Authenticity, Reality and Being

Is the pursuit of the authentic self a fantasy?

‘Authenticity’ is a quality that has drawn a polarised response in the history of philosophy, especially in discussions of the self. Is there something that captures who I really am? And if so, should I try to find out what that is? And if not, then what’s all the fuss about? At the outset, it’s useful to distinguish two senses in which there might be an ‘authentic self’: a naturalistic sense and a more strictly normative one.

The naturalistic sense of authenticity appears in the idea that each person possesses an ‘essential nature’, which may or may not be expressed adequately in the conduct of life. This is a familiar idea in both Greek and Christian culture, though explained somewhat differently. The Greeks had a much stronger sense that in the fullness of time your authentic self is always revealed – often to tragic effect. In contrast, Christian culture admits the possibility that your authentic self may remain hidden indefinitely, especially if you are

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