Saturday, February 11, 2023

Authenticity Is Not a Necessary Good


Often, when I meet with someone I don’t know, I ask them the question “Who are you?” It’s interesting to see their responses.  

I’m not doing this as a game. I want to know who they are. I’m open to listening to however much they want to reveal about themselves.

Are they an “authentic” person? 

The word “authentic” comes from the Greek word “autos,” which means “self.” We use it in the old word “auto-mobile,” which means, literally, “self-driven.” “Authentic” connotes “real.” Are you authentic? Are you a real person?

This is neither good nor bad. 

In American culture "authentic" is a euphemism. The truth is, "authentic" carries no value apart from its context. Someone could be authentic when they say, "I just hate people." Or, "I am just being real - I am a rapist." Or, "The truth is, I would like to hurt you." That's who they are. Surely we don't praise them for their authenticity, right?

The core issues are what it means to be a person, and what does it mean to be good.  Someone who is authentically good is someone whose being has been shaped into goodness. Goodness comes out of them, since goodness has become their spiritual and emotional DNA. If we praise them, it is for their goodness, not their authenticity.

(For deep thinking about this see Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity.)


Larry Sparks interviews me about my book here. (40,000+ views so far!)