PHL 358
Instructor: Dr. Bob Zunjic


Being and Nothingness


(Part One, chs. 1 and 2)

An Outline

Modes of Negation


Title: The conceptual pair "Being and Nothing(ness)" denotes for Sartre the central ontological relation as discussed in German Philosophy (notably in Hegel and Heidegger).
Being: A student of existentialism might be surprised to find that the concept of "being" occupies a much more prominent position in Being and Nothingness than the concept of "existence". While this prominence fits the overal emphasis of phenomenological ontology on "what is" it is not immediately clear how it could be conducive for the aspired concreteness of existential analysis. Indeed, the word "being" in the sense of "whatever is" represents the most general meaning (like "thing") one can think of. But Sartre uses the term "being" predominantly in the distinctive sense of "what grounds" something (for instance, "the being of consciousness"). This is still a metaphysical usage (it is no coincidence that "being" has had such a long and rich metaphysical career), but Sartre had several good reasons to adopt this metaphysical terminology via German philosophy (Hegel and Heidegger). The most important one is that it was very helpul in avoiding the traditional Cartesian duality of subject and object. Once the ghost of dualism was averted it was possible to regard man as a concrete totality in the sense of "being-in-the-world".
Cleavage: Sartre begins his exposition in the Introduction with a general concept of "being", but soon divides it into two regions: "being-in-itself" and "being-for-itself". This division is Hegelian by its origin (The Logic introduces this distinction to show how it is instantly mediated). Sartre however thinks that the chasm is in fact unbridgeable. This finding might arouse associations with the Cartesian dualism of body and soul (or extended and thinking substance respectively). A dualism of this kind is, of course, not what Sartre would like to end up with. Thus he raises the question Descartes once had to face: How to establish the connection between the two?
Methodology: Descartes' suggestion to go through imagination is not a viable option (Sartre is not interested in correlation of the mind and the body and he does not conceive imagination the way Descartes did). But he values Descartes' methodological advise: "It is not profitable first to separate the two terms of a relation in order to try to join them together again later." Since the relation at stake is one of synthesis the moments of the synthesis cannot be used to re-connect the results of analysis (this would be a fallacy of composition).
Note: If the synthesis of the two regions of being is not possible in principle it is understandable why Sartre contends that human reality is "by nature an unhappy consciousness with no possibility of surpassing its unhappy state". Read skeptically these lines seem to refer to Hegel's attempt to overcome the abstract opposition of being and nothing first in "becoming" and then in "being-for-self". Sartre suspected a kind of circulus in the Logic of Hegel emerging with the claim that negativity lies in the heart of Being and that an ideal being is a synthesis of being and nothing.
Abstraction: An abstraction is made when something not capable of existing in isolation is thought of as in an isolated state (M. Laporte).
By definition ab-stractum is something extracted or separated from its original whole. For instance, red is an abstraction because it cannot exist without something which bears it as its property (a red hood).
This is already the old Aristotle, although Sartre refers here to Husserl.
Concretion: The concrete, conversely, is a totality which can exist by itself alone. For instance, a thing with all its determinations, located in space and time. (Con-cretum in Latin denotes the unity of both the material and formal components. This is also Aristotle - think of his notion of synolon.)
Application: If we apply this classical criteria of concreteness on consciousness and the phenomenon then we have to regard them both as abstract. The former has its ontological source in the realm of the "in-itself" (consciousness is always consciousness of some-body), the latter presupposes a consciousness for which it appears as a phenomenon.
Therefore to begin with "experience" as Kant did who inquired into the conditions of possibility for something to be given to our consciousnes is as abstract as the phenomenological reduction of Husserl who reduces the world to "the state of the noema-correlate of consciousness". Starting from these abstractions is not possible to restore the concrete by a reverse summation (adding the moments that have been previously taken away). Otherwise Spinoza would be able to reach substance by summing up all its modes and attributes.
Synthetic Totality: The concrete can be only "the synthetic totality" of which consciousness and phenomenon are the moments. So the concrete would be a man within the world (Heidegger's "being-in-the world"). Hence Sartre decides to focus his attention on the phenomenological description of the totality that "man-in-the-world" represents. This description leads from abstract concepts to the concrete which is rather a result than a simple illustration.




Constitution: Sartre defines human consciousness in terms of nothigness in order to emphasize the rift between the mode of things and the mode of human existence. To say in a traditional way that man is an animal endowed with reason blurs, for Sartre, the main point: that human consciousness is not just a part of the universal order of being - it constitutes the world and that order itself. This constitution is rendered possible by virtue of the nothigness of consciousness which in the form of "a lack of identity" provides the condition for the possibility of self-deception ("bad faith"). Without the "lack of identity" it would not be possible to attain self-awareness and the world would consist only of the being-in-itself (= things).
Synthetic Principle: But without the syntehtic ability of consciousness that world would be non-existent. Even the principle of identity (A=A), which traditionally figures as an analytic (logical) principle, represents, for Sartre, a work of consciousness and is therefore in its nature synthetic.



Double Negativity: Sartre starts this section by claiming two things:
(1) Man discloses "negativities" (negatites) in the world.
(2) Man takes negative attitudes with respect to himself.
Note: The French negatite should be rendered literaly as "negativity" but the word has assumed very strong evaluative (and inappropriate) connotations in English. Hence it is sometimes preferable to resort to the less ontologically grounded term "negation" althugh it suggests arouses associations with the realm of judgments whereas Sartre means both deficiences and existing absences.
Types of Negativity
Non-Identity: (I) The Inherent Negativity of Consciousness:
Statement (1) refers to human consciousness which introduces the "Not" (differentiation) in the previously amorphous plenitude of the world. The "question" from "now that we have examined the meaning of the 'question'..." refers to questioning as the way how consciousness reflectively acts and makes negation possible ("no", "not", "nothingness") .
Furthermore, Sartre hints at the fact that consciousness itself is never fully identical to itself as it always has to do something else with its own facticity. Its being always goes beyond something, so much so that Sartre rather calls it "nothingness". What makes the being of consciousness special is that it is conscious of "the nothigness of its being".
Explicit Denial: (II) The External Negativity of Consciousness:
(A) Consciousness can envision a negativity with regard to others and proclaim it as a ban. It is typically manifested in the form of a prohibition or a veto that denies a future transcendence to others from without.
Implicit Not: (B) Sartre focuses here rather on the "nihilation" that consciousness itself represents for others. He maintains that this negation is not "explicative" as the first one. Consciousness, simply by being a real human consciousness, could appear as the negation of possibility which another human reality projects. For instance, the negation of a slave's freedom is visible in the way how the master looks upon the slave. In this case it assumes the mode of a "Not" without being made explicit. This "Not" is embodied in different social roles or professions (masters, guards, caretakers, overseers, goalers). Sartre is very sensitive toward the gallery of various oppresive functions.
Two Types: The bearers of this "Not" are twofold:
(a) Those who represent certain Not and live as embodied restrictions or prohibitions.
(b) Those who develop their subjectivity as "a perpetual negation" (Scheler's "men of resentment").
Subtle Negations: (III) More Subtle Negativity of Consciousness:
Apart from these outward negations, directed toward others, Sartre is particularly interested in the more "subtle" kinds of behavior that also display the negation of consciousness.
Irony: Sartre here mentions "irony" which he defines as a kind of anihilation of what is posited in one and the same act. In saying that irony "affirms to deny and denys to affirm" he obviously refers to that structural feature of this "figure" which creates two levels of meaning by mentioning only one. Thus irony "creates a positive object which has no being other than its nothigness".
Self-Negation: (IV) Self-denying Forms of Consciousness:
But irony is also directed toward others, unless it assumes the form of self-irony. Sartre wants to examine precisely the attitudes of negation toward the self. This requires a different focus. But he does not want to discuss the attitude of self-negation in its general form. The manifestations of "self-negation" are so diverse that any attempt to find out their common form would come out very abstract and uninformative.
Transcendental Question: The only all-embracing aspect of various "self-negations" is the question:
What is the being of man who has the possibility of denying himself?
Note: This question may suggests that Sartre is going to give a thorough phenomenological description of such a man. In reality he wants to define the universal conditions of possibility for self-denying acts of consciousness.
Bad Faith: Instead of trying to spell out general characteristics of self-negation Sartre chooses to single out one characteristic form of self-negation which is "essential to human reality". That form he finds in the mechanism of "bad faith" which thus becomes the main object of his analysis.
Falsity: Sartre starts his study of "bad faith" (movaise foi) with the assertion that "bad faith" is frequently identified with "falsehood" (falsite). This identification is acceptable for Sartre only in a very qualified sense. "Bad faith" is defined as "lying to oneself" and lying is assumed to be a kind of falsity.

Note: We use the word "falsity" as the general term for all deviations from the truth and all forms of lying, while reserving "falsehood" only for the neutral, harmles lie committed out of ignorance. Logic and epistemology are after the conditions of truth, and therefore they deal with falsehood mostly insofar as it is an unintended fallacy. Hence they study falsehood only cursorily leaving aside lying and falsity as a kind of "negative attitude". These criteriological disciplines are very careful to avoid the usage of the "strong" word "lie", not only because they want to be politically correct, but first and foremost because they regard lying as a psychological moment of falsity. In contrast, existential theory pays attention precisely to the neglected pragmatic, psychological and social aspects of falsity. It turns out that lying is much more interesting than telling the truth. It is much more complex and diverse and also more common (studies show that we lie 10 to 15 times a day). In a way, man is a being who can lie and who lies on very different levels (PR specialists, commercials, history books, media). Insofar Sartre's focus on lying is not misplaced and exaggerated.
The Gamut of Lying: Sartre sharply distinguishes "lying in general" from "lying to oneself". In order to demonstrate the magnitude of this difference he undertakes a very elaborate phenomenological analysis of various kinds of lying. Within that spectrum falsehood is distinguished from "lying in general" as a kind of unintended error.
Ideal Lie: Lying is an example of "negative attitude" (it negates the truth by producing something else "beyond" it, something "transcendent" which does not exist). The lie aims at this transcendence while leaving the consciousness of the liar untouched. In fact, "the original negation" in liar's mind rests on a truth. Lying that A is not A presupposes the truth that A equals A. "The essence of the lie implies in fact that the liar actually is in complete possession of the truth which he is hiding."
Cynicism: Sartre believes that the consciousness of a liar in this sense is "a cynical consciousness", which knows the truth inside but still denies it otwardly along with its denial ("doubly negative attitude"). The negation of truth is executed "in words" and appears as an external event in the world. But this negation does not affect the consciousness which within itself clearly separates the lie from the truth. Therefore "the inner disposition" of the liar remains positive.

Note: A cynical consciousness knows that things are bad, but surmises that they cannot be better. It claims that nothing could be done to improve the conditions although it knows that something needs to be done. The inner affirmation of the truth for myself is therefore correlative for the cynical consciousness with the external affirmation of the lie. Of course, cynical lying and cynicism are not abosultely equivalent phenomena.
Deceit: A liar is intent to deceive others, but he is aware of that intention and he does not hide it from himself. On the contrary, he can always decide to resort to a "secondary behavior" outside of the original context (or even change the story and "turn the page" altogether). His public assurances ("I'd never want to deceive you! This is true. I swear it!") entail an "inner negation", but the liar ascribes it not to himself but to the character he is playing before the "consumer" of his lie. This character is not him, for he knows well the truth and this lie does not put into the play the inner structure of his consciousness.
One should note that the acted character remains transcendent with regard to the consciousness of the liar. Strictly speaking he does not exist, he is a fabrication of consciousness as is the object of the lie. In no way does it affect the inner structure of liar's consciousness. Lie in this sense is totally "a behavior of transcendence" - it affects only others. The liar has open recourse to his consciousness and he exercises "a regulatory control" over all possible attitudes including handy explanations in case that the lie does not "fly" or is exposed.
Note: As J. Catalano explains in his Commentary of Being and Nothingness (1976), the term transcendence applied to a lie has two meanings: (1) A lie is "transcendent" because it is "directed beyond, or outside, one subject to another", and (2) its basis (its potential truth) is "outside the nature of consciousness" (p.79).
Error: In contrast to the conscious intention to distort something Sartre points out that "a man does not lie about what he is ignorant of; he does not lie when he spreads an error of which he himself is the dupe; he does not lie when he is mistaken." This is a strong indication that there is a difference between a lie and a mistake. Although Sartre does not make explicitly all necessary terminological distinctions it seems that we are not permitted to identify the lie as he describes it with falsity in the sense of mistake or error. Therefore it advisable to reserve the more neutral term "falsehood" for unintended false statements and to move to other forms of lying.
Common Lie: It seems that "the ideal lie" needs to be distinguished from "common" (or "popular") lie as well. The major difference pertains to the condition of liar's consciousness. According to Sartre, "common lie" partially affects the liar who falls prey to it. We should certainly give Sartre credit for an undogmatic psychological observation when he allows that a liar could himself start believing in his lie. Reasons for this state of half-persuadeness could vary, but the fact is that a clear cut separation between the consciousness and the lie does not always exist. Sartre admits this but he contends that these forms of lie are "degenerate aspects" of "ideal lying". He places them as "intermediaries" between "falsehood" (mistake) and "bad faith".
Being-with-others: Lie in its ideal form is possible only within certain social context. It requires the Other. In this sense Sartre says: "The lie is also a normal phenomenon of what Heidegger calls the 'Mitsein'." = Being-with-others. Lie both requires the existence of others and commonly occurs between me and others.
Presuppositions: Being-with-others as a precondition for lying includes at least four aspects of social space:
(1) My existence
(2) The existence of the Other
(3) My existence for the Other
(4) The existence of the Other for me
Necessary Conditions: More specific conditions for lying are stated as follows:
(A) An over-all opacity must hide my intentions from the Other (otherwise everybody could read my thoughts as an open book and lying would fail);
(B) The Other must be able to take the lie for truth (if nobody is ready to buy the lie it will not sell).

Note: J. Catalano breaks down the first condition into two: I must believe into something and I must say to another the opposite of what I believe. If we interpret the "over-all opacity" in this way, then Sartre is right in claiming "it is sufficient" that these two conditions are met to have a lie; otherwise A and B will be only "necessary" conditions.
Functioning: (x) By means of a lie consciousness makes itself "hidden from the Other". Consciousness affirms its concealed existence by producing the lie.
(y) Consciousness takes advantage of the "ontological duality" that exists between myself (1) and "myself in the eyes of the Other" (3). I treat (perceive) the other as an object (in itself) while the other takes me fro what I am not. The phrase "myself in the eyes of the Other" refers to an "acted myself" that a liar creates for others.
Viability: The social space makes lying possible and accounts for circumstance that lying is a conscious project. There is no difficulty in claiming that a liar must do both: (i) pursue the project of the lie "in entire clarity", and (ii) possess "a complete comprehension of the lie and of the truth which he is altering". (See the first colum in the chart below!)
Bad Faith
Comparison: (A) Based on the foregoing analysis of lying Sartre now tries to explain more closely the device of "bad faith". He immediately notices some similarities with "the structure of falsehood" (lying) in general: The person who "practices bad faith" is hiding something as does any liar. The concealment of "bad faith" is twofold: either a "displeasing truth" is supressed or a "pleasing untruth" endorsed. The subject of "bad faith" also needs the shield of opacity over his consciousness. As in the case of lying to others, "there must be an original intention" of performing "bad faith".

(B) But Sartre also quickly notes significant differences between ideal lying and "bad faith". The most important one is that "in bad faith it is from myself that I am hiding the truth". Consequently, there is no "duality of the deceiver and the deceived" in the form of myself being opposed to the Other. In "bad faith" I do not deceive others nor do they deceive me. The being-with-others plays only a secondary role, as a reservoir of situations that I may choose to handle by means of "bad faith". Because of that the above stated presuppositions and conditions of lying do not apply mechanically to "bad faith". This necessitates a more specific description of bad faith:
Nature of Bad Faith:
Is a negation (denial of oneself).
Is a falsity (self-deception).
Falsity of Bad Faith:
Is not a lie and it is a lie.
Is not a lie for the other who would take it for truth.
It is a lie for oneself.
Original Project: In general, "bad faith" is not induced from without, one cannot contract "bad faith" as a desease nor can one enter into it as if it were "a state" of mind. Based on this circumstance Sartre advances the thesis that "there must be an original intention and a project of bad faith".
Specifics: If "bad faith" is a project, as Sartre now contends, then the bearer of that project must know what he is doing all along (in other words, he must have "a comprehension of bad faith as such"). We can also easily glean a preson's reasons for resorting to "bad faith" if it is really the case that "bad faith" hides "a displeasing truth" or presents as truth "a pleasing untruth". But the most important trait of the person who performs "bad faith" is that his knowledge must also include "a pre-reflective apprehension of consciousness as affecting itself with bad faith". For the person who lies and the person to whom the lie is told are one and the same. Amazingly, the deception of "bad faith" occurs in "the unity of a single consciousness" (or "in the unitary structure of a single project") which both produces the deception and succumbs to it while possessing the awareness of the truth. Sartre formulates the unitarian character of the "bad faith project" as follows: "I must know in my capacity as deceiver the truth which is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived."
Note: Due to this duality the Sartrean concept of "bad faith" excludes both a trivial distribution of truth and lie in different life stages (different points of time) and a pathological cohabitation of two separate personalities within the self (a la dr. Jackil and Mr. Hyde).
Two-in-One: The foregoing description of "bad faith" presents two major problems. The first is that it requires one and the same person to appear in the opposing roles of a deceiver and and the decieved. Thus the person in bad faith has to perform two contradictory actions. I must know the truth since I am lying and at the same time I must not know it since I am being deceived. More precisely, "I must know the truth very exactly in order to conceal it more carefully". In other words, to be successful in lying to myself, I have to perform these opposing actions as both the condition of possibility for "bad faith" and its inner impossibility. Hence, after explaining the absence of the "lying" duality (= ontological duality) in "bad faith" Sartre raises the question: "How then can the lie subsist if the duality which conditions it is supressed?" The lie requires the duality of the deceiver and the deceiver but bad faith denies precisely this duality.

From the foregoing description it clearly follows that the person who affects himself with "bad faith" must be aware of his "bad faith". To support this conclusion Sartre refers to his dictum that "the being of consciousness is consciousness of being". Consciousness is always consciousness of something and at the same time "non-positional consciousness of itself". In other words, as consciousness is self-referential and pre-reflective it is not possible to do something that involves your consciousness without being conscious of it. Since Sartre believes that consciousness must be totally transparent to itself the aforementioned difficulty now turns into a real paradox and this no matter whether the self-awareness of "bad faith" takes the form of cynical lie or "good faith". In both cases "bad faith" is rendered impossible.

(A) Bad Faith cannot be Cynical Lie: Briefly put, bad faith is a lie to myself although I cannot lie to myself deliberately. If I try to lie to me cynically the attempt fails immediately for the very simple reason that I cannot but unveil the falsity of the content that I am trying to forge: "the lie falls back and collapses beneath my look; it is ruined from behind by the very consciousness of lying to myself which pitilessly constitutes itself well within my project as its very condition".
(B) Bad Faith cannot be Good Faith: By its very name bad faith must be different from good faith. The problem is that it presupposes and requires good faith if it is conscious of itself. "It appears that I must be in good faith, at least to the extent that I am conscious of my bad faith." But then my bad faith is overcome by good faith, or good faith supervenes on bad faith, which is absurd and excludes the very reality of bad faith. If I must possess good faith in order to be able to fall into bad faith then my state of mind is contradictory in itself and my consciousness is rendered impossible ("this whole psychic system is anihilated").

Problem: In view of these difficulties, the question arises how such a psychic system could exist in the first place. If lying to oneself occurs within one and the same consciosness which unites the deciver and the decieved and this consciousness is prereflectively aware of the deceit which it is trying to "sell" to itself, then it becomes very difficult to maintain such a consciousness. How then is bad faith possible? Maybe it is just a Sartre's fiction?
Self-Deception Sartre has not discovered a new phenomenon - he has only named and thoroughly analyzed a longstanding experience of self-deception. However, the possibility of self-deception has been always taken as self evident. Demosthenes , for instance, claimed that "the easiest thing pf all is to deceive one's self". Sartre sees here a problem: How can I buy the lie that I disclose as a lie? Or conversely, how can I be deceived if I am not in ignorance? But how can I deceive myself while knowing that I deceiving myself?
Contradiction: No, it is very real, though as real as the difficulty to understand it. "We can neither reject nor comprehend bad faith". We cannot dismiss something that possesses evident reality but we cannot comprehend something which is in itself contradictory. What is the solution? How bad faith could be understood? Could it be understood at all?
Unconscious: In order to avoid the problem of having to posit in one and the same person two opposing roles, psychoanalysis entirely avoids the notion of bad faith. To be able to explain how one can believe his own lies psychoanalysis introduces the duality of the Id and Ego and takes recourse to the unconscious which allegedly functions as "a lie without a liar". The Id burries the truth in itself which remains hidden from the Ego. But Sartre retorts that whichever instance performs the lie (Id, Ego or something in between) it must be aware of its deception. "How could the censor discern the impulses needing to be repressed without being conscious of discerning them?" If so this awareness must be present in our consciousness. Psychoanalysis only circumvents the problem by establishing another consciousness in bad faith without naming it explicitely (Sartre calls it the "censor"). Moreover, by separating the Id from our consciousness psychoanalysis treats the Self as the Other and cannot regain the "conscious unity of the psyche".
Translucency: Sartre rejects the idea that I approach my consciuosness as the Other. My consciousness, if it is mine, must be "intimate" to me. Despite its transcendet character it is translucent to me. And it is unitary although not a priori. This does not mean that I could not be wrong in interpreting my awareness.
Note 1:
In this vein Sartre interprets the case of "a frigid woman" as reported by Steckel: she is in bad faith because she rejects to be present when she really experiences sexual pleasure. Thus she hides the true nature of her disorder both from herself and the therapist. But how a patient can develop strategies to avoid self-insight if she is not aware of the truth?
Note 2: The thesis of "translucency" is formulated both against Descartes' claim that we perceive ideas as objects and Freud's idea of unconscious censorship. If there is no mediation (distinction) between knowing and what is known on the prereflective level, then nothing could be hidden from my consciousness.
Precariousness: If the unconscious conciousness is not possible due to the translucent character of consciousness how can we deceive ourselves? To be sure, the failure of psychoanalysis by itself does not solve the problem It only reaffirms its persistence and highlights its complexity. In pointing to its intricacies Sartre has not invented a non-existing phenomenon. On the contrary, he has alerted everyone both to its reality and contradictory character. If the mechanism of bad faith is contradictory in itself a good analysis should not do away with its inner tensions. Perhaps these tensiions are the very essence of "bad faith". They both constitute and implode the psychic structure of bad faith. Bad faith is definitely a very "precarious" phenomenon. How can we comprehend a paradox? It is not possible. But we can live a paradox. It is no accident that Sartre is much more convincing in describing the reality of bad faith than in explaining its possibility.
Evanescence: The fact that something is contradictory in itself does not make it less real. By the same token the fact that bad faith is not stable does not render it non-existent. Sartre acknowledges that bad faith is both a "paradoxical" and "evanescent" phenomenon but he insists that it is very real and common. It is particularly characteristic for the so called "metastable" psychic structures (the structures that are subject to sudden changes or transitions). Although very common and frequent, "bad faith" could not be fixated because it "vacillates continually between good faith and cynicims". Bad faith is "in between" and it exists only by differentiating itself from good faith and a straight lie. A person can live in bad faith (bad faith is even "the normal aspect of life for a great number of people") but he can have outbursts of cynicism or good faith as well. This could immensely confuse the observer, but is not surprising given the fundamental free character of our projects.
Based on the analysis from section 4, which locates the phenomenon of bad faith in the context of different forms of lying (falsity), we can produce the following chart:

The Spectrum of Falsity

Type Ideal Lie Cynicism Bad faith Dishonesty Popular Common Lie Falsehood Mistake Error Truth
Good faith
Consciousness Not affected Self-induced Half-persuaded Fully persuaded Self-Translucency
Position of Deceit Transcendent Immanent Half-internalized Fully internalized Sincerety**
Direction of Lie Others Oneself Both oneself (less) and others (more)* Both oneself (more) and
others (less)*
Viability As Deception. Self-defeating Paradox of Lying No paradox. Paradox of Sincerety


* In the case of popular lying the liar's consciousness becomes affected at least partially because he himself becomes the victim of his own lie he (starts to believe it in order not to perceive himself as a hypocrat). Conversely, a person who spreads an unintentional lie (mistake) is affected himself more intensively with his own falsehood while the others are affected by it only secondarily insofar as they believe it.
**At first glance one could be surprised that the above chart of various forms of falsity includes striving for truth and sincerety as well. The justification for this strange taxonomy is not just formal (truth as the zero degree of lie) but substantial. As Sartre shows by the end of the next section, the project of "good faith" and sincerety implies a striving to be ultimately self-identical with itself, that is to become "something" and so to escape from our own nothingness. This striving is nothing else but a form of "bad faith".



Description: In section 5 Sartre suggests to handle the difficulty involved in positing two contradictory actions in one and the same person by examining "more closely" the patterns of bad faith. In contrast to psychoanalysis he does not promise an instant solution for the difficulty, but intimates that a "full flesh and blood" phenomenological description could "perhaps" reveal the "conditions of possibility of bad faith" and so explain how something that resists understanding can still exist. The answer to this "transcendental" question would illuminate the initial question: "What must be the being of man if he is to be capable of bad faith?"
A Coquette: In order to be able to illustrate the dynamic of bad faith in its internal tensions Sartre brilliantly analyses the conduct of a woman who has accepted a date without wanting to engage herself in a relationship. She wants to go out and enjoy the attention of his companion including his sexual advances, but she cannot admit to herself that she just want to have a good time and that she will be "advanced" to sexuality. Instead she engages herself in a whole series of signifying transformations that either cover the reality of her situation or lend it an entirely idealistic meaning.
Note: Even those who do not feel any affinity for Sartre's philosophical style and his ontology admit that his phenomenological analysis of "bad faith" is very interesting and penetrating.
Operation One: The woman recognizes only the immediate, the present and the literal (explicit) meaning of the situation, while rejecting or supressing all ideal, figurative and transcendent connotations.
Description: She does not want to recognize that this date is "the first approach" in the looming relationship. She reduces the date to a hang out in a restaurant and does not recognize any implicit signals and messages that could point to something in the future (no "temporal development", only "nows" disconnected from "possibilities"). She restricts everything in the situation to what is immediately present and just physically visible. She translates the compliments she recieves ("you are so attractive") into neutral mention of objective features. She transforms the interlocutor into a regular, decent guy who states certain qualities of her physique as he would describe the colors of surrounding objects.
Operation Two: The woman rejects all real and present attributes of the growing desire and recognizes instead only the transcendent, lofty and respectable motives and implications of her consent.
Description: The woman knows very well why the man invited her out and she knows very well that his intentions include his sexual desires. But she disregards his visible desire and focuses solely on what is respecful and discreet in his behavior. She chooses to interpret the attention as referring only to her personality, which is tantamount to a recognition of her freedom. "She refuses to apprehend the desire for what it is; she does not even give it a name; she recognizes it only to the extent that it transcends itself toward admiratiom, esteem, respect and that is wholy absorbed in the more refined forms which it produces, to the extent of no longer figuring anymore as a sort of warmth and density".
Divided: Not only that she knows both the intentions and the desires she inspires. She needs them and paradoxically wants them despite her refusal to take them into account. An unmediated, directly expressed desire would probabaly "horrify" and "humiliate" her, but she would be equally disappointed and humiliated if the man would not desire her sexually. In that case she would be reduced to an object of abstract appreciation and her "attractive body" would have been ignored. She both wants and does not want the naked desire. In that sense Sartre says that "she does not quite know what she wants".
Decision: The woman knows that every "going out" with a man who does not hide his intentions will require from her to make a decision sooner or later. But she does not want to recognize the urgency of that decision. She wants to postpone it as long as possible to be able to extend the moment (insofar as it is not binding) into "a permanence".
But what to do when the plot becomes so thick that no delay seems to be possible any longer (her partner takes her hand)? If she leaves her hand under his this would mean only one thing, the acceptance of the flirt. On the other hand, if she withdraws her hand, the charm of the moment will be gone. She finds the solution that prolongs the moment: she chooses not to notice that her hand is resting on the table embraced by her companion's hand.
Divorce: The outcome is that her own hand becomes estranged to her, separated from her and left as an inert mass on the table. It has become a thing, deprived of any meaning. On the opposite side of this divorce (self-separation) she turns into a pure spirit: "she draws her companion up to the most lofty regions of sentimental speculation; she speaks of Life (a platonic Form), of her life, she shows herself in her essential aspect - a personality, a consciousness."
Diagnosis: The woman is in bad faith and uses both operations to "maintain herself in bad faith". (1) She "disarms" the actions of her companion by reducing them to the mode of "the in-itself" (objectivity). (2) And she enjoys his desire in the mode of what it is not (ideality). By the same token, (1) she reduces her own body to a mere inanimate object and (2) she separates herself from it as if she were a pure intellect.
Structure: Despite the complexity of "bad faith", its evanescent character and the immense variety of its manifestations, Sartre belives that it could be analyzed (not only phenomenologically described) as a structured phenomenon. This is the reason why he asks the following question: "What unity do we find in these various aspects of bad faith?" His answer is that bad faith is "a certain art of forming contradictory concepts which unite in themselves both an idea and the negation of that idea". These concepts are not abstract and arbitrary ideas, but concepts that articulate the self-understanding of man.
Duality: Thus the above question turns again to the starting question: "What must be the being of man if he is to be capable of 'bad faith'?" In order to answer this question in the light of the ability to produce inherently contradictory concepts we need to realize that for Sartre (as well as for all existentialists) man is a duality of different aspects and forces. As he puts it, man is "at once a facticity and a transcendence".
This "at once" was understood by Hegel as a "unity" and "synthesis" of polarities. Kierkegaard rejected the idea that we can ever reconcile the tension between the eternal and the temporal or the one between infinity and finitude. Sartre is also skeptical about the possibility of attaining a final and ultimate synthesis of human existence, but he believes that man is at least capable of validly "coordinating" the opposing tensions and poles of his reality. Conversely, bad faith consists precisely in the refusal to unite and coordinate the opposing aspects of human reality. The outcome is a separation of different human dimensions and a disintegration of human totality into opposing forces.
Facticity Transcendence
Substitution: Bad faith not only separates and keeps apart these polarities; it also confounds them and gives them out for what they are not. It conveniently slides from one opposite to another (for instance, from "naturalistic present" to "lofty transcendence") and vice versa. In the sense of "sliding back and forth" from transcendence to facticity it is really a kind of "double-dealing". Thus, instead of coordinating the inevitably different aspects of human existence it exchanges them freely under false stamps: it affirms "facticity as being transcendence and transcendence as being facticity". The ultimate stage in the ideological operation performed by bad faith is the public (external) affirmation of their identity which only preserves their separation and misleads the person about the real character of the events.
Prototype: Sartre illustrates how a false unification of an idea along with its negation works in certain adages and catchy titles. He demonstrates effectively that these maximlike phrases reveal a duplicity of facticity and transcendence which they either arrest in the mode of facticity or elevate into non-existing transcendence. In this sense they can serve as the prototype of formulae of bad faith.
Unification 1:
Love is much more than Love.

Transcendent Love
Emotional, Yearning,
Spiritual, Intuitive
Present Love
Sensual, Physical,
Jealous, Egoistic
  It is nice to point that love should not be reduced to its prosaic forms, but pointing to its more sublime aspects lacks any coordination with the real love. Thus, by saying something seemingly profound and "nice" we in fact perform a typical bad faith operation in order to replace and redeem the factual love as struggle for a metaphysical love that is an illusionary love.
Unification 2:
I am too great for myself.

Transcendent Me Factual Existence
  This statement promisses to a person that he is more than what he is. This is true, but if this "more" ("too great") is based only on sheer possibilities, then it functions as bad faith because it replaces reality with an imagined transcendence.
Unification 3:
He has become what he was.

Eternity at last changes each man into himself.



  Statement 3a could be viewed as a continuation or fullfilment of the promise expressed in statement 2. The transcendence has become facticity and so rendered non-existent. As compensation the person is expected to regard this reduction as an accomplishment that brings all potentials to their final realization. But the statement does not reveal the decisive point that from now on the person does not have any future: he has become mere actuality. Saying 3b extends the same idea beyond time and sugests that if not now, in real life, then at the end of time or beyond time everything comes to its own.
Note: Sartre does not claim that these sayings really express bad faith of their authors. The intention of those who have conceived them was probably to perplex readers the way Zen koans typically do: by throwing out a paradoxical formulation you may shock and embarass people but also entice them to think afresh. But they are formulated in a way that indicates a possible internal rift or even disintegration of opposing aspects ("they are formed so as to remain in perpetual disintegration") and insofar they could be adduced to illustrate the mechanism of bad faith.
Use: The above quoted formulations are suitable to be used as self-deceptive devices of bad faith precisely because they negate the idea which they at the same time posit. They all indicate that something is not what it is, which might be true in a qualified sense. But when they simply suggest without any restrictions that a man is not what he is, they open a window that could be easily used to flee away from reality and responsibility. Once I remove myself from what I am and what I do, I exempt myself entirely from any criticism and self-criticism. The outcome is that I leave my reality behind me and assume my transcendence (that is to say, what I am not) as my real self. What is left belongs to the realm of explanations that account for the reality of what I am not. Therefore, so reads the deceptive message, these explanations could not be regarded as mere excuses for alleged failures.
Flight: This move, illusionary as it is, could be very instrumental in avoiding responsibility and fleeing from yourself. But it solves problems by creating new weak points. I claim that I am not there where I am in order to place myself beyond all reproaches, external or my own. But I claim that I am pure transcendence and contemplation in "the mode of being a thing". The transcendence that I now claim as my real self consists of selected components of the present, it is an extrapolation of one frozen moment and segment of reality and thus possible only as an object and objectifying image ("arrested transcendence"). In other words, in allowing separation (= excuses) it anihilates that for the sake of which it was invented: my free, living and undefined personality. Therefore all these "transcending" sayings are not different from a reductionist formula: "He has attained the end for the sake of which he was born." As Aristotle remarks in the Physics, this is an absurd statement about a man, because the end for man could be only what is best (meaning, orientation toward improvement), not just a physical death.
Condition: Now we understand what is the condition of possibility of bad faith: self-referential nature of human consciousness which makes human reality a being "which is what it is not" and "not what it is". Precisely because human reality is both "what it is" and "what it is not" it is possible to affirm facticity as transcendence and transcendence as facticity.
Note: This does not explain how bad faith works as lying to oneself. In the next section entitled "The 'Faith' of Bad Faith" Sartre offers some hins that are supposed to answer the question how it is possible to hide the lie of bad faith from consciousness (Cf. R. Santoni, "Bad Faith and 'Lying to Oneself'").
Duplicity: The meta-stable interplay of "transcendence" and "facticity" is just one mechanism of bad faith. It uses many other forms of duplicity (duality) of human reality. Sartre mentions several: transcendence - facticity, self-perception - perception by others, being-for-itself - being-for-others, inert presence - being-in-the world, being what I have been - not being what I have been.
Transcendence Facticity
Self-perception Perception by others
Being-for-itself Being-for-others
Being-in-the world Being-in-the midst-of-the-world
Being what you are not Being what you are
Future Present/Past
Perpetual Game: These aspects of human reality do not stand in the relation of "being" and "appearance", as if one represented essence and the other mere surface. They are both true, but only conjointly because of the dual character of human existence. This is what Sartre means with his expression "the equal dignity of being possessed by my being-for-others and by my being-for-myself". These concepts have only "a transitive role" in self-explication, but bad faith perpetually performs either a "disintegrating synthesis" of their opposing aspects or a "reversible escape" from one to another pole of the opposition.
Temporal Ekstases: Sartre pays special attention to the breaks and halts within the totality of an individual's growth, no matter where do they exactly occur on the continuum between an obssessive appropriation of the past and feverish escapism into the future. There are people who want to be only what they have been (youngsters or lovers) and those who perpetually re-create themselves by claiming that they are not what they have been (engaging themselves in constant search of their new self, new profession, outlook, place, partner).
Dialectic: If we want to deal with human reality in its entirety we have to treat it both "as a being which is what it is not and which is not what it is." This does not mean that nothing can be said about human existence, only that it cannot be arrested at any point and still truly represent what somebody is. From this one can legitimately reach the conclusion that the phenomena of bad faith are transitory and transitional despite Sartre's claim that there is an initial project of bad faith. Does this mean that we go from one form of bad faith to another without ever being able to really break up the continuum of self-deception? Sartre answers this question indirectly by showing that it is never possible to truly attain the opposite of bad faith as a permanent condition of consciousness.



  The remaining part of the fourth section is dedicated to a dialectical analysis of the ideal of good faith. Sartre shows that the acceptance of the ideal of sincerety inevitably leads to bad faith and that consequently it is not possible to attain good faith as a separated condition of consciousness, something entirely exempt from the effects of bad faith.
Sincerety: Let us clarify the dialectic of good faith by asking what is its position and function in human reality? Admittedly, good faith is the "good" antithesis of bad faith. It manifests itself as sincerety which is regarded as a kind of human ideal. From all sides we hear calls to be honest and candid with ourselves and others. We also have the same expectation from others and in general we regard sincerety as a praiseworthy virtue. The more so as it seems to be always in short supply.
Demand: The fact that sincerety is something desirable (or required) reveals that it is more a demand than a state of affairs. Despite so many evidence to the contrary we still assume that it is an attainable ideal. Both in dealing with others and in dealing with ourselves. But is it? Let's see.
Meaning: What does the ideal of sincerety amount to? It amounts to the demand that "a man be for himself only what he is", that is to say that candor ceases to be just an ideal and becomes our being. Thus the demand for sincerety posits not merely "an ideal of knowledge but an ideal of being": to be what one is.
Principle of Identity: This sounds nice and commendable, but Sartre points out that this demand, if realized, would be tantamount to the application of the "principle of identity" on humans. The problem is that the principle of identity is an appropriate standard for "the-in-itself" only (i.e. things), but not for men. To apply it to a man would be equal to the declaration that this man does not any longer possess human reality, for human reality cannot be objectified and reduced to the self-identity of things. Man refutes the principle of identity by existing as "consciousness of being", that is to say by surpassing every second what he is including his temporary moments of candor and admissions of bad faith. My consciousness is constantly in the making of my being. Due to its intentionality and transcendent orientation it is never what it is. My being is my consciousness whose being is what I am not.
Paradox: In order to attain the lucidity of good faith we must adopt the ideal of sincerety which in turn requires that we are only what we are. However, if we accept this ideal and realize the principle of identity accordingly, we inevitably fall into bad faith for two reasons. First, we reduce the duality of human reality to its objectified aspect, and second, we proclaim one "regional" measure (of things) as universal (embracing man as well). In this sense the ideal of good faith, insofar as it is based on the demand to be what we are, suffers from two serious defects: it is never fully realizable (possible) and it always presupposes bad faith. We ask you to be what you are because you are not what you are. Hence the opposite conclusion: in order to be able to escape bad faith at least for a moment, "the principle of identity must not represent a constitutive principle of human reality and human reality must not be necessarily what it is but must be able to be what it is not". In other words: "I am what I am not" and "I am not what I am." But this goes against the concept of sincerety and candor as constitutive for good faith. "Not being what one is" renders impossible "being what one is".
Self-Surpassing: We can never recognize ourselves as being what we are. We can never define our being as something. Whenever I determine my identity (exactly what I am) I constitute myself as a thing. But if to be like a thing is the only way to be what I am I can never be what I am. This includes my potentials as well.

The Army commercial "Be what you can be" conceals a simple demand to accept one very specific role by using a nice ambiguity: realize your true potentials and become something else, something that you could truly be - join the troops and become one (of the many).
Obligation: How can we then respond to the social and internalized obligation "to make ourselves what we are" in our eyes and in the eyes of others? This is a big problem. Sartre shows that the obligation to be what we are leads to the uncritical acceptance of role playing and ultimately to bad faith. Again the failure consists in the disintegration of two aspects of human reality: the inevitability of social roles and our freedom of choosing. Whenever role playing consumes our personality to the extent of serving as a cover or reservoir of excuses for the lack of our own responsibility the relation between our role and ourselves becomes derranged and spurious.
A Waiter: In this way Sartre interprets the way how certain people accept and perform their roles. What at first sight might appear as a strange game of impersonification is in fact an effort to realize a certain type of being: "the person who I have to be". Thus a man who is a waiter in the cafe almost necessarily has to act like a waiter (the alternative is to show ostensibly that you are not fit for the job, that you do not like it and so to arouse suspicion and dissatisfaction among customers). But the waiter does not have to be more of a waiter than he is in his human reality. If he pushes too far the ideal of sincerety enclosed within this role (to be a true waiter) he will end up imitating a kind of caricatural image which becomes unconvincing precisely because it aspires to be overly convincing.
Caricature: Thus the ideal of sincerety accomplishes the same result as bad faith in the reality of role playing: to be and to act in the mode of things and mechanisms. Because of the internalized expectation "to be just a waiter" the gestures of the person in question appear necessarily unnatural, too quick, too eager, too solicitious. This could be a self-protective reaction as well - conveying the message "I am just a waiter!" - but in both cases it becomes a form of bad faith. In the former, as a result of sincerety which accepts the existing structures as the true framework of my personality, in the latter as an outright consequence of self-deception (or excuse) for personal choices and responsibilities.
Social Roles: Sartre finds the same game of impersonification performed in other ocupations. A tradesman, a grocer, a tailor, an auctioneer are all under public pressure (expectation) to internalize their roles as their being. The public expects these people to be just their role even if that compomises their human attitude (the well known and sometimes embarassing kindness of a waiter, dental assistant or seller is what Sartre calls "the dance"). Society functions so as to develop effective mechanisms to "imprison a man in what he is" (the most notorious example would be a soldier who fixes the sight "at ten paces").
Game: The bearers of various roles often perform this social game volontarily, out of convenience or for some other reasons. Sartre concedes that the game of impersonification has partly the character of exploration (what do you find in this role? how do you feel under a different skin?) but the conditions are so ceremonial that the person eventually becomes ceremonial herself. ideally this should lead to the objectification of my "sincere" effort to be what I am (as a player). But the internal rift persists. No matter how deep we might be immersed in the role we shall always recognize ourselves both as actor and spectator (we act ourselves). It is this duality of being and not-being that characterizes the human reality as the "negative" capacity of consciousness.
Representation: A "common measure" between the being of the role and our own being produces very unique and individual results. Unconventional role playing, for instance, could be disturbing and therefore unsuccessful in its function (a grocer who dreams). Therefore the implicit demand is to envision the representation as the transcendent (including abstract possibilities) and to become this representation for others and myself. But, as Sartre points out, if I have to represent myself as him (a waiter) I am not he, I am separated from him as the object from the subject (dualism of consciousness).
Acting: There is a huge gap between me and my representation and that yawning "nothing" could be conditionally brigded only by playing the role. I can be my representation only in the way actors are their characters, that is to say by impersonating that person, which is a euphemism for trying to realize "a being-in-itself" of that person. "I am a waiter in the mode of being what I am not." Therefore I cannot eradicate my potential to reexamine my participation in this particular role, the evaluation of my position and the way how I constitute myself. In any of the roles one can "form reflective judgements or concepts concerning his condition". Consciousness always allows taking a negative distance.
Non-Identity: According to Sartre, man can never be reduced to his social positions, actions or attitudes. Because of that we always play at doing this or that in the context of social roles. I am always absent from my acts, at least partly (Sartre calls this Valery's "divine absence"). By the same token, I am here and I am not here while lecturing or listening. If by trying sincerely to be this or that I hide my responsibility for this choice as well as the possibility of taking a different course, I fall in bad faith.
Attitude: Psychological and emotional attitudes are for Sartre types of conduct not just states of mind caused by our metabolism or mental reactions. Sadness, for instance, is something that can absorb me to the extent of becoming the being of what I am. Nonetheless it is the "intenional unity" stemming from my conscious decision to make myself sad. That it is so proves the fact that I cannot hold on to it indefinitely, that I can switch to a different mood and then "recreate" it again. Therefore it is not a kind of substance ("inert body") that enters my consciousness and afterwards leaves it ("the being-sad is not a ready-made being"). It is not possible to distinguish between "my consciousness (of) being sad from sadness". Being-sad is not constitutive modality of my existence although I can make myself sad. Nevertheless I can make myself sad because I am not sad, but only in search of attaining "the being-in-itself of sadness".
Presentation: My reactions in the world are not meant just for me but are presentations for the Other. Their meaning is not a fact in the world, but something that is being constituted by an "apprehension" performed by other people. This "apprehension" is its own mediator with what is transcendent and significant. Therefore, the objective being-in-itself of the consciousness of the Other, as I see it, is at the same time posited and negated as not-being. As Sartre says, "it is at not-being".

I am both "being-in-the world" ("idiosyncratic totality") and "being-in-the midst of the world" (this refers to the objectivity of my body). My consciousness is rather an absence to the other than something which could be simply objectified (even when I am exposed to the looks of the Other). The consciousness that other people possess is "what they are not". I cannot objectify it entirely. Even less my own consciousness. The being of my consciousness is not equal to the consciousness of the Other. It is the consciousness of being. But consciousness sustains being, not the other way round. Consciousness exists by making itself "in the heart of subjectivity". Therefore it is not being and in conformity with its not-being it "is not what it is".
Note: Sartre is a heir of Descartes in focusing on consciousness and the phenomena of awareness rather than on concepts. But he rejects Cartesian monolithic and a thing-like view of consciousness. For him, consciousness is an ever changing and self-transcending state. And it is never self-identical. Its nature is "elsewhereness".

Impossibility: The original structure of consciousness as not being what it is turns into our inability to recognize ourselves as "a certain being", or to constitute ourselves as being what we are. This in turn renders impossible the ideal of sincerety which posits as a duty to be what one is. But this duty reverses the relation between "ought" and "can" (instead of saying "if you can, you ought" it says "you ought, therefore you can and must") although it itself presupposes that I am not originally "what I am" (otherwise the duty would be superfluous). Anyway, as soon as we posit ourselves as certain being we surpass that being toward nothingness (we negate that being, we are more than it or we are something else).
Change of Attitude: If sincerety is a contradictory demand then some of our typical attitudes about it become very questionable. First of all, how can we seriously try to be sincere when we know upfront that our attempt will fail anyway? And, how can we sincerely rejoice our own sincerety if we know that it turns that very moment into its opposite by the very nature of consciousness? Finally, how can we blame somebody for not being sincere if sincerety is not possible?
False Determination: If I am determined to be sincere I need to determine what I am and to become my true self. But this would mean that I am determining myself as a thing. Even if I include my purposes and motivations this will not change the mode of my objectification, for the overall picture I will get will be one of "causal determinism" ("the flow of my states of consciousness as a succession of physical states"). The more so if I resort to my drives, for they will be represented as that what has pushed me so far. Besides, they acquire their force only with my own consent, that is to say, by a perpetually renewed decision concerning their value.

A recourse to the character or nature in trying to explain a person would only serve one purpose - to conceal that my present is not the subject of my past (i.e. that it does not follow by necessity from the past). People forget this, although they typically justify their acts in this way.
(1) The same person who claims that he is what he is - does not readily assume responsibility and blame for the past invoking instead that "he can no longer be what he was". If I am what I was why I do not identify with my own past mistakes and why I do not accept reproaches for my failures?
(2) We require the accused to recognize himself as being guilty in court and we are astonished that penalties affect him in his new freedom although he is no longer the guilty person he was (he is not the same once he admits the guilt). Why do we require that the convicted person accepts to be the guilty one if it is possible to change into a different person?
In doing 1 or 2 we suggest that sincerety is a phenomenon of bad faith: "have we not shown indeed that in bad faith human reality is constituted as a being which is what it is not and which is not what it is?"

A Homosexual: Sartre illustrates how this discrepancy plays out when somebody is asked to come "out of closet" despite the pressure of the environment and an internalized feeling of guilt that urge quite the opposite.
Note: The example given by Sartre sounds a bit outdated today, but in the fourties and under German ocupation the demand to be sincere with a non-straight sexual orientation would really put a homosexual in harms ways. The prejudices against gay people were much stronger than today, especially if they were seen as "paederasts" (in Greek, "lovers of young boys", i.e. pedophile). Sartre himself falls victim to the language of his time when using evaluative terms like "mistakes", "faults", "misdeed", "guilt" in describing the considerations of the homosexual.
Reduction: At first glance the homosexual who does not want to recognize himself as a homosexual, although he must be aware of his sexual orientation, is in bad faith. Why does he then hide the truth from himself? Because that truth would be an untruth. A confession of being "a homosexual" would be for him tantamount to a reduction of his personality to his sexual orientation. He is prone to regard his case as a unique combination of factors that include as different moments as chance, "bad luck", curiosity, playfulness, etc. His sexual preferences stem from "a certain conception of the beautiful which women cannot satisfy", not from an underlying tendency or a project of being a homosexual.
Pressure: The champion of sincerety asks from the homosexual to acknowledge his homosexuality either shamefully or defiantly. In the name of sincerety he asks the man in the closet to be honest and earn his indulgence by embracing the saying: "A sin confessed is half pardoned." By insisting "that the guilty one recognizes himself as guilty" the "champion of sincerety" wants in fact to hear an assertion that is no different from the assertion that a table is a table. Thus he wants to reduce the homosexual to the being of things. Therefore in ascribing a thinglike character to the required admission he also ends up in bad faith.
A See-Saw: A homosexual rightly feels that he is immensely much more than just a homosexual, in fact, that he has escaped his determination of being a homosexual at the very moment he admits it. In truth, he is not a paederast because he, as human existence, is not what he is ("human transcendence"). The principle of identity again fails to render the truth of the human reality. But the same dialectic defeats the denial as well. The claim that someone is not a "paederast" falls back into bad faith because it denies "being a paederast" in the sense in which "this table is not an inkwell". Thus he escapes bad faith by falling into it.
Distinctivness: Sartre suggests the following distinctive formula as an attempt to overcome this see-saw of "bad" and elusive "good" faith: "To the extent that a pattern of conduct is defined as the comduct of a paederast and to the extent that I have adopted this conduct, I am a paederast. But to the extent that human reality cannot be finally defined by patterns of conduct, I am not one."
Contradiction: The champion of sincerety does not necessarily deny "the transcendence of human reality". On the contrary, he might be demanding a confession because he wants to liberate the homosexual and transfer him into the realm of freedom. But in wanting this he wants the homosexual not to be "the same as the homosexual whom he acknowledges being". Thus he himself creates a paradox: He asks the man to be what he is in order no longer to be what he is. "The critic demands of the guilty one that he constitute himself as a thing, precisely in order no longer to treat him as a thing." This contradiction is the hallmark of any demand to be sincere.
Removal of Freedom: A statement like "He's just a paederast" establishes paederasty as the essence of the man so that all his acts could be thereafter derived as its consequences. If a person's freedom is constituted as a thing that person is deprived of his/her freedom. The champion of sincerety wants to get that freedom as a gain so that he can make sure that his friend is finally what he is. But he does not notice that he is in bad faith precisely by transforming the freedom of his friend into a thing. Such a freedom is worthless even if returned. To be sure, the champion of sincerety intends to give back this freedom upon confession, but he does not realize that it cannot be returned to the same person he is now pressuring. In that sense Sartre compares this episode with the battle of consciousness described as the dialectic of mastery and slavery. The consciousness of the master seeks the recognition from the slave but what it gets is not satisfactory because it comes from an unfree consciousness (although indipendent). By demanding that the slave destroys himself as consciousness he arouses "a hope for a rebirth beyond this destruction".
Subjective Sincerety: The paradox of sincerety does not emerge only between two persons, one who demands it and another who resists (or is reluctant to heed) the demand. Sartre claims that the same structure appears in "the relations of a person with himself". Thus there is no real difference between objective sincerety based on the interplay of two sides and the subjective or "pure" sincerety. in the acse of the latter "the sincere man constitutes himselfd as a thing in order to escape the condition of a thing by the same act of sincerety". For instance, the man who confesses that he is evil suggests that he does not any longer possess the disturbing "freedom-for-evil" since he is now all evil, that is to say, "he is what he is". But he reaffirms his freedom by contemplating his being-evil and he transcends his evilness by focusing on it or even deserving merit by acknowledging it. Thus he is what he is not.
Identical Structure: If "the sincere man constitutes himself as what he is in order not to be it", then sincerety displays the same structure as bad faith. Bad faith was essentially an effort to escape from oneself. Now sincerety trades the paradox of lying to oneself while being conscious of lying for the paradox of adhering to oneself to the extent of dissociating oneself from oneself. this is the outcome of every objectifying effort no matter how exhaustive it could be in describing of what one is. Thus it is possible to end up in bad faith by pursuing sincerety.
Commonalities: Sartre demonstrates that the ideal of sincerety shares several crucial commonalities with bad faith: the goal, the temporal ekstasis and the mechanism of operation. If we distinguish between the ideal sincerety (i) and the sincerety "which bears on the past" (p) we cna represent these points in the following way:
  Sincerety p Sincerety i Bad Faith
Time The Past The Present The Present
Goal Correspondence Escape Escape
Mechanism Reflection Game of Mirrors Game of Mirrors
Result Being-in-itself Passage Passage
Confession of the Past: A sincerety which bears on the past does not present much difficulties. It is entirely possible because it reports about what one has been (or "having had"). Since this reduction to the being-in-itself pertains to the past it does not create an existential contradiction with what one is in any of the modes (not being what one is and being what one is not).
Present Immanence: The problematic (although most relevant) sincerety is the one which bears on my present existence. It brings me "to confess to myself what I am in order that I may finally coincide with my being". But this goal is self-defeating because it forces me "to be, in the mode of in-itself, what I am in the mode of 'not being what I am'". Moreover, the intention of sincerety requires that I must at the same time "be and not be what I am".
The Game of Mirrors: This contradiction necessitates "a continual game of mirror and reflection" which in its turn results in "a perpetual passage from the being which is not what it is to the being which is what it is". But this is exactly the goal of bad faith: "to be what I am, in the mode of 'not being what one is', or not to be what I am in the mode of "being what one is''. For both ideal sincerety and bad faith it is characteristic that they imply "such a nature that within my being I escape from my being". And they both encounter problems of feasibility and sustainability because human being is what it is not, or in other words, it is not just "in-itself" (the being of an inkwell).
Note: As J. Catalano notes, sincerety could work as bad faith if it uses honesty as an excuse (a cheap way of avoiding responsibility). To be sure, there is always a danger that we become honest simply by admitting dishonesty and thus pretend to be in good faith without really changing much.
Merging: If in my striving to attain the being of sincerety I have inevitably "a vague prejudicative comprehension that I shall not attain it" I am in bad faith. This means that bad faith "is possible only because sincerety is conscious of missing its goal inevitably". It is possible because the difference between being and non-being vanishes as soon as we separate human existence from what it is in the mode of not being what it is, or as Sartre puts it, if one is cut off from his project.
Feasibility: Man is "by nature" prevented from attaining the ideal of sincerety if it denotes a stable mode of being. This means that it is not strictly speaking feasible. If we compare all kinds of falsity in regard to three levels of possibility (logical, existential and pragmatic) we can represent the outcome in the following way:

The Feasibility of Falsity

Difficulty Ideal Lying Bad Faith Common Lying Falsity/Error Good Faith
Logical No problems. I lie to others. No. No admission. Some. Paradox of self-reference No. I think it is true. No.
Existential Yes. Divided, Cynical Self. Yes. Divided yet united. Weak. Bad conscience. No. Yes. Leads to the "in-itself".
Pragmatic Yes. Paradox of Universalization. Some. Mixed Messages. Some. No Maxim. Communication Problems. Potentially Upsetting.

Vanishing Point : "If I were sad or cowardly in the way in which this inkwell is an inkwell, the possibility of bad faith could not even be conceived." But I am not cowardly in this way even if I am cowardly. I have to be cowardly in some way in order for me to stop be cowardly and cease to be cowardly anymore. But I can be cowardly in my mind only on the condition that I take distance toward "being cowardly" and put it under question mark. Therefore the fundamental assumption of ideal sincerety, that there is a simple being of what I am and what I need to confess, becomes shaky. For, it is not possible to confess to "being cowardly" without questioning my cowardness in the very moment I admit it. Because of this "being cowardly" escapes when I want to apprehend it. Thus, despite my bad faith or sincerety, one can claim that "I am not this coward which I do not wish to be." The outcome: "this inapprehensible coward is evanescent."
Glimpse: Good faith seems to arise only as a momentary glimpse into one form of bad faith without ever being able to remove the veil of self-deception permanently. It is itself an evanescent phenomenon, a fleeting glimpse into ever changing reality, although it is not worthless and indistinguishable from bad faith.
As bad faith vaccilates between good faith and cynicism so sincerety vaccilates between bad faith and hypocrisy. At its best, it recognizes the ambiguous character of both reality and self-reflection and consequently rejects both the convenience of excuses and the self-complacency of its current situation.
Imponderable Difference: Both in terms of sincerety and bad faith "I must at once both be and not be totally and in all respects a coward." This means that I must be cowardly when I am not (at least in questioning my cowardness), and not cowardly when I am (in admitting cowardness). The difference is very slight, if there is any. What appeared as a sheer contradiction now turns into an imponderable difference. The point is that it applies to my "usual being" as well. For ontologically there is no big difference between "the being of 'being cowardly'", "which I am in the mode of not being what I am" and "the 'non-being' of not-being-courageous which I wish to hide from myself".
Perpetual Negation: Bad faith requires that I should not be what I am. On the other hand, it attempts to constitute my being as "being what I am not" (courageous). Thus there is a chasm between being and non-being in human reality. But the very negation of being should be always questioned in human reality.
Condition of Possibility: Both bad faith and sincerety are rendered possible by virtue of impossibility for anybody to fully coincide with his "not-being-courageous" or with his "being-courageous". "Thus in order for bad faith to be possible, sincerety itself must be in bad faith." This is just another way of saying that human reality in its"infrastructure" "must be what it is not and not be what it is".


Two-faced Concept: Bad faith is a "two-faced concept". Insofar it can be used by a liar. But still it is different from a simple lie. This difference is indicated by the fact that it is a form of faith. It is necessarily faith because it does not rest either on an "intuitive possession of being" or an outright lie.
Belief: Bad faith is consequently a kind of belief = "the adherence of being to its object when the object is not given or is given indistinctly". We do not possess certainty about objects because they are not given directly and distinctly. In view of the ambiguous and uncertain character of reality (or at least of our knowledge of it) we cannot but live with probabilities. They are reflected in the mode of our convictions which are basically only beliefs. Sartre says that "the essential problem of bad faith is a problem of belief".
Persuasion: The aforementioned problem could be now formulated as the question: "How can we believe by bad faith in the concepts which we forge expressly to persuade ourselves?" The answer is that the project of bad faith must be carried out by a more original project of bad faith. I could be persuaded by bad faith because I have been already persuaded so. I was already in bad faith at the moment when I wanted to put myself in bad faith.
Non-Persuasion: Still bad faith does not recognize itself as bad faith. It hides itself, it lives incognito, it does not speak its name. It does not recognize itself just as a belief. To recognize itself as a belief would mean to recognize that it cannot believe itself fully. It uses the uncertainty of our knowledge to justify its reluctance to ask for more evidence despite the fact that it is not itself persuaded. Thus it conceals its (non) self-persuasion, the truth that to believe is always not to believe, at least to a certain extent. "One never wholly believes what one believes."
Outlook of Bad Faith: The decision to be in bad faith "believes itself and doesnot believe itself in bad faith; it believes itself and does not believe itself in good faith". While good faith tries to believe wholly what it believes, bad faith seeks to find ways how not-to-believe what it believes. Sartre says that "it is precisely as the acceptance of not believing what it believes that is bad faith". In this sense one can not believe while believing and believe while not believing. Only in this sense it is possible to lie to oneself. The problem how bad faith is possible now turns into the question how one can believe (= have faith) in what is barely believable. In other words, how one can accept nonpersuasive evidence.

Not even the consciousness in bad faith can flee away from an awareness of its believing so as not to believe. It simply structures itself to accept nonpersuasive evidence and to reconcile with it despite its defects. For that purpose it abuses the nature of belief as by definition defective knowledge and makes an unwarranted generalization that such is the nature of all convictions.
Note: R. Santoni suggests that bad faith in this sense becomes "a lie of 'half persuasion'", and so identical with a common lie. Insofar as it involves a resolve to accept as persuasive what is not fully persuasive, and to "believe" according to criteria which one "knows" do not warrant a full persuasion, it comes close to the cynical lie. Obviously, as Sartre himself, admits, bad faith vaccilates between the two.

Bad Quality: Persons in bad faith are in bad faith both by what and how they believe. The original project of bad faith is a decision in bad faith on the nature of faith. Bad faith falsifies the character of evidence and conceals the participation of the individual in the outcome. It can go so far to acknowledge that there is no transcendent justification pertaining to deliberations within our social role. But it draws relativistic conclusions from this and reduces our freedom to deliberations within a role. It accepts our roles as given and fixed and thus suggests that there is no room for change and critical self-reflection. Bad faith is successful in producing convenient or pleasing deception, but it is ultimately unsuccessful in terms of misrepresenting freedom in regard to acceptance or refusal of social roles.
Critical Faith? However common, bad faith is not an unavoidable and necessary condition of human existence. It is possible to have beliefs and faith and still preserve critical self-reflective ability of questioning our roles and thus keeping alive our responsibilty for continuing in them.


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