This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
From Shakespeare to today we are deeply concerned with being true to ourselves. But
what can this mean? How is it that we are creatures that cannot be true to ourselves?
Does this require us to be a mystery to ourselves, to discover ourselves? How does
the desire to be true to ourselves affect our art? our politics? To be true to ourselves
is an ethical precept, but how is it that we have an ethical obligation toward ourself?
And what does all of this have to do with living well?
Authenticity and its connected concepts have played a significant role in the development of social and political thought since at least the early Enlightenment. In this course we will examine the importance of authenticity and the related ideas of sincerity, self-expression, autonomy, and creativity, in contemporary social thought. We will begin with the work of Charles Guignon, Charles Taylor and Lionel Trilling to set the stage for our discussion, but will then move to a fairly broad set of authors to help us discover the role that these concepts play in our culture.
Honors classes depend on the students being prepared for discussion. In this class
this will be an absolute must. We are going to be examining a wide range of work,
some of it seemingly unconnected, and we will be using class discussion to make the