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The conscious self comes to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures and influences which are very different from itself. Existentialists see this process in different ways.

In trying to reach a balanced and self-determined position, they describe the self as seeking authenticity. Kierkegaard, Sartre and Heidegger explored the processes of authenticity.

Table of contents
1 Views of authenticity
2 Criticisms of authenticity
3 Authenticity today
4 External sources

Views of authenticity

Kierkegaard saw the paradoxical nature of the world as direct evidence for a simple private faith in Christianity, as opposed to what he saw as the excrescences of the traditional Church and of established religion.

Sartre saw authenticity as the potential to make one's freedom real by exercising choice over one's circumstances.

Heidegger, although he may not have used the term, saw authenticity in the self being open to its transitory nature over and above continuing worldly forces such as the evolution of knowledge and of society.

Authenticity for all of these writers is

Authenticity preserves all the aspects of experience which are not quantifiable by science but are undoubtedly real, such as uniqueness, intangible aspects of perception, and a radically individualistic and self determining position. Authenticity also casts light on everything which is inauthentic: in our thinking, in the world and in its messages.

Criticisms of authenticity

Authenticity has its paradoxical components. Sartre illustrated these in his extensive writings, pointing to the conflict between seeing the self as unique and different from the world, but a world which clearly contains other such beings.

Stated as a doctrine authenticity can be thought to be self-defeating. This is because it is thereby classified and becomes part of the non-self, an object of perhaps methodical study among others. This is opposed to the notion of the individual self which seeks its own solution independently of competing external ideologies.

Another criticism is that the solution to Sartre's difficulties involves some compromise to allow unique individuals to co-exist in a way which is acceptable to all of them. Therefore public ethics or morality may be a limit on authenticity.

Authenticity today

British Philosophy has seen authenticity as part of the continuation of the Continental dualist position stated by Descartes. He held that reality consists of two kinds of things, mental and physical substances, which are fundamentally different from each other. Authenticity is based on a clear distinction between self and non-self, or world.

American philosophy has eagerly pursued the authenticity ideal, seeing it as central to the values of individuality and independence prevalent in American society.

Young people, and those who advocate social reform, value the study of authenticity since it can provide a radical manifesto and an overview of the shortcomings of social structures.

External sources

Within the arts, archaeology, the study of antiques, and similar fields involving unique or scarce artifacts from the past, authenticity refers to the truthfulness of their origins and attributions. See provenance; compare forgery.