A Question of Being Human (10)
Authentic and inauthentic experience. What is beyond our immediate experience is not simply ‘inauthentic’ (whatever that means). Rather, it is a thought experiment, a assumption based upon memory, like the positing of an-others’ point of view, both in the second and the third person; the latter indeed generating ‘nowhere’ positions, views from beyond possible human experience… Yet we do ‘experience’ them (albeit indirectly, in the imagination) so such ‘imaginary experience’ is human, only of a less direct kind… and most useful, like our habit of generalization or creation of universals, like the ‘impossible’ laws of nature, of mathesis and formal (second order) languages, and of eternity. Which these former imitate, by attempting a-historicity and universality; the view from the absolute outside, or Other, place of putting aside all that we value and deem important to use; too important to ground ‘this side’, place of value itself, its final support and fictional point of origin. Fictional? Entirely. For the generating point is entirely within ourselves – although (equally entirely) inaccessible to ourselves. But on all accounts, indispensible. In this respect drawing the barrier of authenticity on the borders of our immediate experience is unhelpful (unless the border is inside, in which case it is also infinitely porous…).
It is often asserted that scientific, in effect, mathematical knowledge (we are not talking of empiricism) can be inauthentic or inhuman (as alienating ourselves from our essence). But (in actuality and most obviously) it is also human (what else would it be?); we too produce this kind of knowledge, it is part of our culture (who else’s might it be?). Pretended objectivity (the opposite and equally reactive heresy of ‘realism’) also misses the point of its own origin as within us, as ourselves; the proof lies in the need for an axiom to kick-start these artificial (tautologous) or second order languages… and in the point of view taken, or pragmatic use they are put to, as revealed in the limitation of the means of measure once actual use is set in motion (infinite numbers, real numbers, level of numerical description, type of formal language, and most importantly the limitation on the size of numbers after the decimal point, and the –concomitant- length of computation). So not ‘inauthentic’, rather an ‘authentic‘ proof of our species creativity.
Yet, the sense of a ‘rhetoric of position’ remains. A temporal ‘condition of enunciation’ may be employed, such that actual experience (‘actually existing’ people’s experience) is differentiated from a professional or institutional ‘news from nowhere’. This latter in effect the appropriation of a god’s eye view, a rhetorical sliding from the eternal present to the eternal, like the rhetorical sliding that takes place between a people, a place, and a State or figurehead… or (previously, metaleptically) a founder figure, their (founding) myth.
Authentic/inauthentic. Implications: community and construction. Made ‘in the cut’ and by the past it hides… does not this imply a form of constructionism? A sense of being made by these experiences, by the past and by the on-going experience of the ever-new… of being made anew, ‘updated’… Not so much a question of authenticity (of a naturally ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ mode of being) but only of different kinds of made-ness; different forms of being made anew. Different kinds of life. The concreteness of a culture. Of a life with or against given surroundings, including the social and physical aspects of existence (our choice of which being a value-judgment, made according to certain beliefs, habits and expectations). So if the self is seen as made by society or community or its place of work, made by its context (by its many contexts, including its temporal context, the past, on the crest of whose wave it persists) and persists as one of its parts, as part of what envelops it, then to ask, which ‘authentic’ self, is not a question addressed to the self in question, as to its mode of being, its relations to the ocean in which it swims. Rather it is a question of which community, which culture of life, the judging (ideological) point of view deploying this term most favours… so an imposition from without, bypassing the experience of the self in question, negating its point of view, denying its validity (so returning us back to an exclusive communitarianism, that is, a return to scapegoating as the foundation of a given sense of community). But the grain of truth that may be found here lies in the fit of self to society and community (the degree of felt fit or misfit, comfort or discomfort) however this is not a question of authenticity… rather a question of agon, of the clash of the parts of self, of loyalties and imaginary identifications with one another (these latter potentially leading to actual conflict with the ‘others’ that the identifications represent).
If the self is seen as separate from society (from its determinations), if it can be read as more than a cumulative expression of its context, as free from a response to its stimulus that is as much active synthesis (Aufhebung) as reactive response; if (and only if) we are made from a basic resisting material (say our genetic coding, for even the structuration that makes us ‘us’ is a product of external forces operating at a early ‘formative’ age; our relationships with key Others, parents, teachers, peer group): if all these are absent, or only present as secondary, non-essential, only then do we have the possibility of a comparison involving the notion of ‘authenticity’ (if we set what is or was above as not only prior, but more important, more valuable, as originally good…). But what is this residue that is prior and so (supposedly) more real? We are made and we might just, thanks to memory, prefer one mood to another… and of course avoid pain and discomfort to varying degrees according to our cultural (community recognition) context; but this is not the same as the existence a prior, ‘hidden’, ‘natural’, ‘authentic’ self. Many of the fashionable beliefs of the 1960s and other utopianisms (as well as Romanticism in its entirety) which we still see reflected in current delusions about proper selfhood, natural life, essential goodness, stem from this; the ‘born good’ proper (‘essential’ or ‘natural’) self as ‘good’, as ‘original’ and as ‘prior’ with respect to all other social or cultural formations or experiences (including or interaction with our care-givers when infants). Untenable and undiscoverable (an essentialist thing-in-itself). In fact the only evidence that may be found for this latter position is always dependent upon the choice (or positing) of a ‘self’ as ‘good’ (the imposition of a moral ‘ought’ from without), and second on the forgetting that this self has always already been ‘made good’ regarding its past and its ‘fit’ with society or community (or expected role there in).
The aspersion of authenticity or non-authenticity is a question of value judgment, even if heavily disguised as a fact… Facts and values are famously regarded as non-translatable in modern logic (no ‘is’ implies an ‘ought’). To assert a value (as we ineluctably must) it is necessary to be honest and say that we express that value as a preference for given reasons, or a given interest (of the kind: if we value, x then we value y; and if we value y, then a given course of behaviour is implied - however the movement to an ‘ought’ is not deducible logically, rather a matter of customary pairing of cause and effect, a customary implication which always leaves space for choice (even if the society in question may not allow for the existence of such a space…)).
‘Born good’ and ‘made good’ also carry the implication of being defined as good according to some arbitrary category of identity (‘born good’ as belonging to a valourised group by birth) or according to what ones does (‘made good’ according to ones ‘works’) good deeds as source or index of virtue (an echo of the religious definition of the Good or the Elect, according to, in the final analysis, the point of view of the relevant, or implied, community, usually that of the Same).
One might wish to suggest that survival, the test of the future, constitutes one test. Yet the victor may be the worst, and the worst would then have the option of writing history; in fact our histories have been such and we are now struggling to rewrite them (yet again) without stumbling into the opposite (reactive) heresy… (anyway usually, in terms of the evidence, imaginary).
Keeping the rent (or tear) open… staying alive (by whatever means necessary; means which can not be graded by degrees of authenticity or in-authenticity, but only by effectiveness - and perhaps by morality…).
Like an eye, it blinks when we sleep (perchance to dream)…
We do not ask if dreams (or nightmares) are authentic or inauthentic.
Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2012