19 Nov, 2020 100 Philosophy

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what it means to be oneself, a question explored by philosophers from Aristotle to the present day, including St Augustine, Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre. In Hamlet, Polonius said ‘To thine own self be true’, but what is the self, and what does it mean to be true to it, and why should you be true? To Polonius, if you are true to yourself, ‘thou canst not be false to any man’ - but with the rise of the individual, authenticity became a goal in itself, regardless of how that affected others. Is authenticity about creating yourself throughout your life, or fulfilling the potential with which you were born, connecting with your inner child, or something else entirely? What are the risks to society if people value authenticity more than morality - that is, if the two are incompatible?

The image above is of Sartre, aged 8 months, perhaps still connected to his inner child.

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  • Sarah Richmond No other episodes
    Associate Professor in Philosophy at University College London
  • Denis McManus 2 episodes
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton
  • Irene McMullin No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex

Reading list

  • The Jargon of Authenticity
    Theodor Adorno (trans. K. Tarnowski and F. Will) (Routledge, 1973) Google Books →
  • Ethics of Ambiguity
    Simone de Beauvoir (trans. B. Frechtman) (Citadel Press, 1976) Google Books →
  • On Being Authentic
    Charles Guignon (Routledge, 2004) Google Books →
  • Being and Time
    Martin Heidegger (trans. John Maquarrie and Edward Robinson) (Blackwell, 1978) Google Books →
  • The Present Age
    Soren Kierkegaard (trans. A. Dru) (Harper Torchbooks, 1962) Google Books →
  • Heidegger, Authenticity and the Self
    Denis McManus (ed.) (Routledge, 2015) Google Books →
  • Existential Flourishing: A Phenomenology of the Virtues
    Irene McMullin (Cambridge University Press, 2018) Google Books →
  • Time and the Shared World: Heidegger on Social Relations
    Irene McMullin (Northwestern University Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • Being and Nothingness
    Jean-Paul Sartre (trans. Sarah Richmond) (Routledge, 2018) Google Books →
  • Existentialism is a Humanism
    Jean-Paul Sartre (trans. Carol Macomber) (Yale University Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • The Ethics of Authenticity
    Charles Taylor (Harvard University Press, 1992) Google Books →
  • Sources of the Self
    Charles Taylor (Cambridge University Press, 1989) Google Books →
  • Sincerity and Authenticity
    Lionel Trilling (Oxford University Press, 1972) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m00035z4

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Auto-category: 100 (Philosophy and psychology)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, to thine own self be true is advice so apparently simple and compelling that when Polonia says it in Hamlet, he needs no further examination.