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Is my authenticity or inauthenticity anything to do with you?

I think this may link to ideas about cultural appropriation, as well as appealing for reason of 'morality' (I often wonder if 'inauthenticity' is just another moral system, just one with less of a claim for utility and rationality).

I think that fundamentally it's better for everyone to not fake it (and that's always possible) but if I am faking it, is that itself a bad (or good) thing for anyone else? All other things being equal (no lies, no abuse of power, etc.)

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  • Define authencity, and then lack of Jan 15 at 19:03
  • I mean especially freedom-toward-death, but would like answers from any philosopher @Buraian
    – user57343
    Jan 15 at 19:26
  • Sartre Nietzsche & Kierkegaard are the go-to people on authenticity en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authenticity_(philosophy) I felt from your question you likely haven't read them, so didn't attempt to answer in their terms. I don't think they'd have much time for cultural appropriation discourse, I think they'd be more interested in the exercise of power, than of offence.
    – CriglCragl
    Jan 16 at 4:33
  • I haven'r read Kierkegaard, but wouldn't my not doing so suggest you should answer @CriglCragl
    – user57343
    Jan 16 at 18:13
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    Nothing matters. What you think of yourself, what others think of you. You won't care whether you did or did not really believe in any particular thing, when you're dying alone in ditch or care home bed. Authenticity from an existential perspective is deeper than you allude to here. You'll know, ultimately if you weren't authentic. The aim is to reach that point and be happy with it. Did you spend your time pretending? Does it matter if you did? Satre was a cock anyway. Drink beer, have sex, be kind..
    – Richard
    Jan 21 at 1:54

4 Answers 4

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Insofar as we are individually defined by our interconnection with others — then yes, honesty matters. Without fidelity to our own authentic spiritual territories and our true identities (and the psychic, social and physical ecologies they support) we are going to produce unhealthy imbalances within ourselves and in our relationships. The deeper and social importance of honesty flows into a broad conception of justice — that is, seeing people and things fairly and justly, including ourselves. Without clear-eyed jurisprudence over the psychic and social territories that encode our true identities, well — we are lost.

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  • yea agreed. thanks
    – user57343
    Jan 15 at 22:51
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If my previous answer sounded too flippant, it's because the discussion of 'authenticity' in the context of cultural appropriation (and beyond) is one I personally consider to be very complex, if we allow ourselves the freedom to think about it seriously (which, in my experience, it can be difficult to do). My concern with the entire idea arises because I don't know where you draw the line between authenticity and inauthenticity. If I am third culture, for example, am I expressing myself authentically if I follow my parents' customs, or the customs of - say - my school and friends? Is my authenticity a blend of both, and if so, how much of a blend is authentically me? Is this something that comes to me naturally, or is it something I have to fight for? If it's the latter, am I still being authentic if I try to define what authenticity looks like for me? If I happen to offend a parent, sibling, friend, uncle or mentor who has different expectations of what it means to authentically express my own culture (as they see it, rather than as I do), whose viewpoint is supposed to take priority?

I suppose the entire idea bothers me. I was once in a Q&A session after a lecture and someone asked the speaker: "how am I supposed to be my authentic self?" I personally thought this was an unanswerable question, because (a) how could one person ever define this for another, and (b) how can you ever be authentic if you have to ask how to be authentic? Isn't the very act of striving to attain authenticity inauthentic by its very nature? Isn't my authentic self simply a baseline, someone I don't have to do anything in order to be?

So to answer the question, I don't think it necessarily does any harm if someone isn't acting authentically, whatever that even means. How would anyone outside you ever know? If it's in my nature to be shy, socially awkward, hesitant, uncomfortable, and occasionally obsequious, what right does anyone else have to call me inauthentic? Or if I choose to mask my less socially desirable qualities in order to reduce friction with people around me, who is going to argue that that is any more immoral than acting totally authentic at all times, if my authenticity gives me permission to be an angry bully? I'd much rather strive towards mildly inauthentic kindness and acceptance than fully authentic coercive separatism.

But this might just be my disillusionment with the language being used. It just seems like the idea is so vague that almost anyone can be accused of being inauthentic, but what is the purpose of the accusation? Who is making it, and what do they hope to achieve?

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  • A persona, or mask, is an interface we create for ourselves to enable compatibility in a given social context. The character of this persona is as much our choosing as that of the social norms in this particular circle. The being within, behind the mask, is not meant for socialising. Its nature is to exist, not play social games. Asking for an authentic persona is asking for a more believable lie -- such as to say, I don't like that lie; tell me a better one!
    – Michael
    Jan 16 at 3:06
  • I don't know why you seem to feel I have made some grave error. it doesn't seem flippant, it seems rude and irrational.
    – user57343
    Jan 16 at 18:11
  • @anon I have no idea what you are talking about. If you read rudeness and flippancy in what I wrote, that's your projection, not my intention.
    – Kerida
    Jan 16 at 18:59
  • not just my projection "if my other answer seemed flippant" it's fine though, sorry I misunderstood
    – user57343
    Jan 16 at 20:30
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I think there is an ethical problem in behaving inauthentically. Then there is an entirely separate ethical problem of behaving like everyone else around you is inferior to you because you believe them to be acting inauthentically. Seems to me like there's no great moral benefit to authenticity if your authentic self is a jerk. In that sense, if someone else is making your authenticity (or lack thereof) into their business, the moral failing may not be yours...

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  • I see what you mean (though I don't understand the tone). I'm not sure I believe I have "an authentic self", but I do believe some behaviours are more authentic in general, and we know when are lying to ourselves about some things
    – user57343
    Jan 16 at 18:30
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    @anon there wasn't really a tone, at least not beyond a general frustration at the concept. My concern with it all is that it isn't always clear what counts as authenticity. For example, if I am a member of a minority community but don't want to declare this publicly, someone from my community may publicly denounce me as being inauthentic. But I'd argue I have the right to privacy and the right to choose what I do and don't declare. It might suit someone else's agenda to force me to be open and vulnerable, but if I don't wish to be, that isn't the same as being self-deceptive or inauthentic.
    – Kerida
    Jan 16 at 18:57
  • ah sorry my imagination
    – user57343
    Jan 16 at 20:26
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Authenticity in philosophy is not generally about cultural expressions, but about being true to yourself, about acting in ways that relate authentically to who you are.

I argue wisdom is about a practice, to be able to act from the integrated centre of pur concerns, not impulsively or hesitantly, not in ways we are likely regret, and according to our values. More on that here: Wisdom and John Vervaeke's awakening from the meaning crises?

So in this sense, wanting someone to be authentic, to be wise, is wanting the best for them, for their true self, their integrated self. If someone feels they have to live a lie, you know they will be sorry, that they will waste opportunities for joy, and completeness.

You seem really just to be asking about cultural appropriation. What is authentic is not in ways of acting, or artifacts. What is authentic, what is wise, is about intentions.

For years Native American war bonnets were used as a shorthand for 'savages', for games of cowboys and Indians to represent the 'baddies'. So everybody, including the former Washington Redskins team realised, this is not cool any more.

But people have got outraged over white people wearing kimonos. Even when they are gifts from the Japanese government, or when almost all Japanese people are happy to see anyone wear them. Why is it different to Japanese people wearing a suit? They weren't oppressed and dismissed as savages, quite the opposite, they did those things in WW2. Is it 'authentic' for a white person to wear a kimono? That's inside them, it's in their motivations.

To want others to be authentically themselves, is to want what's best for them, from the integrated centre of their concerns.

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  • no I wasn't just asking about anything except 'authenticity'
    – user57343
    Jan 16 at 18:27
  • @anon: I don't get your point. You don't feel this addresses your question?
    – CriglCragl
    Jan 16 at 19:43
  • no I was just replying to "You seem really just to be asking about cultural appropriation".
    – user57343
    Jan 16 at 20:28

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