Sartre and The Paradoxical Notion of Bad Faith.

Mindful

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In 1943, Jean-Paul Sartre published arguably his most famous work Being and Nothingness. Within the text, he discussed topics such as modes of being, authenticity and transcendence which have formed the foundation of discussion for the fields of existentialism and phenomenology ever since, giving Sartre the title of ‘father of existentialist philosophy.’ One of the most well-known and poignant points Sartre made was that of the existence of bad faith. Despite the utility however of considering the world through this lens in some regards, his own philosophical arguments prohibit any individual from ever overcoming such a condition. In this sense the notion of bad faith is paradoxical and a poor ontological distinction.

Sartre begins his existentialist philosophical claims from a simple ontological premise—that is that objects fall into three modes of being. Either objects are being in-itself, being for itself or being for-others. An object which is in-itself is self-contained and fully realised. A furniture stool would be one example. The stool has no ability to become anything else, it is not affected by its relationship with anything else. Its being is connected to the fact that it is a piece of furniture. Humans on the other hand have the capacity within them to be something other than what they are now—to change, develop and evolve so that they are being for-itself. They have no essence which cannot be changed. They have the power of decisions and autonomy so that ‘humanity really is what it is not and not what it is’.

 
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^ From this premise Sartre then goes on to assert that all humans have freedom—that we are ‘condemned to be free’. In having no pre-ordained essence we are free to choose what our essence is to be. Sartre gives this freedom three characteristics. Firstly, that the freedom exists until death. Secondly that the freedom objectively exists even if the individual does not want to recognise it. Thirdly, that our freedom is subject to some facticity such as who our ancestors were and what we have done in the past. Humans are free according to Sartre, yet he saw squandered potential, inauthenticity and people rejecting their own freedom.

This rejection of one’s freedom is what Sartre calls bad faith. Bad faith is a paradoxical notion because we know our freedom to be true but wish to protect ourselves from the anxiety and anguish of having to make real authentic decisions, so that “The deceiver therefore is the deceived”[*]. Essentially, the phenomenon lowers the evidence threshold for self-inspection, letting people get away with self-deception. The example which Sartre uses is that of a waiter who thinks of himself as a waiter—his being in-itself—rather than as a person who decides to be a waiter at this very moment but can change that at any other moment—being for-itself.
 

Eric Arthur Blair

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I'm pretty sure no one, not a waiter, not a postman, not a civil servant, etc.
thinks of himself as that thing that he does to earn a living.

People will say to themselves, yes, I am a waiter. But it's what I do. It's not who I am.
Sartre's "insight" is a silly word game.

People like Sartre, and those that celebrate him or find him illuminating vis the human condition
are the ones fooling themselves.
 

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^ From this premise Sartre then goes on to assert that all humans have freedom—that we are ‘condemned to be free’. In having no pre-ordained essence we are free to choose what our essence is to be. Sartre gives this freedom three characteristics. Firstly, that the freedom exists until death. Secondly that the freedom objectively exists even if the individual does not want to recognise it. Thirdly, that our freedom is subject to some facticity such as who our ancestors were and what we have done in the past. Humans are free according to Sartre, yet he saw squandered potential, inauthenticity and people rejecting their own freedom.

This rejection of one’s freedom is what Sartre calls bad faith. Bad faith is a paradoxical notion because we know our freedom to be true but wish to protect ourselves from the anxiety and anguish of having to make real authentic decisions, so that “The deceiver therefore is the deceived”[*]. Essentially, the phenomenon lowers the evidence threshold for self-inspection, letting people get away with self-deception. The example which Sartre uses is that of a waiter who thinks of himself as a waiter—his being in-itself—rather than as a person who decides to be a waiter at this very moment but can change that at any other moment—being for-itself.
The problem of existentialism, of course, is the false notion that existence precedes essence. The essence of being human is that of a rational (or logical) being. Reason is the means by which one may discover what one is within the context of humanity and what one's individual expression of being should be relative to the truth of what is ultimately expected beyond oneself. Sans an externally fixed ideal of truth, one will wander, in bad faith, in a circle of meaninglessness. Existentialists have it backwards. Essence precedes existence, and, in any event, metaphysics are inescapable. The existentialist's apriority is still the stuff of metaphysics.
 

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^ From this premise Sartre then goes on to assert that all humans have freedom—that we are ‘condemned to be free’. In having no pre-ordained essence we are free to choose what our essence is to be. Sartre gives this freedom three characteristics. Firstly, that the freedom exists until death. Secondly that the freedom objectively exists even if the individual does not want to recognise it. Thirdly, that our freedom is subject to some facticity such as who our ancestors were and what we have done in the past. Humans are free according to Sartre, yet he saw squandered potential, inauthenticity and people rejecting their own freedom.

This rejection of one’s freedom is what Sartre calls bad faith. Bad faith is a paradoxical notion because we know our freedom to be true but wish to protect ourselves from the anxiety and anguish of having to make real authentic decisions, so that “The deceiver therefore is the deceived”[*]. Essentially, the phenomenon lowers the evidence threshold for self-inspection, letting people get away with self-deception. The example which Sartre uses is that of a waiter who thinks of himself as a waiter—his being in-itself—rather than as a person who decides to be a waiter at this very moment but can change that at any other moment—being for-itself.
One other observation in this wise. . . .

When philosophers say, for example, essence precedes existence, they mean that essence ontologically precedes existence in the order of primacy.

Behold, the most fundamental problem with existentialism: as Kant rightly observed, existence is not a predicate.

On the other hand, Kant wrongly applies this apprehension to God, and classical theists are right to point out that the predicate of God's existence is a priori established by the logical necessity of an eternal existent. In other words, the apprehension that existence is not a predicate applies to all entities, but God, as the predicate of God's existence, by definition, is inherently prior. It's the existence of all other entities that's derivative (or contingent) and accidental/incidental.
 

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In 1943, Jean-Paul Sartre published arguably his most famous work Being and Nothingness. Within the text, he discussed topics such as modes of being, authenticity and transcendence which have formed the foundation of discussion for the fields of existentialism and phenomenology ever since, giving Sartre the title of ‘father of existentialist philosophy.’ One of the most well-known and poignant points Sartre made was that of the existence of bad faith. Despite the utility however of considering the world through this lens in some regards, his own philosophical arguments prohibit any individual from ever overcoming such a condition. In this sense the notion of bad faith is paradoxical and a poor ontological distinction.

Sartre begins his existentialist philosophical claims from a simple ontological premise—that is that objects fall into three modes of being. Either objects are being in-itself, being for itself or being for-others. An object which is in-itself is self-contained and fully realised. A furniture stool would be one example. The stool has no ability to become anything else, it is not affected by its relationship with anything else. Its being is connected to the fact that it is a piece of furniture. Humans on the other hand have the capacity within them to be something other than what they are now—to change, develop and evolve so that they are being for-itself. They have no essence which cannot be changed. They have the power of decisions and autonomy so that ‘humanity really is what it is not and not what it is’.

You use big words. o_O
 
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In 1943, Jean-Paul Sartre published arguably his most famous work Being and Nothingness. Within the text, he discussed topics such as modes of being, authenticity and transcendence which have formed the foundation of discussion for the fields of existentialism and phenomenology ever since, giving Sartre the title of ‘father of existentialist philosophy.’ One of the most well-known and poignant points Sartre made was that of the existence of bad faith. Despite the utility however of considering the world through this lens in some regards, his own philosophical arguments prohibit any individual from ever overcoming such a condition. In this sense the notion of bad faith is paradoxical and a poor ontological distinction.

Sartre begins his existentialist philosophical claims from a simple ontological premise—that is that objects fall into three modes of being. Either objects are being in-itself, being for itself or being for-others. An object which is in-itself is self-contained and fully realised. A furniture stool would be one example. The stool has no ability to become anything else, it is not affected by its relationship with anything else. Its being is connected to the fact that it is a piece of furniture. Humans on the other hand have the capacity within them to be something other than what they are now—to change, develop and evolve so that they are being for-itself. They have no essence which cannot be changed. They have the power of decisions and autonomy so that ‘humanity really is what it is not and not what it is’.

You use big words. o_O
Why not?
 

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