Would Madame Bovary, we wonder, have lived a more authentic life, would her sentiment of being have more nearly approached singleness and particularity, if at the behest of a more exigent taste she had chosen as the stuff of her dreams the well-made, expensive images of a more creditable form of romanticism? Will not any art — the most certifiedly authentic, the most shaming — provide sustenance for the inauthenticity of those who consciously shape their experience by it? It was the particular inauthenticity which comes from basing a life on the very best cultural objects that Nietzsche had in mind when he coined the terrible phrase, ‘culture-Philistine’. What he means by this is the inversion of the bourgeois resistance to art which we usually call Philistinism; he means the use of the art and thought of high culture, of the highest culture, for purposes of moral accreditation, which in our time announces itself in the facile acceptance of the shame that art imputes and in the registration of oneself in the company of those who, because they see themselves as damned, are saved.
Rousseau is not mocked. The arts no longer seek to ‘please’, but pleasing was never the only technique of seduction, and art can still lead us into making the sentiment of our being dependent upon the opinion of others. The concerted effort of a culture or of a segment of a culture to achieve authenticity generates its own conventions, its generalities, its commonplaces, its maxims, what Sartre, taking the word from Heidegger, calls the ‘gabble’. To the gabble Sartre has himself by now made his contribution. As has Mme Sarraute; as did Gide; as did Lawrence — as must anyone who undertakes to satisfy our modern demand for reminders of our fallen state and for reasons why we are to be ashamed of our lives.
—Lionel Trilling, “Sincerity and Authenticity”