- Series: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (Book 31)
- Paperback: 188 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (October 1, 1973)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674808614
- ISBN-13: 978-0674808614
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #485,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sincerity and Authenticity (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) First Edition Edition
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A beautifully written book, its tone admirably judged and perfectly sustained…It is wide fastidious and deeply thoughtful in its range of reference, Temperate, controlled and delicately scrupulous, it is a tribute if ever there was one to the "honest consciousness." (Times Literary Supplement)
From the Back Cover
In this new book he is concerned with such a mutation: the process by which the arduous enterprise of sincerity, of being true to one's self, came to occupy a place of supreme importance in the moral life.
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The lectures could be seen in part as a reaction to the conditions prevalent in American universities during the late 60's and to the moral slang of that(?) time, such as the conception that (personal) authenticity is characterized by opposition to society and that sincerity and 'the honest soul' are anachronisms.
Even though 'We [present-day society] understand a priori that the prescriptions of society pervert human existence and destroy its authenticity … and [there is] no ready disposition to accept a view of the mind in its relation to society which proposes the idea that authenticity is exactly the product of the prescriptions of society and depends upon these prescriptions being kept in force', and even if sincerity has been devalued, it is still worth remembering that: 'If sincerity is the avoidance of being false to any man through being true to one’s own self, we can see that this state of personal existence is not to be attained without the most arduous effort. And yet at a certain point in history certain men and classes of men conceived that the making of this effort was of supreme importance in the moral life, and the value they attached to the enterprise of sincerity became a salient, perhaps a definitive, characteristic of Western culture for some four hundred years.'
An interesting essay on this work along with some sociological additions and considerations of the 1972 elections from Peter Berger is available on the internet.
Art began both to celebrate and to criticize the moral order in the Romantic Movement. Jane Austin satirized Emma's priggishness. Flaubert displayed Mme. Bovary's artificial life. Sartre closed Huis Clos with 'Hell is other people.'
Sincerity depended on acceptance of the class structure in England. When acceptance of class superiority began to decay in the Industrial Revolution, organicism and mechanism offered new bases for authenticity -- 'at least natural science is real,' one might say.
The unconscious, for example, became a basis of authenticity because it has an organic basis. In this vein, Freud's Civilization and its Discontents and The Future of an Illusion portrayed culture as repressive superego. Similarly, R. D. Laing and Herbert Marcuse portrayed the psychotic as the bewildered victim of alienating social reality.