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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what being oneself has meant to philosophers from Aristotle to Sartre and since and how compatible authenticity is with morality

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.


Sarah Richmond
Associate Professor in Philosophy at University College London

Denis McManus
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton


Irene McMullin
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

51 minutes

Last on

Thu 19 Nov 2020 21:30


Denis McManus at the University of Southampton

Sarah Richmond at University College London

Irene McMullin at the University of Essex

Authenticity by Somogy Varga and Charles Guignon - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Authenticity (philosophy) – Wikipedia



Theodor Adorno (trans. K. Tarnowski and F. Will), The Jargon of Authenticity (Routledge, 1973)

Simone de Beauvoir (trans. B. Frechtman), Ethics of Ambiguity (Citadel Press, 1976)

Charles Guignon, On Being Authentic (Routledge, 2004)

Martin Heidegger (trans. John Maquarrie and Edward Robinson), Being and Time (Blackwell, 1978)

Søren Kierkegaard (trans. A. Dru), The Present Age (first published 1846; Harper Torchbooks, 1962)

Denis McManus (ed.), Heidegger, Authenticity and the Self (Routledge, 2015)

Irene McMullin, Existential Flourishing: A Phenomenology of the Virtues (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Irene McMullin, Time and the Shared World: Heidegger on Social Relations (Northwestern University Press, 2013)

Jean-Paul Sartre (trans. Sarah Richmond), Being and Nothingness (Routledge, 2018)

Jean-Paul Sartre (trans. Carol Macomber), Existentialism is a Humanism (Yale University Press, 2007)

Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity (Harvard University Press, 1992)

Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self (Cambridge University Press, 1989)

Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (Oxford University Press, 1972)



  • Thu 14 Mar 2019 09:00
  • Thu 14 Mar 2019 21:30
  • Thu 19 Nov 2020 21:30

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