Major Papers


Authenticity, Identity, Recognition, Phenomenology


In Being and Time, Martin Heidegger claims that one can obtain an authentic identity by way of the resolute anticipation of death. With this proper relation to one’s finitude, one’s understanding will no longer be obscured by entanglement in the world, and the world can be genuinely seen as it is according to the tradition that supports one’s understanding. Following Charles Taylor in The Ethics of Authenticity, I argue that Heidegger’s account of authenticity fails to incorporate the necessary role of recognition by the community in the formation of an authentic identity. Because of the deeply personal nature of one’s relation to one’s death, authenticity cannot be recognized by the community; therefore, the distinction between authenticity and inauthenticity appears meaningless to others. In Truth and Method, Hans-Georg Gadamer is able to satisfy Taylor’s recognition requirement for the formation of authentic identity. I argue that for Gadamer, one obtains an authentic identity if one is able to ‘fuse horizons’ with another. For Gadamer, authenticity is not a magical transformation of one’s understanding that takes place with the anticipation of death; rather, one can understand the world authentically when the prejudices that block understanding are worked out in the process of understanding itself. When we encounter those that are different or other, we must struggle to understand and recognize them on their own terms (and vice versa) by working out our prejudicial limitations in a process of genuine dialogue and discourse with these others. This is what Gadamer calls fusing horizons. I argue that this fusion of horizons satisfies Taylor’s recognition requirement since the genuine mutual recognition of others, and by others, is necessary work in achieving authentic understanding and identity.

Primary Advisor

Jeff Noonan

Program Reader

Radu Neculau

Degree Name

Master of Arts



Document Type

Major Research Paper

Included in

Philosophy Commons