“Rousseau and the Modern Cult of Sincerity,” is an essay included in Phineas Upham’s book Space of Love and Garbage, written by Arthur M. Melzer. Melzer is a professor of political science at Michigan State University and Co-director of the Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy. He is the author of The Natural Goodness of Man: On the System of Rousseau’s Thought and co-editor of Technology and the Western Tradition. He is currently working on Aristotle’s moral philosophy.
Here is the bio (above) from the essay and a quotation of my favorite paragraphs of the essay (below).
Any true effort at collective self-knowledge, any attempt to understand ourselves as a society and a culture, must give particular attention to the question of sincerity. For the canonization of sincerity or authenticity, its elevation to the highest or most fundamental human virtue, would seem to be one of the defining characteristics of our age. This has been the observation of a long line of critics.
One might immediately object, of course, that the goal with which we are truly obsessed is rather wealth or material success. But one of the strangest things about our society is that while everyone chases money, few wholeheartedly believe in it. Virtually every American will tell you that Americans are too materialistic and sell-out too easily. Somehow, we have all internalized the old critique of bourgeois culture; we are all critics of our own lives. And on this second, critical level, when we ask ourselves what it means not to sell out, a little voice within us always gives the same reply: “Be true to your inner self.” This is our obsession with sincerity.
You can also buy this book on Amazon: Space of Love & Garbage by Phineas Upham