On Being Authentic (Thinking in Action)

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ISBN-13: 978-0415261234
ISBN-10: 0415261236
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"... traverses often very dense acreages of philosophical argument with considerable elegance. It never patronises the reader, or gives the impression of talking down to them. It is enthusiastic and engaging ... For anyone who, bemused at our culture's seemingly endless fascination with individual self-worth, seeks some firm guide as how we arrived here, On Being Authentic will prove to be an admirable starting point." - Jonathan Sawday, Glasgow University

About the Author

Charles Guignon teaches philosophy at the University of South Florida. He is the author of Heidegger and the Problem of Knowledge and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger.
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Product Details

  • Series: Thinking in Action
  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (July 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415261236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415261234
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
One important division of contemporary ethical philosophy is Applied Ethics. Speaking generally, this is the attempt to take the more abstract results from ethics and moral philosophy and apply it to concrete problems that arise in business, our interactions with the environment, new problems that are arising with developing medical technology, and a wide array of familiar and hotly debated issues such as abortion. That is not what one finds in Guignon's book, though what he does is not too far a field. There is no widely acknowledged discipline called Applied Philosophy, but that is what we find here. Guignon is determined to look at the oddity of the claims made by many of today's self-help writers, at the underlying assumption about the way that human lives are made up, and at the ways that thinking about the human self have developed in the modern world. He finally wants to suggest a different understanding of what it means to be authentic that does not fall victim to the easy criticisms that the self-help understanding of authenticity does.

Guignon's initial target is Dr. Phil, who has become one of the highest profile self-help gurus in recent decades and therefore one of the most dangerous. Dr. Phil is not dangerous because he will cause any active harm to either society or to his readers, but because he writes from a poorly thought out position that ignores most of the achievements of thought about human subjectivity over the past couple of centuries. Dr. Phil advocates a position that asserts that authenticity is achieves by sloughing off as much of the external world as possible. If you simply start ridding yourself of all the external chaff that he assumes is keeping you from the wheat at the core of your being that represents the real you, you will discover yourself.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael Mcdowell on September 28, 2007
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Thirty years after sharing classrooms, movie theaters and drinks around Austin, TX -- Charles Guignon again proves to be an incredibly engaging intellectual companion.

His easy style makes difficult material accessible as he refuses to pass off obfuscation as profundity. By presenting important ideas culled from philosophy, psychology and modern culture (in an admittedly simplified fashion), the author challenges his reader to think seriously about what authenticity might entail within a society and a world such as ours. As with most good books, we are left with the feeling that a realm of thought has been opened up rather than neatly encapsulated and summarized. Guignon clearly adopts a Socratic humility, which encourages the reader to search for the truth rather than to expect to be spoon fed.

The body of this work provides a framework within which the reader can more fully see what passes for authenticity today -- as well as what it has meant historically. These positions are not constructed merely to be straw men who will be easily vanquished by our author. In fact, I found myself wanting to take up Nietzsche's position (as elaborated in the book), and carry it forward in a continuing dialogue we initiated in the late 70's.

As the book closes there is a call to "open and free conversation." In this scenario, one does not defend to the death a pre-determined conclusion as a matter of pride. Instead each person engages in the "to-and-fro of the discussion." Rather than becoming an advocate for a single point of view, one suspends prejudices (or at least recognizes them as such) while allowing the dialogue to be animated by the subject matter.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David M. Przekupowski on October 6, 2005
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Guignon's little book on authenticity is an excellent overview of the topic. He provides a summarized history of the various interpretations of what it means to be an authentic self along with an analysis of the problems that each of these conceptions have faced. On the critical side, I was surprised to find that Kierkegaard is almost completely ignored, but this doesn't take away from the value of this book. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the concept of authenticity or what it means to be a human being.
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Simply put, one gets the feeling that this book is nothing more than a lay summary of other, more rigorous works. Guignon was apparently a student of Charles Taylor, and he draws very heavily on Taylor's "Sources of the Self" and a little of his "Ethics of Authenticity". There is also a fair amount drawn from Lionel Trilling's "Sincerity and Authenticity." There is very little original argumentation here.

I do not regret the time I spent reading this book, if only for the fact that the footnotes pushed me into finding these other works (and a few others at that). But I cannot recommend a book solely on the strength of its footnotes.
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