Friday, August 10, 2007

a note on authenticity vis-à-vis sincerity

In an exchange on Habermas earlier this week, the correspondent wondered (“K>>” below) about my earlier characterization of the distinction between sincerity and authenticity (“G>>>”), in response to a question from K (“K>>>>”). I responded briefly (“G>”), then more free associatively offline yesterday, which I’ll archive here (following my quoting of our exchange on this point, over four emails; the entirety of the four emails, via the Yahoo! Habermas group, is here; see the footer thread).

Aug. 8-9

K>>>> - Can/should we distinguish between sincerity and authenticity, as Amanda Anderson has done in her excellent defense of Habermas (“The Way We Argue Now”)?

G>>> Yes. Habermas would, I think, explicate this distinction in terms of the difference between (a) a way of life (“ethical life” in chapter 1 of Justification and Application, implicating one’s whole exemplification of lifeworldliness, so to speak), which may be variably authentic/inauthentic; and (b) one’s self-representation in communicative action, relative to one’s fidelity to asserted beliefs or values regarded as normative for interaction. Authenticity tends to pertain to living a life; genuineness pertains, for Habermas, to intentional stances in interaction.

K>> .... Gary your definition of authenticity here seems much more limited, so I wonder if I’m trying to read too much into Habermas here?

G> Please don’t regard my short set of earlier comments about authenticity as comprehensive of what is tenable relative to Habermas’ work. I was offhand sketching a kind of distinction (lifeworld-based considerations vis-à-vis speech-situational considerations), not constituting a sense of authentic life. But Habermas’ supplementary sense of authenticity (supplementary to his sociocentric interest in public spherical communication) is based, I think, on the influence of existential thought on his own. (This is strongly corroborated at the beginning of Justification & Application and later work, such as Future of Human Nature)

later, Aug. 10

Sincerity and authenticity; authenticity and sincerity—obviously, a lifeworld background precedes particular speech scenes, developmentally and temporally, so a way of life is ultimately implicated by interaction—not, likely, in short conversations, but, you know, it doesn’t take long to feel the lifeworld background in a long conversation. It’s odd, I suppose, to speak of “a way of life...implicating one’s whole exemplification of lifeworldliness, so to speak.” Indeed, so to speak. “lifeworldliness”?

What’s the difference between lifeworld and lifeworldliness? Well, how would one represent one’s existence in “the” (a?) lifeworld? You might catch someone saying (badly) “having a lifeworld” or being “in the lifeworld”. But the former objectifies “what” only is in the living, while the latter spatializes what’s temporal in the living. My neologism begs the question of what is “the” lifeworld—which happens to be so integral to Habermas’ Theory of Communicative Action, of course, that one volume of the English translation is titled “Lifeworld and System”. Yet, how little appreciation of the topic turns up in talk of “Habermas”.

In living, lifeworldliness—the-being-alive “in” “the” “world” (let’s just presume that all words are in Derridean quote marks?)—shows itself in the tacitity of all implicature, as if one channels their background unwittingly, nonconsciously (different from unconsciously!). One exemplifies lifeworldliness by actively living (distinct from passively living; e.g., watching TV in order to fall asleep—or to forget).

“Exemplification of lifeworldliness” implies a wholeness that’s emblemized by the singularity of one’s identity, registering an entire development (up to “now”) connoted in present perception or willingness to understand.

“One’s whole exemplification of lifeworldliness” can be called to account as a conception of being who one is. Inasmuch as your self-understanding is called to account for who you really are as you-alive, across time, looking to a past in light of oncoming future (which gives meaning to the past), a way of life may emerge as the background vaguely showing to others, “a way of life...implicating one’s whole exemplification of lifeworldliness.”

That exemplification may be keeping its full sense of itself near to heart (providing genuine confidence) or may have fallen away. Trivially, when you’re tired, “I’m not myself”; or, non-trivially, you may have forgotten why you chose “this” career. “I’ve lost touch with my reason for doing this” or for “being here” at all.

But it’s not a linear thing, not simply a degree of authenticity pertaining to the whole of oneself. A life has modalities: sense of continuity (near-term vis-à-vis long-term), intimate partnership, family, career, sense of ultimacy;, and one may be in touch with some modes more than others sometimes more than others. So, “exemplification of lifeworldliness...may be variably authentic/inauthentic” in terms of staying near or attuned to what really matters in modes of one’s life. Altogether, one might heuristically regard this as the inner-directedness of one’s life—one’s capability for heartfulness/mindfulness, which complements the outer-directedness of one’s life—

G>>>... and (b) one’s self-representation in communicative action, relative to one’s fidelity to asserted beliefs or values regarded as normative for interaction....

G: Daily life is made of scenes, such that a dramaturgical conception of action is the mode of Habermas’ theory of action pertaining to genuineness. Backstage, frontstage, we need each other to sustain fidelity to what each appears to identify with, in interaction. “I need to count on you” to “stay true,” in love and in risky work, which love is, too, while work, too, can be a love.

Can your work be a work of love? Then, I can love working with you.

So, sincerity is sustained by authenticity, the backstage energy source for staying true to the show. Wherever something is shown, a dramaturgical conception of action is analytically relevant.