plato 'Sophist' the allegory of the butcher and Hegel's 'phenomenology of the spirit'

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