February 26, 2017 by Dogan Kökdemir
Different from other animals, we have both an exciting and a threatening ability to question our existence, our consciousness, and our self, all at the same time. In the mortal world surrounding us we, as fragile humans, try to be symbolically immortal, unique, and authentic living beings.
Freedom and authenticity have been the major concepts discussed deeply by existential philosophers and existential psychologists (Bakewell, 2016) and these two concepts are highly interconnected. Heidegger (1927/1962) was the philosopher who used the term authenticity (Eigentlichkeit) for the first time as a necessity of our being achieved by the free choice of our very own. In other words, authenticity is “… a central tenet of existentialism is that selfhood is not naturally given but must be “won over” from a state of complacency, conformity, and self-forgetfulness…” (Michelman, 2008, p.43).
From the definitions above it can be plausible to interpret authenticity as a resistance to the uniformity and if it is a resistance to uniformity, every similarity or affinity we experience with others would shadow out the uncanny. Nathaniel Hawthrone’s short story “Birthmark” told us symbolically, how one vanished when she lost her uniqueness in the world she had lived in. Therefore, even if it is not perfect, every different feature of us would be the sign of our authenticity which we should be proud of. Think about the beauty spots on the model’s back in the photograph above. They are unique and belonging to the model only. It does not matter whether you love them or hate, in either case, the are still unique to her and only to her being.
In Heidegger’s being-in-the-world, the being is always the authentic being; so authentic that sometimes we may feel as being isolated or even alienated. However, please look at the photograph once more and think how she will fall into nothingness without these (beauty) spots. If we were all the same, what it would be us.
- Bakewell, S. (2016). At the existentialist café: Freedom, being, and apricot cocktails. Ohio: Other Press.
- Heidegger, M., Macquarrie, J., & Robinson, E. (1927/1962). Being and time. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
- Michelman, S. (2008). Historical dictionary of existentialism. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press.
Author info: Dogan Kokdemir, Professor of Social Psychology (Baskent University, Ankara) | email: dogan [AT] kokdemir[.]info