This Independent Study thesis is about what it means to be an authentic person. By exploring the relationship that authenticity has with virtue, I hope to eliminate some of the ambiguity that surrounds the concept of authenticity and develop a theory that can tell us why, exactly, we should be authentic.

To accomplish this task, I build a framework by which we can determine if a quality amounts to a virtue, compare three major conceptions of authenticity and evaluate the merits and deficiencies of each account, and develop my own account of authenticity. The project is organized into four chapters. The first chapter is an explanation of virtue ethics meant to provide grounding for the project and a framework for analyzing if authenticity is a virtue. The second chapter is a critical analysis of the ordinary conception of authenticity and the existentialist account of authenticity. In this chapter, I employ the works of Lionel Trilling and Charles Guignon to discuss how the modern notion of authenticity emerged out of moral concerns during the Romantic era and continued to develop in our current culture. Next, I address the existentialist account, specifically the conceptions of authenticity forwarded by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. The third chapter is an explanation of the communitarian account of authenticity, featuring most prominently the work of Charles Taylor. Lastly, the fourth chapter is a formulation of my own account of authenticity, constructed by synthesizing the three major accounts and forwarding my own arguments about what it means to be a truly authentic individual. This chapter concludes with arguments for why authenticity, properly understood using my account, is a virtue according to an Aristotelian framework.


Rudisill, John




Continental Philosophy | Ethics and Political Philosophy


authenticity, authentic, virtue, existentialism, Charles Taylor, ethics, Aristotle

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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