The worst of both worlds!

In Trilling’s account, the focus on sincerity arose in the 16th century, with the Protestant Reformation and its emphasis on individual conscience rather than institutional ritual and doctrine. Over time, travel and trade made sincerity ever more important in judging the bona fides of strangers. According to Trilling, sincerity was eventually elbowed aside by the need for authenticity, “a more strenuous moral experience” that responds aggressively to received moral opinion. Authenticity, in this view, is sincerity plus autonomy.

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About Eve Tushnet

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