Authenticity, Meaning and Values 2
Linking Authenticity with Frankl’s Search for Meaning
Authenticity as Process
Heidegger, and Taylor after him, share a thick sense of what is meant by authenticity. Both see it as process: it is the manner in which we approach being, or the self, that is in question. It is the how, not the what, of self-construction.
So how then do we characterize the relationship between authenticity, meaning and value?
I would argue that at least on one level, meaning and value are the products of self-construction.
If authenticity is the process of how we engage, the problem of how we engage, then meaning and value are the effects of such engagement.
Projects that we engage in authentically take on meaning for us, become valuable.
But they become meaningful and valuable through a process of self-reflection, a process of self-interpretation, about what sort of person I am who engages in such projects authentically.
Authenticity is problem oriented, meaning and value are effects oriented.
Man’s Search for Meaning
He viewed meaning as the primary motivator of human life and he identified three ways of realizing meaning in life: by making a difference in the world through our actions, our work or our creations, which he referred to as “creative values”; by experiencing something (such as truth, beauty) or encountering someone (love), which he referred to as “experiential values”; and by adopting a courageous and exemplary attitude in situations of unavoidable suffering, which he referred to as “attitudinal values.”
Meaning and Values as Results Oriented
Frankl posits meaning as a realization, something that results from our activities and the manner in which we engage in them.
Meaning and values are the result of a process of creation in which we choose freely, given our social and historical circumstances.
We engage and construct meaning and values personally, inwardly, and we articulate them in a social language and setting.
We connect socially and construct meaning in shared engagements and projects and choose social values that are available to us.
We create a coherence of our personal and social meaning and values through a process of self-reflection in which we seek to find a personal resonance within and in the context of our activities.
Authentic Engagement as the Generation of the New
Throughout this process, as I am articulating it through the lens of Heidegger, Taylor and Frankl, there is no resort to objective or transcendent truth.
The process involves practical immanent reason, among other things, but is not grounded in an other-worldly a priori assumption about the nature of the world or ourselves.
The creation of meaning and value via authentic engagement is a process of the generation of the new:
We create our own unique understanding of life, its meaning and value, through our unique experiences and activities and in doing so create life that is new.
We don’t discover who we are, we create who we are.