« on: February 14, 2012, 06:01:28 PM »
QuoteThere is this inherent insecurity about the consequences of your actions (related to the absurdity of the world), and to the fact that, in experiencing your freedom, you also realize that you will be fully responsible for these consequences; there is no thing in you (your genes, for instance) that acts and that you can "blame" if something goes wrong. Of course, most of us only have short and shallow encounters with this kind of dread, as not every choice is perceived as having dreadful possible consequences (and, it can be claimed, our lives would be unbearable if every choice facilitated dread), but that doesn't change the fact that freedom remains a condition of every action.
Sartre calls it "bad faith" when you deny the concept of free will by lying to yourself about your self and freedom. This can take many forms, from convincing yourself that some form of determinism is true, to a sort of "mimicry" where you act as "you should." How "one" should act is often determined by an image one has of how one such as oneself (say, a bank manager) acts. This image usually corresponds to some sort of social norm. This does not mean that all acting in accordance with social norms is bad faith: The main point is the attitude you takes to your own freedom, and the extent to which you act in accordance with this freedom. A sign of bad faith can be something like the denial of responsibility for something you have done on the grounds that you just did "as one does" or that your genes determined you to do as you did. Lying to yourself might appear impossible or contradictory. Sartre denies the subconscious the power to do this, and he claims that the person who is lying to himself has to be aware that he is lying - that he isn't determined, or this "thing" he makes himself out to be.
[...] Sartre indeed derides those who act out roles: bourgeoisie with their comfortable sense of 'duty', homosexuals who pretend to be heterosexuals, peeping Toms who get caught in the act of spying and, most famously of all, waiters who rush about. All of these, he says, are slaves to other people's perceptions - 'the Other'. They are exhibiting mauvaise foi -- 'bad faith'. He emphasizes what is not over what is, the latter being a rather humdrum sort of affair consisting of the kind of things that scientists examine, while the 'what is not' is really much more interesting. [...] And hence, we come back to our own natures, our own 'essences'. We exist, yes, but how do we 'define ourselves'? It is here that the waiter comes in:QuoteHis movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He comes toward the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward a little too eagerly; his voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. Finally there he returns, trying to imitate in his walk the inflexible stiffness of some kind of automaton while carrying his tray with the recklessness of a tight-rope walker by putting it in a perpetually unstable, perpetually broken equilibrium which he perpetually re-establishes by a light movement of the hand and arm
This spotlight on 'consciousness' is what made Sartre's name. But, curiously enough [...] his lifelong intellectual confidante and companion Simone de Beauvoir, also describes various kinds of consciousness, in passages ranging from wandering through an empty theater (the stage, the walls, the chairs, unable to come alive until there is an audience) [...] As well as this one:QuoteIt's impossible to believe that other people are conscious beings, aware of their own inward feelings, as we ourselves are aware of our own," said Françoise. "To me, it's terrifying when we grasp that. We get the impression of no longer being anything but a fragment of someone else's mind."
[...] Now who's showing bad faith? Sartre or the waiter?
[...] Truly it is itself a philosophical tale. On the one hand there is the well-known plot of Sartre the womanizer who denies the dutiful Beauvoir the marriage in order to preserve his 'existential freedom'. On the other, and much less known, is the factual history recorded in their letters to one another. This records that, in 1930, Sartre proposed marriage to Beauvoir. She was aghast at this, both for the conventionality of the proposal, and for the conventionality of Sartre's assumptions, and it was she who insisted instead that if they were to spend their years together she wanted to be able to continue to have other relationships (with both male and female lovers).
[...] back to the waiter. Now I've observed waiters too. They often need to perform tasks quickly, for a practical reason, not an optional one related to their 'false consciousness'. The job is skilled -- demanding more than demeaning [...]
That's what happens when people sit all day long in a coffee shop - they would, of course, have nothing else to do but watch waiters come and go!