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Authenticity and Individualism As An OSU Student  June 12th, 2015

Submitted by Dennis Eash

I faced a hard decision when deciding to really go for it in college. There was two ways I saw to go. One was to study things I truly loved: music, maybe film, maybe acting. Something along those lines. The other way to go was to study something I liked but had a lot more security, which was chemical engineering. This isn’t a problem unique to me, it is shared by a great number of students at Oregon State. This is a problem that forces to choose how we live our lives – do we live authentically or not authentically? However, unlike seemingly clear-cut examples that Sartre gives us, I would argue that living authentically exists somewhere on a continuum, and that we can never truly be completely authentic to ourselves as college students. Instead, all we can do is try our best and make the most well thought out and honest decisions. This is how I think we can live authentically as OSU students.

The first, and what seems to be the most important, factor in living authentically as a student is deciding what to study. I chose to go into chemical engineering. Clearly there were other things that I loved more, but I also wanted security in my future. So I sold off my drum set, and stopped singing. Does the fact that I gave up studying what I love the most mean that I live inauthentically? Sartre could say so (Lecture 26 May), he could say I deny my transcendence. This idea extends to other students – many of us have given up on something we truly love for the knowledge that we can be financially secure in the future, and that isn’t an inauthentic way to live. It’s a realistic way to live. Perhaps this could allow us to get other things we want in the future, like a family. This is the continuum – the decision to study what we do is somewhere between passion and logic. We have to satisfy both parts of our nature to live authentically. This first decision is the biggest in a series of decisions we make in college that determine our authenticity to ourselves.

Living authentically in college, then, is a balance between making decisions that are born of passion and making decisions that are born of logic. The goal here is to find oneself. One’s true self could be found in many different places – extracurricular activities, studying, partying, or anything else. The concerns of others is of minor importance here – if we find ourselves following a stereotypical lifestyle of partying and very little studying (or the opposite), that doesn’t matter. A specific problem to consider here is one we’re all very familiar with – procrastination (Lecture 26 May). The act of procrastinating, as well as doing work early, can both be authentic things. It’s the difference between what we want in the moment and what we want in the long term, a very similar choice to make when deciding what major to study.

What you want to do, what is important to you, is your authentic self. The caveat here is to not fall into a way of living in college simply because of the pressure of those around us. Trying to live authentically is a failure if we fall into the trap of following The Herd, as Nietzsche would put it (Lecture 5 May). Don’t fear being “condemned ‘to being individual,’” as people have been in the past (Nietzche, The Gay Science, Pg. 130). It is in our individuality that we can discover living authentically, though it may seem scary at times. We must make each decision for ourselves, not for the expectations others may have of us.

Outside of making decisions, there is an existential theme that agrees very strongly with us as OSU students. That theme is humanism. The idea of humanism is philosophy that is focused on the individual (Lecture 07 May). To live authentically as an OSU student is to pursue finding our own identity. We’re here to figure out who we are decision by decision. We’re here finding the freedom in our life when society and family pressures may steer us towards a more Herd-like mentality. These would then be my parting words: don’t follow the herd. Embrace the humanistic perspective in life as an OSU student. Live authentically by making decisions that balance the moment-to-moment and ultimate life goals in a way that keeps life authentic, but not unrealistic.