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Emotional Authenticity

Emotional Authenticity

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Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour35:3
\u00a9 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2005. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600
Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
.Blackwell Publishing, Ltd.
Oxford, UK
Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour
\u00a9 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2005
3Original Article
What Is Emotional Authenticity?
Mikko Salmela
What Is Emotional Authenticity?
Authenticity is an important ideal of emotional life. Yet it is not obvious what
we mean by an authentic emotion. Ronald de Sousa illustrates this problem inT he
Rationality of Emotion (1987) with an example of a homosexual who comes out to his

best friend. The friend\u2019s spontaneous reaction is violent and hostile: she expresses disgust, disappointment, and anger, and walks away without wanting to discuss the matter. But the next evening she calls him and apologizes for her unreasonable, unkind, and prejudiced reaction, assuring him that she wholeheartedly accepts his sexual orientation, which need not affect their friendship in any way. Comments de Sousa:

In favor of spontaneity, one can say that the \ufb01rst reaction was unre\ufb02ective, uncensored, and therefore presumably genuine.\u2014On the other hand, might her prejudiced reaction not be a mere re\ufb02ex, unrelated to her character? It stemmed perhaps from effects of a narrow-minded education that she has not yet had time to mend. (de Sousa 1987, 12).

The problem of deciding which reaction is more authentic is complicated by the fact that \u201cboth spontaneous emotion and deliberate attitudes are intimately bound up with our conception of people\u2019s character and moral worth\u201d (ibid., 13). De Sousa believes that this antinomy remains unsolved even if by relating authenticity to appropriateness and emphasizing that \u201cgoing with one\u2019s feelings is not the royal road to authenticity\u201d (ibid., 264) he, no doubt, takes a stance on the re\ufb02ective side.

This article investigates the notion of emotional authenticity with the purpose of resolving de Sousa\u2019s antinomy. This is a signi\ufb01cant task for even if authenticity is an important notion in the contemporary research of emotion, it lacks a proper theoretical foundation (e.g. Averill 2005). True enough, philosophers, such as Martin Heidegger (1962), Jean-Paul Sartre (1956), and more recently, Charles Taylor (1992), have produced extensive and sophisticated accounts on authenticity

Mikko Salmela
\u00a9 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2005

or related notions (\u201cEigentlichkeit \u201d, \u201cmauvaise foi \u201d). However, their in\ufb02uence on contemporary discussion on emotions and authenticity has remained scarce. In part, it may have been dif\ufb01cult to apply philosophical accounts of authenticity to emotions, especially as their originators have not generally provided guidelines for that purpose.1 Yet a more fundamental reason lies in thenor mativity of the philosophical concept of authenticity, which scientists \ufb01nd dif\ufb01cult to accommodate. For the normative sense of authenticity raises the question of whether oneshould feel in a particular way, quite independently of what one actually feels \u201cdeep inside\u201d as the cliched expression for adescriptiv e understanding of authenticity goes. Accordingly, a descriptively inauthentic emotion is somehow lessgenuine as an emotion, whereas a normatively inauthentic emotion lacksjusti\ufb01cation of certain kind, whether or not it is genuine or authentic in the descriptive sense. This fundamental difference between the normative and descriptive perspective on authenticity appears to set the two discourses wide apart.

However, I shall argue for a reconciliation between normative and descriptive views on emotional authenticity. In particular, I shall argue that certain anomalies of the descriptive analysis of emotional authenticity in terms of sincerity and spontaneity suggest that we must distinguish between sincerity and authenticity. Sincerity is a psychological concept, whereas authenticity is a normative notion. In addition, I shall put forward an integrity view of emotional authenticity that takes its lead from normative accounts of authenticity. In this view, authenticity is analyzed in terms of coherence between an emotion and one\u2019s internally justi\ufb01ed values and beliefs. However, an authentic emotion must also be sincere in the sense of being psychologically real. Moreover, authenticity is a regulative and open-ended ideal as our spontaneous emotions frequently challenge the coherence of our present emotions, values, and beliefs, thereby urging change, learning, and growth on a way toward a new, more enlightened coherence. But since all authentic emotions need not emerge spontaneously, spontaneity, unlike sincerity, is not a necessary condition of emotional authenticity.


A wide majority of contemporary researchers of emotion, both philosophical and empirical, associate emotional authenticity with sincerity and spontaneity (e.g. Grandey & Brauburger 2002; Pugmire 1998; Ashforth & Humphrey 1993; Wentworth & Ryan 1992; Hamlyn 1989; Dilman 1989; Hochschild 1983). An authentic or genuine emotion, according to this view, is a sincere and spontaneous response to the eliciting situation. The emotion is founded on the subject\u2019s spontaneous apprehension of the object that reliably manifests his or her concern for it. David Pugmire contends: \u201cMy emotions must be allowed to take the form they seek to take; and they must be acknowledged as authoritative expressions of part of my actual valuational attitude, as bearing witness to my real beliefs\u201d

What Is Emotional Authenticity?
\u00a9 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2005
(Pugmire 1998, 129). I shall focus on Pugmire\u2019s version of the sincerity view
because it is the most detailed and theoretically elaborate one.

Since most emotions are not entirely transparent to their subject, it is quite easy to misidentify one\u2019s emotion or its true object and cause. For example, lust can be mistaken for love, anger at one\u2019s bullying boss can be misinterpreted as anger at one\u2019s spouse, and drunken con\ufb01dence can be misconstrued as good self-esteem. Yet none of these dif\ufb01culties quali\ufb01es as a \ufb02aw of authenticity as such. Pugmire suggests that an emotion turns inauthentic only when the subject purposefully sticks to his or her misidenti\ufb01cation and thereby distorts or masks the underlying real emotion or the lack of it. But how can we distinguish such \u201ccounterfeit\u201d emotions from real articles?

Even if Pugmire rejects the cognitive theory of emotion, he maintains that some emotions demand actual belief instead of a mere construal in order to qualify as genuine. A person may construe a situation as dangerous without believing this to be true, whereas beliefs and af\ufb01rmed appraisals aim to be true, whether they succeed in this or not. Yet construals are v erisimilar in the sense of having an

appearance of truth for the construer, as Robert Roberts (1988) points out. Since

construing is capable of evoking experientially identical or similar feelings as an appropriate belief, it is easy to mistake these feelings for the manifestation of a genuine emotion. But now a problem emerges: \u201cIf I am unaware that what I am doing is construing rather than considering or af\ufb01rming, I am not in a position to distinguish my construal from a belief \u201d (Pugmire 1998, 116).

Pugmire claims that emotions become arti\ufb01cial \u201cby being sustained by construals rather than beliefs where beliefs are what is really required\u201d (ibid., 117). These kind of emotions are misbegotten because a desire to experience an emotion is not directly concerned with the ostensible object of emotion. Pugmire suggests that there are two general external motives for having an emotion. Thee xperiential motive is central, for instance, in sentimentality. Sentimental people desire emotions for their intrinsic affective qualities and savor them in the same way as people who use drugs for the sensations and feelings they induce. The super\ufb01ciality of such emotions is indicated by their subjects\u2019 failure to follow the emotion into action (ibid., 119; Hamlyn 1989). Therelational motive \ufb01gures in an emotion that places its subject in an advantageous position in some way. Pugmire surmises that \u201cchoice will centre on emotions that provide advantage of power (e.g. pity), moral advantage (e.g. forgiveness, and above all, righteous anger) or that reassuringly af\ufb01rm personal qualities (e.g. compassion, remorse)\u201d (ibid., 120). Such emotions are often adopted for the purpose of masking another, existing emotion that the subject does not like to experience. Thus, spite can be mistaken for righteous indignation and disdain for pity.

Pugmire argues that his account provides several reasons for the vitality of emotional authenticity. Firstly, a factitious emotion \u201cmisrepresents the agent both as to his true emotion and as to his true values\u201d (ibid., 124). Secondly, self- misrepresentation creates a falsi\ufb01ed and potentially dangerous point of departure

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