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Bad Faith Essay, Research Paper

“…No fate, no bad luck, no excuses, simply man, his choices, and the situation in which he finds himself…”


The concepts of existence and human freedom have been presented by Jean-Paul Sartre in his book entitled Being and Nothingness. However, Sartre also presents other related concepts, such as bad faith which has been referred to as a device that protects us from the anguish of realizing that we are freer than we like to think we are. Analyzing his examples and my own, Sartre?s bad faith theory will hopefully be illumined and broken down. He believes bad faith is to not acknowledge one?s right to make choices and be more than what you are. His view however is flawed in its complexity, there are loopholes and rules that should not be there, his stereotypes are too chiseled. But before delving into bad faith I would like to give some background on several of the philosophies I found while reading his book.

In his early philosophic work — Being and Nothingness — Sartre conceived humans as beings who create their own world by rebelling against authority and by accepting personal responsibility for their actions; unaided by society, traditional morality, or religious faith. Distinguishing between human existence and the non-human world, he maintained that human existence is characterized by nothingness, that is, by the capacity to negate and rebel. By distinguishing between two things, you create this idea of nothingness. His theory of existential psychoanalysis asserted the inescapable responsibility of all individuals for their own decisions and made the recognition of one’s absolute freedom of choice the necessary condition for authentic human existence. This freedom of choice is the root of Sartre?s bad faith theory. To be what you are, to recognize what you are? but not only be that. ?It is best to choose and to examine one determined attitude which is essential to human reality and determined attitude which is essential to human reality and which is such that consciousness instead of directing its negation outward turns it toward itself. This attitude, it seems to me, is bad faith? (87). Thus, choice is the epitome of Sartre?s bad faith philosophy, and a controversial one at that. I agree with his concept of bad faith, but he does take it too far in my philosophical opinion, but I will get to that after I introduce Sartre?s point of view.

Let us take for example the waiter in the caf?. ?His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid? (101). Sartre is convinced that the man is playing at being a waiter in a caf?. The waiter has the duties of being a waiter: getting up early, sweeping the caf?, starting the coffee pots. Because of these obligations, the waiter takes on a certain persona, which really makes his being a waiter. In other words, he accepts this responsibility as a sort of costume that he can not take off. His whole life is affected because of a choice he made that he now lives by. Without realizing that he is in bad faith and can choose to do things differently, he is by default not living in good faith, being free to choose how to live. This case of the waiter is definitely one of Sartre?s more controversial examples because the waiter could ultimately be in good faith by choosing to be a free-minded waiter who knows he is more than just a waiter, while he is working. People take many things for granted; the clean air in Santa Cruz, or the freedom of choice in any situation.

I became confused about bad faith when I began to consider the individual who fully takes the responsibility of being a free-minded, choice making individual. Is this person in bad faith because they are being ?good faith?? To clarify, let?s pretend Descartes (pretend Descartes knows of Sartre and his philosophies) tries so hard to not be in bad faith that he is the opposite of bad faith, he is by default in bad faith because he is living a life of nothing but good faith. Sartre hints on this himself, ?We must note in fact that the project of bad faith must be itself in bad faith. I am not only in bad faith at the end of my effort when I have constructed my two-faced concepts and when I have persuaded myself? (112). So, as you can see he does recognize that in doing his observations and writing about bad faith that he is indeed in bad faith himself. Ultimately that means that it is not even possible to live a life in entirely good faith. This is the root of my argument about faith, good or bad, because it is truly unavoidable unless perhaps you are possibly unconscious or extremely intoxicated.

I am my choices. I cannot not choose. If I do not choose, that is still a choice. If faced with inevitable circumstances, we still choose how we are in those circumstances. This really is the essence of bad faith. Jean-Paul Sartre dives into the pool of Being? and Nothingness with very articulate and complex sentences, he tries to paint a picture of our ?being?. Sartre?s philosophy of bad faith is one that truly affects each and every individual. From the woman on the date, to the caf? waiter, even to the over-attentive student or the homosexual, bad faith is found riddled throughout every existence. bad faith simply means to be guilty of regarding oneself not as a free person but as an object. To be what you are, to recognize what you are, but not only to be that. Living a life in entirely good faith is nearly impossible, and this is where I think Sartre?s philosophy falls short since being in bad faith is bad. Nobody wants to be bad, so if we recognize that Sartre isn?t completely correct, then we are all in better faith whether it is in fact true or not.

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