“Just be yourself”: there is perhaps no piece of advice so trite and yet so confounding. We have all given and received the injunction to be our “true” selves, as if there were such a thing; we have criticized poseurs and pretenders; we have all stood in line for tickets to see a favorite artwork or performer up close and in person. We value authenticity as an index of personal freedom and autonomy and as a quality of objects, even if we do not fully understand why. In this course we will come to know the leading modern philosophical theorists of authenticity, including Rousseau, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. We will also study the paradoxes and problems of authenticity, and read works by some of its most strident critics.
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