Sincerity and Authenticity
“Now and then,” writes Lionel Trilling, “it is possible to observe the moral life in process of revising itself.” In this new book he is concerned with such a mutation: the process by which the arduous enterprise of sincerity, of being true to one’s self, came to occupy a place of supreme importance in the moral life—and the further shift which finds that place now usurped by the darker and still more strenuous modern ideal of authenticity. Instances range over the whole of Western literature and thought, from Shakespeare to Hegel to Sartre, from Robespierre to R.D. Laing, suggesting the contradictions and ironies to which the ideals of sincerity and authenticity give rise, most especially in contemporary life. Lucid, and brilliantly framed, its view of cultural history will give Sincerity and Authenticity an important place among the works of this distinguished critic.