Philosophy Society: Ben Colburn

ERI Building - Room 149 (1st Floor)
Arts and Law, Research
Monday 28th January 2013 (16:15-18:00)
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Dr Ben Colburn (University of Glasgow)



Authenticity, as I understand it, is a property possessed by all and only those preferences whose satisfaction contributes to our lives going well. The property in question is this: our preferences are authentic just in case they do not have covert explanations, which is to say when the true third-personal explanation of our preferences is necessarily hidden from our first-person perspective.

My argument is as follows. I start (in the spirit of Edward Craig and Bernard Williams) by offering a constructive genealogy for a theory of authenticity. Asking why we need such a theory in the first place allows us to identify a general concept of authenticity, functionally defined by the role that it plays in our moral thinking. That the concept is functionally defined allows us moreover to derive a set of desiderata against which particular conceptions of authenticity can be judged. Having established this, I go on to discuss various attempts to formulate such conceptions, and show why they fail. Drawing on the lessons of those failures, in I set out my own conception - the one advertised above - and show it meets the desiderata that its rivals don't. Finally, I explain why my conception of authenticity seems uniquely well-placed to meet those desiderata, and hence why this seems to me the best chance for a defensible theory of authenticity in preferences.