Authenticity is a somewhat ambiguous term, and yet many believe it to be very important. People strive for their own authenticity while admiring it in others. In modern times, authenticity tends to mean something like “being who you actually are on the inside” in a way that clears away the corrosion of social expectations to reveal the perfect gem of our authentic selves. But is it really that simple? What does it even mean to find some hidden inner authentic self? Is this even a helpful way of conceptualizing authenticity?
In Fear and Trembling Søren Kierkegaard asks us to look at the story from Genesis of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Kierkegaard wants us to understand that Abraham is heroic not in an abstract sense, but in that this level of faith is something we should all aspire to. It’s only at this level of faith – where one can expect the impossible – that one can truly love God, which is the definition of true happiness for humankind.
I’ve been reading a bit of Scholastic and Islamic Golden Age philosophy – namely Thomas Aquinas and Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina (Avicenna). In those times, people were obsessed with two things: the Greek philosophers (Plato, the neoplatonists, and Aristotle) and being able to reconcile the Grecian ontology with their monotheistic, Abrahamic religion. It’s interesting to read their philosophy, but I was wondering if it had any relevance to modern philosophy.
Voltaire once said that “if God didn’t exist we would have to invent him.” Our imaginations are, of course, limited by our evolutionary past. To us, God has to be human-like. God must be benevolent, meaning it’s actions must seek to benefit humans. Why wouldn’t we invent a God like that? We are human-centered by our very nature. We feel that we deserve our self-designated special place in the universe.
I recently watched an episode of the Mind Field series by Vsauce titled “Should I Die?” In it, the host Michael Stevens talks to people from a cryonics firm and a mortician. He ultimately decides that he wants to die. The reasoning seems to be that our finite existence is what gives meaning to our lives. Death, in other words, has a meaning. But what is that meaning?