Bad Faith – Sartre

A common trap that people fall into is what Sartre calls Bad Faith, a dominant theme of his work. Bad faith is a way of denying the fundamental nature of our freedom and responsibility, it is a way of making excuses for ourselves.

We accept something as true that really isnโ€™t that convincing to us, but because it is convenient and easy for us to believe in.

Sartre talks about a hypothetical waiter, he does not like his job, he goes to work day after day and does not feel fulfilled, but when he thinks of applying to a different job or asks himself the difficult questions that would come along with that sort of life choice, he convinces himself that itโ€™d be better to just to remain a waiter.

For Sartre, this is nonsense, it is Bad Faith. We are free individuals that can choose the meaning of our life. We convince ourselves that we actually donโ€™t have a choice: we need the money, to pay the bills, feed our family, and so on. And that being unhappy at the current job is just how life is.

Sartre would say that it is entirely self-imposed, it is self-deception. It is something that people do to avoid making difficult life decisions, desperately trying to avoid temporary discomfort in the present moment, which comes from the ability to choose and be free, telling oneself excuses. We put ourselves in long-term agony, in an attempt to avoid short-term discomfort.

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Greatest Philosophers In History | Jean Paul Sartre

This video explores Sartre’s main ideas including: Nausea, the Absurdity of the World, Existence precedes Essence, Freedom, Bad Faith, The Look and Hell is Other People, among others.

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Published by Eternalised - Philosophy

Eternalised is a Philosophical Entertainer in pursuit of meaning. A mix of Existentialism, Stoicism, Buddhism, Taoism, Jungian Psychology and Classical Greek Philosophy.

3 thoughts on “Bad Faith – Sartre

  1. A very interesting and universal idea to remember. Could this perhaps be related to another idea? That we are all agents of our own destiny to some degree, so focus on the things we can change and ignore everything that we cannot change. This concept isused throughout AA and in recovery, it reminds me in a subtle way of the Serenity Prayer

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    courage to change the things I can,
    and wisdom to know the difference

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! Love that. I find that particular fragment related to Stoicism. The first thing in life for a Stoic is to separate the things which are โ€˜up to usโ€™ and things that are โ€˜not up to us’, this is known as the Dichotomy of Control. We are simply to accept things outside our control for what they are, focusing on what we can control, and how we respond to these things.

      I’d say Sartre’s bad faith is similar to what Camus calls ‘philosophical suicide’, we fall into ready-made belief systems, immediately alleviating us from all our insecurities, at the cost of committing a sort of mental suicide by shutting down our mental faculties. There are also secular ways of committing this act too, such as escaping into the world of entertainment.

      Contrary to this, we have Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, which is the only way out of our angst. The ultimate irrational experience that is the most reasonable thing to do, the ultimate subjective experience which makes us individuals and authentic.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

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