Authenticity and self-governance

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According to a common intuition, a person is self-governed only if she acts for reasons grounded in her authentic self. Authenticity is thus thought to be a necessary condition of self-governance. My aim in this paper is to examine what understanding of authenticity might serve to account for a person’s governing herself. Current theorizing focuses either on an internalist or an externalist account of authenticity. Internalists specify a mental attitude or web of attitudes that is supposed to represent a person’s authentic self. Externalists resort to evaluative facts about the person as they are typically picked out from a third-person point of view. Neither of these proposals, however, provides sufficient reasons for self-governance in light of internal or external change. A concept of authenticity that does not acknowledge changes in a person’s evaluative outlook over the course of her life, or changes in her environment that affect her evaluative outlook, can hardly provide the resources needed to account for a person’s self-governance. To remain authentic, or to become authentic, a person must have the capacity to respond to changes and re-integrate or reshape her evaluative outlook. As I will argue, emotions play an important functional role in that they express when a person should respond to change. Emotions generate reasons to revise our valuing, and transform our self-conception so as to preserve or regain authenticity.


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