The best description of today’s cultural reality is through “authenticity,” so says Charles Taylor, one of the most important contemporary Catholic intellectuals. There exists a true “culture of authenticity.” By this term the philosopher means the search for personal self-fulfillment supported by the subjective principle of being faithful to what one sincerely feels. Behind this quest stands the moral ideal of “being true to oneself.” This ideal, Taylor asserts, is not to be defined according to what we desire or need, but offers an outline of what we should desire.
As a consequence of this, it can be said that no matter how degraded or disguised the quest of the individual immersed in a given culture may be affected by relativism, individualism, narcissism, self-referentiality, etc., authenticity rests on a moral force that is neither understood nor identified by the arguments that strip it of its dignity, defend it uncritically, or seek a wisely balanced compromise.
Faced with this panorama of authenticity with its deviations, Taylor proposes a project of “retrieval,” through which the moral ideal, on which “authenticity” rests, can contribute to the renewal of practical, social and political life. The implication is that authenticity either triggers demands or is counterproductive.