Book to consider: How to Be Authentic

by Skye C. Cleary

In an age of self-exposure, what does it mean to be authentic? “Authenticity” has become attenuated to the point of meaninglessness; everyone says to be yourself, but what that means is anyone’s guess. For existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, authenticity is not the revelation of a true self, but an exhilarating quest towards fulfillment. Her view, central to existentialism, is that we exist first and then spend the rest of our lives creating—not discovering—who we are. To be authentic is to live in pursuit of self-creation and self-renewal, with many different paths towards diverse goals.

How to Be Authentic is a lively introduction to Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophy of existentialism, as well as an exploration of the successes and failures that Beauvoir and other women have experienced in striving towards authenticity. Skye C. Cleary takes us through some of life’s major relationships and milestones: friendship; romantic love; marriage; children; and death, and examines how each offers an opportunity for us to stretch toward authenticity. While many people don’t get to choose their path in life—whether because of systemic oppression or the actions of other individuals—Cleary makes a compelling case that Beauvoir’s ideas can help us become more conscious of living purposefully, thoughtfully, and with vitality, and she shows us how to do so in responsible ways that invigorate every person’s right to become poets of their own lives.

[Get the book here.]

Published by Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

3 thoughts on “Book to consider: How to Be Authentic

  1. From the science world, Frans de Waal’s new “Different,” about distinguishing sex and gender? It’s great, and incorporates his primatology under “evolutionary ethology,” is I believe the phrase you said? (He also gives Pinker an elbow or two and Dawkins more than that.) I finished it last night. Will have a Goodreads review and one on this StudyGraph site as well.

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    1. I got a HAUL of science books from my library Saturday:
      Beyond de Waal, the new Nick Lane book Transformer that Paul B. and I talked about, Ed Yong’s new book, another one that looked VERY interesting, “The Zoologist’s Guide to the Universe” that looks like it should have things to say about Drake equations and SETI (author asks could intelligent live communicate in a scent language and other things, per blurb) and in social science, “Bittersweet” by Susan Cain, the “Introverts” author.

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