This page contains additional information about Sartre that may be helpful when studying Existentialism is a Humanism or existentialism more generally:


Being and Nothingness – bad faith
pp.78-79 the “flirt” example
the woman knows suitor desires her
knows she will have to make a decision
doesn’t want to read anything into his actions/words (because this would have to hasten her decision)
she attaches only immediate meanings, refusing to acknowledge any connotations
he takes her hand – she has to decide – leaving hand there is her consenting to flirt; withdrawing hand is a (polite) rebuff – still wants to postpone decision
leaves her hand there but “does not notice” – she ignores her hand, treats it as not part of her
her refusal to actively make a decision is still a choice
but she is not acknowledging/accepting responsibility for her choice
evading responsibility for her present situation

pp.82-83 the waiter example
café waiter is too keen, eager, precise, walking in a stiff ‘waiter’ way
like he is playing a game, or a part in a play – playing at being a waiter
acting out the ceremony – perhaps to fit into social expectations
doing this because he is a waiter; allowing others to dictate his behaviour; fulfilling a pre-defined fixed role; playing a part
evading responsibility for his actions; not choosing authentically
[c.f. Beauvoir on woman’s complicity in her own oppression]

pp.86-89 the homosexual example
this homosexual frequently feels intolerable guilt
despite being aware of his feelings, and knowing all his past homosexual actions, he refuses to think of himself as homosexual
he made mistakes in the past; unintentional; not really who he is
\ evading, refusing to accept responsibility for his past deeds, making excuses

thinks “I am not homosexual” – in that I could only define myself as a homosexual if this description fixed and exhausted my character – it doesn’t so I’m not. bad faith because refusing to accept that “homosexual” = “doing homosexual actions” and that your actions define you, so refusing to accept responsibility for his actions, his facticity and himself

suppose he acknowledges “I am homosexual”
  • if suggesting his nature is fixed/definitive, accepting/defining yourself as something, rather than continually creating through choices and action, then bad faith – claiming fixed so had no choice and is not responsible – defining yourself as purely your facticity = bad faith; you are your freely chosen response to your facticity (you are a “transcendence of a facticity”)
  • if thinking that others fully determine/define him, and they say so, then bad faith – not accepting own responsibility and that he creates himself through his actions
  • if treating his being homosexual as an excuse – that his conduct was unavoidable, inevitable, determined, no choice, his sexual preference forces his action, then bad faith – responsibility, wasn’t really me doing it
  • if claiming that his homosexual actions are in the past, but has nothing to do with him now and is not really him now – not really me, so not responsible – perpetually reborn anew – then bad faith, because refusing to accept/affirm and respond to his past – denying his facticity

he needs to accept that he is homosexual – not by labelling himself, not by pretending his nature is fixed – but in that his behaviour characterises him as homosexual; accept that he chooses his conduct; he could have chosen to behave differently but didn’t; accept responsibility for his conduct; he has to accept his past as a feature of himself that will always be there – accepting and responding authentically to his facticity – guilt


examples from Lucifer and the Lord
Heinrich (priest) – anguish – but doesn’t like it – keeps changing his mind, failing a bit as an existentialist hero
Goetz does seem to act in despair, abandoned, bad faith?
woman who has lost her child; abandonment; [absurdity];+ differing theological explanations for her suffering











      To what extent does Sartre’s solution succeed? (need to define the problem first!)

      Problem: abandonment, death of God, no objective values/ purpose, nihilism
      Sartre’s solution: authenticity (failure = bad faith); accept existence precedes your essence; accept abandonment/ no objective ethics; anguish; accept responsibility for your choices; despair

      Evaluation
      Sartre accepts that my facticity shapes or frames my situation but I then always have a free choice within that situation [Simone de Beauvoir: “situated freedom”].
      however, might my facticity (my biology, my experiences, my society/environment, my situation) shape me such that what I do is inevitable? can we really deny determinism?
      or at least my facticity (biology and society) restricts my options/choices really drastically – how then am I free?

      why should what I do be universalisable? does your choice really commit all mankind?

      isn’t there a richness in diversity? would we want everyone to do the same?

      does it not make sense for me to have moral values that I fail to live up to? so I want to be a hero, but fail to meet the standards that I choose and would want others to adhere to too (perhaps hypocritically)?

      if I am universalising what I would do in my situation, how specific or general should “my situation” be construed? (you could presumably make different choices if universalising a very narrow understanding of “my situation” c.f. a wider one)

      what is wrong with bad faith at a mundane level? – it provides coping strategies with life’s problems, is the basis of politeness and living with one another effectively in society. ignorant but comfortable and happy – happy pigs. is authenticity really that great?

      given that we might not be able to see much difference between e.g. an authentic and inauthentic waiter from a third person standpoint, is this a firm/clear enough distinction on which to base ethics? is it even a clear enough distinction when viewing your own actions from a first-person subjective perspective?

      if the only choice I have is really unpalatable, is Sartre’s maintaining that I still have a choice any use to me?

      is my creating subjective values sufficient compensation for death? is it a good enough answer? isn’t existentialism just a little too much futile “raging against the dying of the light”? all bluster?

      subjective meaning doesn’t help overcome lack of objective meaning. nihilist: existentialists are in denial; there is no point!

      isn’t existentialism essentially arrogant and self-centred? elevating yourself to the sole arbiter of (albeit subjective) value?

      how can you break out of ethical systems that currently exist? you are either going along or doing opposite. however, you can still take responsibility and live authentically even if the values you hold are similar to others’ so maybe this isn’t such a problem.

      is Sartre a free-rider? you doing what you like and creating your own vision of humanity is predicated on other people not doing likewise, otherwise society would be in chaos – Sartre optimistic that everyone creating subjective values wouldn’t mean all-out conflict and violence

      how can we judge others (given that no objective values)? if acting authentically, I judge others implicitly as I am creating my vision of how humanity should be, in that I am rejecting all alternative visions of humanity. I can also judge others objectively as inauthentic if inconsistent, lacking integrity etc.

      is Sartre proposing that authenticity is objectively/intrinsically valuable? if so, self-contradictory! maybe just a suggestion as to how one might choose to live.

      Sartre’s ethics seems to permit (what we would surely think of as) very undesirable behaviour – e.g. authentic mass murderers – Goetz in Lucifer and the Lord, Anders Breivik in 2011. We can’t judge this behaviour as objectively wrong - \ existentialism unsatisfactory?
      Sartre has two options: accuse Anders Breivik of being un salaud for arrogance, thinking the world revolves around him, that he is a destiny, not accepting existence precedes essence (this would be a fudge though, surely?); or biting the bullet and accepting that we can only judge him and his behaviour subjectively as failing to conform to my vision of how humanity should be (which seems a bit weak)