Authenticity: the Authentic Self
February 14, 2011
The Romantics argued that at the core of being there is an authentic self that is pure in nature, although corruptible by society. What made the Romantic era unique within the context of the evolutionary history of empathic consciousness is the great stress placed on what Rousseau, and later Wordsworth and Whitman, called the “Sentiment of Being.”
1755 In “Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality among Men” Rousseau argued that the noble savage man, alienated from others was more authentic than the hypocritical, servile social man who tells people what they want to hear. Kant developed the concept of the “enlarged mentality” – the ability to exercise empathy, to “stand up in the mind of others”.
“the savage lives within himself; the social man lives always outside himself; he knows how to live only in the opinion of others, it is, so to speak from their judgment along that he derives the sense of his own existence.”
The social man is someone who cares only about appearances. Rousseau abandoned Paris (and the modern age) for rural isolation claiming that even the politeness of the city promoted corruption. He concluded that,
“We have only a deceptive and frivolous outward appearance, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness. It suffices for me to to have proved that this is not the original state of man, and that it is only the spirit of society and the inequality it engenders which thus transform and corrupt all our natural inclinations.”
Rousseau sees human history as beginning with the struggle for mutual recognition that Hegel analyzed as the master-slave dialectic. Rousseau’s Sentiment of Being.”
1762 Rousseau’s self-help book on proper parenting entitled Emile was published.
1790s Rousseau’s self-help book on proper parenting entitled Emile rose in popularity at the dawn of the Romantic period. Romantics were attracted to Rousseau’s emphasis on nurturing the child’s natural instincts in direct opposition to John Locke’s assertion that children are born a tabula rasa, a blank slate. Rousseau argued that children who are naturally inclined towards the good and that childhood is a time for parents to honour and nurture their children so their naturally good instincts will develop (See Rifkin EC:354).
1790s Jane Austin introduced the two sisters Elinor and Marianne in her satire of dominant currents of the later 18th century entitled Sense and Sensibility (published in 1811). The reliable, predictable Elinor, who is the voice of reason, has a deep sense of responsibility, keeps her emotions in check, fulfills her social responsibilities but ultimately finds happiness when she discovers her inner sensibility and finally marries her true love. The overly emotional, romantic, Marianne is spontaneous to the point of being irresponsible represents the bleeding heart liberal governed entirely by passions and desires. She finds happiness when she balances her exercises more sense and reason in her decision-making and actions. keywords: ideological thinking. See Rifkin (EC:320).
1805 In The Prelude begun in his twenties by Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850)’s semi-autobiographical poem of his lifelong spiritual journey. early years spiritual autobiography, he associated the experience of beauty as transcending rational thought: Wordsworth’s “Sentiment of Being.” See Trilling 1972 Sincerity and Authenticity.
The song would speak Of that interminable building reared By observation of affinities In objects where no brotherhood exists To passive minds. My seventeenth year was come And, whether from this habit rooted now So deeply in my mind, or from excess In the great social principle of life Coercing all things into sympathy, 390 To unorganic natures were transferred My own enjoyments; or the power of truth Coming in revelation, did converse With things that really are; I, at this time, Saw blessings spread around me like a sea. Thus while the days flew by, and years passed on, From Nature and her overflowing soul, I had received so much, that all my thoughts Were steeped in feeling; I was only then Contented, when with bliss ineffable 400 I felt the sentiment of Being spread O'er all that moves and all that seemeth still; O'er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought And human knowledge, to the human eye Invisible, yet liveth to the heart; O'er all that leaps and runs, and shouts and sings, Or beats the gladsome air; o'er all that glides Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself, And mighty depth of waters. Wonder not If high the transport, great the joy I felt, 410 Communing in this sort through earth and heaven With every form of creature, as it looked Towards the Uncreated with a countenance Of adoration, with an eye of love. One song they sang, and it was audible, Most audible, then, when the fleshly ear, O'ercome by humblest prelude of that strain Forgot her functions, and slept undisturbed.
Whitman “Sentiment of Being.”
1807 G.W.F. Hegel major philosophical work entitled Phänomenologie des Geistes [Phenomenology of Mind, Phenomenology of Spirit] was published. Hegel traced the evolution of consciousness distinguishing between lower and higher levels of consciousness. In the section entitled “Self Consciousness > A: Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness > Lordship and Bondage” Hegel developed the Master-slave dialectic.
1870 In “St. Paul and Protestantism” Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) wrote,
Below the surface stream, shallow and light, Of what we say and feel — below the stream, As light, of what we think we feel, there flows With noiseless current, strong, obscure and deep, The central stream of what we feel indeed.
Trilling cited this in Sincerity and Authenticity (1972).
1968 Student uprisings at Columbia University, Trilling’s academic intellectuals community. The adversary culture, the cruder form of liberalism, asserted itself. Complex arena of mental struggles were forced into the arena of simple political struggles. Moral, psychological, social selves that we imagined ourselves possessing were split and fragmented and a “dissociation of sensibility” took over. Wordsworth and Rousseau are crucial to Trlling in Sincerity and Authenticity.
1972 Trilling, Lionel. 1969-70. Sincerity and Authenticity. Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard published in 1972. “It comprises a history of the elaborate development of mind and self since Shakespeare, a brief consideration of certain literary texts he sees as central, a polemical refutation of some prophets of our time, and an authorial credo that conceals hope about literature while it counsels stoic resignation about life. And as his last argument with the forceful reality of death, it is also Trilling’s attempt to discover a means by which estrangement of self from self might at last be resolved. Trilling’s authentic authenticity is perhaps best embodied in Conrad of Heart of Darkness. Lesser authenticities Chace, William M. Lionel Trilling, criticism and politics. Lionel Trilling makes the point that authenticity is not to be confused with sincerity, which is being true to one’s social self. Authenticity runs deeper-it is, in the words of Trilling, a “primitive” strength that is continually compromised by society. Maintaining one’s core authenticity, for Rousseau and the Romantics, required a life of personal suffering and constant attention and sympathy to the plight of others. Only the alientated could enter into this world (Rifkin EC:350).
Sartre, the French existential philosopher of the mid-twentieth century, defined the sentiment of being as the place where
“each of us finds himself as well as the others. The common place belongs to me; in me, it
1990 Kenneth D. Bailey defined social entropy as “a measure of social system structure, having both theoretical and statistical interpretations, i.e. society (macrosocietal variables) measured in terms of how the individual functions in society (microsocietal variables); also related to social equilibrium” in his publication entitled Social Entropy Theory. (State University of New York Press).
1999 In their publication entitled A Primer of Jungian Psychology , (New York: Meridian), Calvin S. Hall and J. Vernon described “psychological entropy as the distribution of energy in the psyche, which tends to seek equilibrium or balance among all the structures of the psyche.”
Robinson, Jeffrey Cane. The current of romantic passion.