Talk:Bad faith (existentialism)

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This article, while appearing to be written with a fairly competent grasp of the philosophical and psychological concepts, looks as if it needs a major NPOV clean-up and is performing quite a lot of original research - it's phrased in a way that draws conclusions and also appears to read very biased against Sartre's "bad faith" in particular and possibly Sartre's viewpoint in general.

I don't see any neutrality issues until the end of the "Freudian Framework" section. After that, there is the criticism section, where criticisms lie. Maybe move the Freud criticism towards the "Criticism" section.


A response: Agreed. The Freudian critique of Sartre's bad faith is interesting and perhaps even valid (although I don't think so), but it has no place on this page in the sense that it's used.

For instance: "It is with the Superego that Sartre lodges his chief complaint". This is clearly an argument to invalidate Sartre and is thus a subjective matter rather than a statement of fact or theory.

Please sign your contributions to talk pages by adding -~~~~ at the end.
For the record, I didn't write this part, but it is with the superego that Sartre lodges his chief complaint. This doesn't invalidate Sartre. Its just the way things are. This can be verified by briefly glancing at pages 153-156 of Essays in Existentialism:
In the psychoanalytic interpretation, for example, they use the hypothesis of a censor [read:superego], conceived as a line of demarcation with customs, passport division, cur rency control, etc., to reestablish the duality of the deceiver and the deceived...The subject has the same relation to these phenomena as the deceived to the behavior of the deceiver. (p. 152 - here he begins his argument against Freud's division of the psyche)
Thus psychoanalysis substitutes for the notion of bad faith, the idea of a lie without a liar; it allows me to understand how it is possible for me to be lied to without lying to myself since it places me in the same relation to myself that the Other is in respect to me... (p. 154 - here he begins to pull together his arguments against the Freudian division)
These various operations in their turn imply that the censor is conscious (of) itself. But what type of self-consciousness can the censor have? It must be the consciousness (of) being conscious of the drive to be repressed, but precisely in order not be conscious of it. What does this mean if not that the censor is in bad faith? (p. 156-157 - and here he starts his full on criticism of Freud)
In other words, this isn't criticism of Sartre from a Freudian perspective, but Sartre's criticism of Freud.
However, the sentence at the end can go, and the whole article needs citations, so it isn't as if there's no work to be done here. -Seth Mahoney 04:02, 16 March 2006 (UTC)

'Wouldn't the censor be more accurately interpreted as the ego. In Freudian psychoanalysis it is the ego that mediates between the id and the super-ego. I'll not speak to having read Sartre but it seems like that is a more accurate interpretation. More likely the article needs to be rewritten, for if , as the article indicates, there is a question of the super-ego withholding information from the ego consciously (an idea that would fit in with Freud) then the wording is poor. -Atosecond (talk) 08:03, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

Bad Faith[edit]

This section is two paragraphs long and still does not explain what bad faith is. It doesn't even mention the term in the body. This needs fixing. -dbsanfte 04:53, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

Bad faith is explained in the introduction:
He coined the phrase bad faith in order to describe the state wherein one denies his or her total freedom and sees oneself as an inert object.
Is there something more that you would like to see added? -Smahoney 04:44, 12 May 2006 (UTC)

I think there is a logical fallacy here. With the mugger example, the writer gives a number of possible choices. But one has the choice "to die?" That seems to me to be not a free act, or in any case the free act is that of the mugger. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:42, 8 February 2008 (UTC)


I moved the following text here:

Bad faith occurs when we try to reverse Sartre's utterance into 'human reality is what it is and is not what it is not' (or in Popeye's case, 'I am what I am'). In the reversal, I try to kid myself into believing that I am "a philosopher" or "a chef", and I try to disguise my freedom from myself. I pretend that I have no other choice in the matter, even though I know fully well that I do. By pretending, Popeye and I end up as 'cowards', because we are frightened off by our freedom and seek to dismember it.
Sartre tells us that we should avoid bad faith, and live an authentic life. We should not try to posit ourselves as things in the world, and we should not adopt social roles and norms that undermine our freedom. At this point, the critic asks of Sartre: "What is the authentic life?" Sartre makes a push for authenticity, yet it appears that authenticity cannot be captured. Once we try to define what authenticity is, we end up positing a concept of what an authentic individual is in the world, and we become inauthentic in the interim by postulating the individual as a thing. Suppose Sartre told us, "to be authentic is to X". If we did X, we supposedly be authentic, but by pursuing X we try to make ourselves "a person who does X", and we therefore posit ourselves as a thing. We end up in bad faith. If to be authentic is to avoid bad faith, and we try to make ourselves "a person who avoids bad faith", we end up inauthentic because we try to be something.
Further, Sartre's proposed solution to "self deception" does not really appear to be accurately describing a person who is self deceived. In Sartre's view, the waiter only tries to wish away his freedom. At no point does the waiter actually say "I have no freedom", he simply finds it a burden and seeks to dispose of it. There is no deception that is occurring. Sartre's description more closely resembles "role playing" rather than "self deceiving". In a role playing situation, the individual acts out a stretch of time as if he were something else, but he knows (with a capital 'K') that he is not that thing. Sartre's examples (in particular the waiter and the woman) also appear to follow this thread. The waiter and the woman do not seem to be deceiving themselves with regards to their freedom to make choices. They choose to ignore it. This leads to the debate whether or not self deception is really even plausible.
Let us consider a raging alcoholic named Bill. Bill exhibits the signs of alcoholism, sees the signs of alcoholism in himself, is aware that the signs he sees in himself are enough to qualify him as an alcoholic, yet he does not believe he is an alcoholic (to get smarmy, Sartre would probably agree with Bill, because Bill is refusing to posit himself as a thing). Bill appears to be deceiving himself about his alcoholism. Is he? It seems equally likely that Bill is just having an intellectual failure about the link between his alcoholic tendencies and the fact that he is an alcoholic. In Bill's mind, he may have both a concept of his alcoholic tendencies and a concept of what alcoholism is, but he may not conceptualize a link between the two.

Because (even if it isn't) it reads like original research. If these criticisms can be attributed to a philosopher's work, great - it needs to be done and I'd be glad to see it returned to the article with citations. If not, it is original research and doesn't belong in the article. -Seth Mahoney 04:22, 16 March 2006 (UTC)


This article needs citations. I added {{Fact}} tags to places where citations would be handy for further research (like the waiter and the date examples), and I can add some citations myself. But they need to be there. Went ahead and added four sources I had handy. -Seth Mahoney 04:24, 16 March 2006 (UTC)

Sartre's Position?[edit]

I know that Sartre, for a time, held the position given in the first few lines of the introduction. Yet, after his experience in World War II, he changed some of that, noting that "life had taught him the 'Power of Things'", as he put it. Should the opening sentence be changed to

Jean-Paul Sartre at a time held the position that human beings always have the capability to make rational, conscious decisions.

or is there no sufficient indication that this changed fundamentally later on? -- 17:24, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

Prune it![edit]

This rambling article needs to be pruned to concision.

Hi mom

Examples from literature?[edit]

Perhaps someone should add a few examples of bad faith from literature? Say, The Metamorphosis or The Stranger?

Bad Faith is Sartrean[edit]

It is important to note that Sartre is neither the first nor only existentialist philosopher. Furthermore, Sartre's notion of bad faith relies on the existence of radical free will, which not all existentialists grant the existence of. Insofar as there are similar notions in the philosophies of other existentialists, that should be noted. But we should not pretend that Sartrean bad faith is central to non-Sartrean existentialist projects. (talk) 20:41, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Freud Stuff[edit]

At the end of the article there are some tags for missing citations to Freud. But my impression is that the whole discussion is basically Freud as seen through Sartre's eyes, in Being and Nothingness, Bad Faith chapter. With some slight modification, the mentions of Freud could be turned into "According to Sartre, Freud believes..." and all could cite directly to BN straightforwardly. In case anyone wants to do the legwork. (talk) 00:00, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

The Freud section should not be referred to as a "framework" or "solution" to the "problem" of bad faith in this article. Sartre goes through a pretty comprehensive argument in the Bad Faith chapter that shows how there can be no clear distinction between the Id, Ego and Superego: that a repressed impulse has to be conscious precisely because it is being actively repressed. Sartre seems disenchanted with psychoanalysis in the Bad Faith Chapter, and if there should be any mention of Freud in this article, it should more accurately represent Sartre's discussion of what are, to him, inadequate models of how consciousness functions. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:07, 22 July 2010 (UTC)
(indented prior entry). Agree, I was gonna just pull the entire section or recompose it but decided I didn't want to waste time on it, it wasn't bad enough to delete with prejudice, just not very good. (talk) 09:22, 4 October 2011 (UTC)

St. Thomas Aquinas discussed bad faith before Sarte, but in the same sense[edit]

St. Thomas Aquinas dsicussed bad faith before Sarte, in an almost identical sense. Perhaps this article should be merged into a larger article on bad faith in all of philosphy. HkFnsNGA (talk) 17:50, 23 January 2011 (UTC)

Merge as section of more general Bad faith article[edit]

This article should be merged with other bad faith articles into one, since "bad faith" was part of philosophy long before Sartre. The use in law overlaps that in philosophy. This article can be a section in a more general article, which includes bad faith in ethics, in theology, in law, and elsewhere. HkFnsNGA (talk) 17:55, 23 January 2011 (UTC)

I disagree, as this particular conception of bad faith is a core component of existentialist philosophy and lumping it in with the rest would be a disservice to readers interested in that philosophy. It would be more apt to merge it to the existentialism article, but that is precluded by other concerns. Best, Skomorokh 17:58, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
I disagree, too, but not with strength. I thought the question should be raised and discussed. PPdd (talk) 00:40, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
I also disagree, for the reason that Sartre uses "bad faith" as a term of art in Being and Nothingness and introduces it with the explicit caveat that he does not mean it in its traditional sense. To merge the entry on existentialist bad faith with one on other uses of the phrase would be like combining the entries on John and John Quincy Adams. Aptninja (talk) 22:43, 19 February 2011 (UTC)

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