March 7, 2007
Bad faith is one of the most frequently encountered phenomenons you will ever see. It is an important psychological concept to understand, not only for ethical reasons, but in order to help your friends and family when you see them living in bad faith. I think you will find bad faith in nearly anyone you ever talk to. It causes them much unneccessary thinking, depression, and confusion. But what is it exactly? In this journal entry I plan to break down bad faith, and show exactly what is going on in the mind of the person in bad faith, and real-life examples of dealing with it.
I’ll begin the discussion by showing that all bad faith is rooted in false identity beliefs. The person believes they are something they are not. Next we will see this false foundation being used as the foundation for furthur psychological complexes, leaving confusion and depression. After several common examples of this frequent complex, we’ll move on to the common “bad faith” of “being true to oneself”. This includes mindsets such as “I need to find the right job”, the “right girl”, etc., where a futile search is undertaken to find an ideal based on “who they are” or, their inner nature. After this, I will show that all bad faith is an attempt to evade responsibility. I will show that responsibility is evaded because a certain truth is found disagreeable. Bad faith creates a lie which is willingly accepted, creating a sort of dream world, which can only be destroyed through fierce resistance. I will also expound upon “inner bliss”, and the common undertaking done by millions in personality profiling (ex: eharmony, etc), which they feel is giving them insight into this inner nature. I show that this is really the full culmination of a mindset which they’ve chosen to hold toward the world, and has nothing to do with inner nature.
II. Misunderstood Identity
A. The Problem Of Identity
As the scientific mindset has gained a foothold in the minds of the masses, people have come to change the way they view themselves in respect to freedom. Generally speaking, before the mindset of science as it’s known today (pre ~1600 AD), people used to feel themselves a being created by God (or some deity), and were responsibile for their actions. Man was a free being, and in some mystical way, the man would deliberate what he wanted to do, and the body just did what it was told to do by the ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ of man. There are exceptions, but this is generally what people thought.
As science and knowledge as to the nature of our physical constitution has increased, people have come to view themselves subject to their bodies, or at least, heavily influenced by them. Most talk today is all about ‘chemical imbalances’. Studies in dopamine, serotonin, insulin, etc., have slowly been taking away the freedom of man. It’s amazing how far these chemicals are taken at times. If a man is sexually perverted, he is not to be blamed for his actions; his hormones are imbalanced, and his other chemical levels are off. If you’re feeling depressed, it’s commonly felt it’s not your fault: your serotonin levels are off – take a pill and we’ll fix that for you.
I’m not here to argue whether these facts are true or not, but merely wish to bring up an important consideration to take into account. People are slowly moving toward the mindset that they are an object, a hunk of meat, a blob of matter, etc. They do not view themselves as a free-will being in control of their body.
The more a person views themselves subject to their chemicals and other bodily processes, the more we find ourselves irresponsible for what we do in our body. If the actions we do in our body are determined by our body, we had no choice in the matter, and are not responsible for what we do.
There’s really two main views a person can hold toward their freedom:
1. That I’m responsible for everything: I’m completely free
2. I’m not responsible for anything: My body determines everything
I think the majority of people nowadays hold a view somewhere inbetween. They don’t feel they’re completely free, in every circumstance. They believe if certain chemicals were introduced into their body, they do not believe they will continue to have free-will and control what they do. But, for the most part, people feel they are free most of the time.
For the rest of this entry, I’m going to assume the view that people are, for the most part, free and responsible for their state of being, unless some rather unusual circumstances dictate otherwise (such as brain damage from drugs, extreme influence of alcohol, etc).
With that note out of the way, I plan to introduce a much more common problem people place on themselves, which directly relates to this discussion: bad faith.
B. False Identity: ‘I am such and such’ or ‘I am not such and such’
The purpose of philosophy is to show the consequences of various mindsets, and what they lead to. The mindset to be examined now is the mindset: ‘I am such and such’ or ‘I am not such and such’. This is the problem most psychologists would dub the formation of ‘identity’ or ‘self’.
The nobel prize winning philosopher (though he didn’t accept), Jean-Paul Sartre, created a psychological concept which he dubbed ‘Bad Faith’, and it is found elaborated upon in his book ‘Being and Nothingness’. We’ll start off by defining bad faith.
Though this technically is not the correct definition of ‘bad faith’, we will tentaively present bad faith as follows: A person lies to themselves, and because they want the lie to be true, they believe their own lie.
This ‘bad faith’ is exhibited so often, I have little trouble finding many many examples, all from my own friends and family I see around me. Let’s begin with one of my friends:
“I am just a messy person. I inherited that from my parents. But I don’t want to be messy!”
Let’s examine this statement for the moment, in detail. Remember how we just examined beforehand the problem of identity: some people wanting their free will and responsibility to be based on their bodily processes, and others claiming full freedom, and full responsibility for their actions? This man wants to claim that his body, and his inner nature, is the reason why he is messy. He does not want to claim responsibility for the fact that he is a messy person. He does not want to view himself as a free-will being in respect to being messy. We all know that he is free, and that if we wanted to, he could change his actions, and clean his room. He does not do so however. He would rather claim his body, determined by some sort of genetics, is behind why he is messy. It makes him feel better inside, and helps comfort his mind, when he says to himself: “I can’t help being messy. That’s just who I am.” Let’s take another example:
“I am a coward. I wish I had more drive and tenacity to accomplish my goals, but I’m just not an ambitious person.”
Yet again we find the person wanting to blame their physical constitution for their lack of accomplishment in life. They do not want to take responsibility for the fact that their past decisions have not been good, and are the reason behind the failed life they are experiencing. Instead, it makes them feel better to say “it’s just how I am”. Their genetics, their body, their brain, etc., is just not very well made. They can’t help it that they’re not ambitious, or successful. They’re not even capable of being such a thing, as their body itself won’t support it. God has dealt them a bad hand, and a poor body, and there is no way that they can succeed.
The general equation of such bad faith is as follows:
“I am [something they don’t like about themselves]. [I am this way by inner nature, or my physical body, and cannot help this fact.]”
There are some things people can’t change about themselves. If they are born deformed, missing some body part, etc., then we’re really dealing with something the person in question is not responsible for. Bad faith is not about these situations. Bad faith only comes into play when people are “lying” to themselves, about something they know is not the case.
There’s more interesting things to say about bad faith, however. Bad faith can build upon bad faith! Let’s take the thoughts of a person, who feels they are a coward, trying to tell themselves, “Be Strong!”
“Oh, how I am a coward! I’m so weak! *mental conflict and anguish*… Oh you, snap out of it! You wimp! Be strong! Be intelligent! Step up and be courageous! *furthur conflict*”
We saw before the example of the person believing they are a coward in bad faith. They never were a coward: they had chosen to be a coward in the past, but this cowardice was a past decision which is no longer attached to them in the present. The human mind is so fascinating because it is not tied to the past, nor to the future. Your past does not dictate you, and your future is what you make of it. You exist only in the present. This person, however, does not feel this way. They are confused. They think, “I am a coward”. They believe this to be part of “who they are”, almost like some sort of physical constitution or a mental configuration. They think they need to try to remold this existence of “who they are” and reshape themselves. The reality is this: if they choose to, they can cut their past from them with a big pair of scissors and completley change every aspect of themselves in an instant, if they would only make up their mind to do so. This bad faith, however, causes them much depression and mental anguish. They believe this huge mass is attached to them, which they must remold into some new form in order to change. They think of this remolding, and the work that would entail, and their mind flees in terror (this leads to more bad faith). After all, they have enough problems and things life is throwing at them. They don’t have time to remold such a mass!
This mass only exists, because they believe it exists in bad faith. It came in existence initally because they wanted to avoid some form of responsibility, but now it has come and put a large weight upon them.
C. Bad Faith and Believing In Insufficient Evidence
Now that I’ve shown some examples, I feel we can now correct our conception of bad faith. I defined bad faith just a second ago as ‘To lie to yourself, and because you want the lie to be true, you believe you own lie’. I said that this is not technically correct. Why is it wrong?
To lie to oneself means that you know the truth of the statement being expressed. The liar attempts to deceive someone else by telling them a false answer. The question however though is this: Can a person tell himself or herself a lie and actually believe it, when they know deep down that it is false? The answer is … No, they cannot. That is why this concept is called ‘Bad Faith’, not ‘Bad Lies’. Bad faith involves faith in an unsure principle, that isn’t likely to be true, but they want it to be true anyways. They accept it in miniscule evidence. They bet, unsoundly, in the small probability outcome. They shut down their critical mental processes, because they want to shut them down. They do not want to look and see the reality of their own situation, as they do not like it. This bad faith then snaps them into a dream world, and it is very difficult to snap them back out of it. Another example will help, then I will explain this furthur.
A friend of mine, not too long back, had a relationship with a girl. He put his heart and soul into this relationship, and things initially were going well. He would come to all of us (his friends) and tell us how wonderful this girl was, and how things were going so well. He was so excited, and putting a great deal of weight and life decisions on this girl. Then something happened. The girl, after a period of time, became unresponsive. Whether she lost interest in him, or never had interest in him, or what… I don’t know, but things seemed to turn around for the worse. He was sending her emails and she was not responding. He tried contacting her every way he could, and he kept getting the run around. After weeks of frustration, trying to contact her, my friend comes to me:
Me: “How’s things going? How’s things with [girl name]?”
Him: “Eh, I don’t know, alright I guess. I’ve been trying to contact her for a while now, but haven’t had much luck.”
Me: “Sorry to hear that man. How long has it been since you’ve heard from her?”
Him: “Uhhh, I’m not sure. I’ve been trying to contact her. Left her a few emails here just recently, but she hasn’t replied.”
Me: “When did you send the emails?”
Him: “Well, they’ve been spaced out over a couple of weeks.”
Me: “Weeks? Goodness. You two still close?”
Him: “Oh yeah, we’re still fine. I’m sure she has good reason for it.”
Me: “Just have to wait and see, I guess.”
Another few weeks go by, then he finally hears from her with a short email, basically saying, “I’m sorry. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to do anything! Talk to you soon. *lots of loves* – [girl name]”. Shortly after this, he confronts me once again:
Him: “Hey Jason.”
Me: “Hey buddy. Hear anything from [girl name]?”
Him: “Oh yeah, everythings fine. She emailed me.”
Me: “Well that’s good. Where’s she been? What’s been going on with her? She have a good excuse?”
Him: “Eh…. *hesistant*… she’s been really busy.”
Me: “Busy? Doing what? Must be pretty important not to talk with her boyfriend for a month and half. What did the email actually say?”
Him: “It was only a one-line email. Said she’d been busy. That’s all it really said.”
Me: “Goodness man. What do you tolerate this for? You’re better than this. Don’t let her treat you like that!”
Him: “Eh, I dunno. She said she’s been busy, and I’m sure she has good reason.”
Me: “You deserve better! You need to get out of this relationship. I hate seeing some girl do that to you. You’re acting in desperation.”
I was not able to convince him, however. No matter how valiantly I attempted to convince him the signs were bad, and that he needed to get out while he still could, he clung to idea that maybe, just maybe, things would work out. He loved the girl. I suppose we can’t blame him. He wanted things to get better.
Later on, this man was forced to confront the situation. He was able to get in contact with [girl name]’s brother, and he told him that [girl name] is on the computer all the time. She’d been typing papers, checking her email, etc. She had had time to reply to his emails, time to talk with him…. It was just as I expected. The girl was in limbo. She did not want to break things off with him, but did not want to make a decision either. She wanted to keep him around just in case she wanted to fall back on him, and knew he would cling to her because he came off as desperate. This was devasting for him, once he found it out. Point to be made is this: if he’d confronted this earlier, he could have saved himself a lot of time, and mitigated his pain.
You have just witnessed a real-life example of bad faith. He’s shut down his critical mental faculties, and clung to an unsure and unlikely outcome, because he wants very badly for the fact to be true. He is in bad faith. Good faith acknowledges the situation, looks at things objectively, even when you don’t like what you see, and tries to find a solution. Bad faith keeps holding on, even when your probability for success keeps dropping furthur and furthur. What strength it must have taken to hold on to this relationship! How many nights do you think he sat up in his bed thinking, “This does not look good!” His rational mind was surely generously giving him every form of doubt, yet he refused to listen. He fought night after night, using all of his will power, to put these thoughts aside. Bad faith generates unneccessary work, and unnecessary mental conflicts, because you fail to deal with an issue you’re not wanting to confront.
You’ll notice in this example that my friend is not lying to himself. The outcome of the situation is unknowable. You cannot know what another person is going to do, or what decisions they will make. The girl could have come around, snapped out of the limbo she was in, and started responding to him again. Things could have turned around, and worked out great. This was possible, yet very unlikely. The girl was scared to make a commitment to him, and was avoiding confronting the issue as well.
Bad faith abounds in the world. It even lingered in my mind for years. I can’t say how many times, when my businesses were not doing well, and things were looking bad, that I thought to myself, “Why don’t I just go to college and major in philosophy”. Greg watched me battle with these things for years. I really appreciate him helping me through it. Means a lot to me. I knew that I’d be unhappy as a professor, and that college was not going to fix my situation, nor get me the life I want. I was wanting to escape. I wanted to throw my dreams on the “miracle man” (college) and just dream that once I got out of college, for some reason, this philosophy degree would fix everything. It wouldn’t. I’d just get a worthless degree that wouldn’t help me, taken a bunch of classes I didn’t care to take, and end up buried in debt. You can see how people, trying to escape from life, resort to bad faith when needing a way out of their problems.
Sure I could have gotten a philosophy degree, and maybe I would have written some paper, won the Nobel Prize, and everything would have been grand, and provided me with the lifestyle I wanted. But, we all know this is unlikely. Not many Nobel Prizes are handed out, and not many other awards, that grant millions of dollars, are given out – especially to philosophers. It would have been building up a huge foundation of bad faith, that would have just ended up leaving me in a worse position than I was already in.
Countless people look to college as the miracle institution. Some of E.K.’s friends were over at our house a few years back. They were talking about college, and how they were going to major in some subject (I can’t remember), and how they were going to make $150,000 a year! I was wise enough, even then, to know that was not going to happen. They’ll probably end up graduating, $50,000~$80,000 in debt, and get a job that pays $30,000-$35,000 per year. Who knows, let’s be generous and say $50,000 / year. Count in the home mortgage, taxes, car payments, insurance, utility payments, and other bills and you’ll watch them living the same life as everyone else: Paycheck to paycheck and buried in debt. Forced to work every single day of their life, the majority of their lives in some job, until they’re literally too old to work anymore, and are discared, and given 1/3 of even that low paycheck per month as a retirement. (and today, it’s in 401k retirement plans, which are in an unstable stock market – they may not even end up with a retirement!). It’s no wonder most people cling to mindsets of contentment, and ‘family is all that matters’, considering it’s incredibly difficult to find any sort of material success in our society. That is, it’s difficult if you’re lacking the proper knowledge, but that is a topic for another day.
People who cling to such anti-possession mindsets, and ‘things don’t bring happiness’, are in bad faith. Who can live in a trailer, feeling the cold winter winds penetrating through the thin tin walls, freezing cold, drinking brown water, eating ramen noodles (which aren’t good for you with the high MSG), no warm water because you can’t afford it, and sitting in the dark with no electricity because you can’t afford it… How is this good again? It’s not good. Material things, healthy food, nice home, etc., are GOOD things, just as your family and loved ones are GOOD. Snap out of the bad faith, and confront your financial life square on! Poverty is not a virtue, even if you are loved and have friends.
As for these friends of E.K., it’s hard to find even a really good doctor or lawyer that makes $150,000 per year. It’s not even close to likely that they’ll make $150,000 per year in any job. They need to look at the situation objectively, and look at the bls.gov (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) and look up what job they’re wanting to get, and see what the people in their field typically make. You should assume you’ll make about the average, as the average is calculated among every single person who works that job in the whole country (or by geographic region). Of course, these are just high school kids, who don’t know anything, dreaming away. I’m guessing most young college students are this way. They’ve been in college a few years, and have many dreams that they’ve concocted which they believe it’s going to do for them. They’ve told themselves the dream so many times in their minds, that they’ve forgotten that it is not grounded in any real evidence. Some of these dreams are so farfetched that they even believe their relationship problems, depression, irritability, anger, and every other problem is going to fix itself upon graduation.
They come to an objective man, who questions whether they’re going to make $150,000 per year, and the young men shiver. They finally look at bls.gov, quivering as they do so, and find out they’ve been betting their life plans on a very crumbly, weak, foundation. In these instances, they’re not only believing in insufficient evidence, but they’re believing with no evidence! They have convinced themselves of its truth with auto-suggestion (repetition)! Confront your situation, even if you don’t like what you see. You’ll have to confront it later anyways, might as well be now.
I don’t want to be entirely negative. You can fix your problems, but make sure you’re betting on fixes that are well-grounded. Have evidence and high probability on your side. If you don’t know how you will fare, you need to be studying that very thing, because it’s very important to do so. Make sure the road you’re on will truly get you where you’re wanting to go.
D. Being True to Yourself
In this section, I plan to tackle questions like: “Is there a right job for you?”. “Is there a perfect soulmate for you?”. “Is there a set of hobbies and interests that suit your temperament?”.
Ever see people taking personality profiling, such as dating websites, and other psychological surveys, to reveal to them their inner nature?
They get the results and it says, “You are X% outgoing! You are more logical in your decision making and are not feeling driven! You are more extraverted than introverted!” The list goes on. People feel they are being told their ‘true self’ or their ‘inner nature’.
In just a moment I will show that all such statements are in bad faith. They are all attempts to avoid making a choice to form your own identity and taking responsibility for your choices. They want some inner nature, something inside the frame of “who they are”, to make these kinds of decisions for them. No such nature exists. They’re always left searching for this elusive ‘inner self’. Upon searching, however, they do seem to find something. I’ll talk about that when I talk on inner bliss. I’ll show that what they find is the full culimation of the mindset they’ve chosen to adopt, not an actual ‘inner self’. If they choose to think differently about the world, they find this same ‘inner self’ changing along with their mindset. An interesting thing to observe. You can see a person score one way on a psychological test when they’re 18 years old, then 10 years later, they fill out the same test completely differently. They change, but if these results were based on their “inner nature” or “who they are”, then why would the results change as they do?
I myself was living in bad faith for as long back as I can remember, until I read Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. I have, for near 7 years now, believed myself to be the “philosopher”, “intellectual” type. I would sometimes wonder to myself though, because I did not grow up in this type of setting, whether I am mistaken, and it turns out I’ve been in bad faith. I grew up the sports player, and the man who spent his time outdoors. I played basketball and football, ran track, and played video games. That was me. That was the old Jason. Then something changed inside of me. I grew interested in God and religion, and wanted to find out all I could about God and Jesus.
I read my Bible continually, as well as all the deep theology you could possibly imagine. I formed the mindset, “God is the most important thing in life, not this other stuff. I must get close to God and do his will.” This brought with it a whole host of other beliefs. I believed there was a “perfect wife” for me to marry, based on the will of God, and I was to wait for God to bring this person into my life. I believed there was a “perfect place” for me to be, that God would show to me in time. There was always a “perfect something”, and only God knew this something, and I was to wait for him to reveal it to me.
I was quite ardent, and planned to base my life literally around the Bible scriptures. When it would say, “Wait upon the Lord.” I would do nothing but that. I wouldn’t make a decision without waiting for God to tell me what to do. With time, my whole mental framework changed. Later I abanonded all this because God did not communicate to me. I still respect God, Christianity, etc., but for whatever reason, God did not feel it best to communicate to me. Maybe he did, and I was scared thinking I may mistake my imagination for the voice of God? Apparently most TBN prophets do this. Hit and miss, mistaking your imagination for God is not a good way to live. It’s certainly not a strong foundation. If the most hardcore and most ardent Christians, who live, eat, and breath God and Christianity 24/7, are missing him… I hate to think how the rest of us will fare, who have other pursuits as well.
I am timid to think anything going on in my head is from God, unless he manifested in some form before me, so I could feel more sure of things. Maybe it is so I would develop this philosophy? I do not know, but do not take this to mean I do not respect God, Jesus, or the Bible, or those who say they hear from God. If a prophet starts prophesying things to come, and he nails them 100% of the time, and there is no way he or she could have known that information beforehand – I stand back in awe. This has happened throughout history, and I do not deny this claim. Most “prophets” however, when their track records are examined, are not the real thing. When you see an 80% miss ratio, I’m sorry, but I don’t know when to trust you. I’m not betting my life decisions on 20%. I wish you good luck with all of this, and if God is close to you, pray my ears are opened as well! I welcome all communications from the great God of all things. My door is always welcome to him. Making a better world, and loving my neighbor are still the principles I live by, and Lord Jesus, help me to do so! (Yes, I still call him Lord). My philosophy toward God is constantly evolving, and I try very hard to see what he’s after from me.
Once I adopted the mindset of “pursuit of God”, I saw my entire mental life, and “who I really was” changing. My inner nature changed with my change in mindset. I changed what I wanted to be, and my personality, mental life, and body all changed along with that desire. Speaking of mindsets, I think a good way to represent a person’s mindset is to ask them what they would consider a successful day. I’ll try to show an evolution of my mindsets, if someone was to ask me the question:
“What would you consider a successful day, Jason?”:
8th grade (13 years old): “If I get to play basketball, and learn a new move.” (this is literally how I thought. If I found a way to get to the Recreation Center and play basketball, I was a happy man.)
10th grade (15 years old): “If I get to talk to Cody.” (Cody was a pretty girl I liked, and whom I had a weird sort of relationship with)
12th grade (17~18 years old): “If I get to talk with Shanna, and work on this 3D graphics engine I’m programming.” (another nice girl I really liked)
19 years old: “If God talks to me, and I learn new things about the Bible. If I can get this medical software selling.”
20 years old “If I can figure out how to get this medical software selling. Learn more about this philosophy, God, and mind.”
22 years old: “Figure out these mysteries of the mind. Why people do what they do. What can I know about God? Is this all my imagination?”
24 years old (now): “Figure out any of the confusions of mind and psychology of why people do what they do. The limits of human reason and knowledge. Read Sartre, Freud, Jung, Kant, etc. If I have time to work on my studies and research, I’m happy. I don’t care what job, or how I make the money, just as long as I have the money to give me leisure time to study. Find out the most successful mindsets which lead mankind to happiness and goodness, and mindsets that keep them down. To find God, and communicate with him.”
Now if you’d asked me any of the questions: “What would be the right job for you?” – “The right girl for you?” – “The right hobbiest and interests for you?” at any given moment in my life, you would have received a different answer during each period.
In 8th grade you would have heard from me, “Basketball is the only life for me. Girl? I don’t know, be neat if she played basketball! I do like girls though. Hobbies? video games are nice!”
In 10th grade: “Basketball is only life for me. Girl? Cody is so wonderful…Why does she have to have a boyfriend other than me. Hobbies? Video games!”
12 grade: “I’d like to be a business man. It all seems really interesting to me. I’m not living the poverty life that everyone else lives! I’m going to be successful! Shanna will be my girl. Hobbies? Still video games.”
You can see this evolving. My old mindset, I’d idolize a girl: she was an end in and of herself. Then when I was 20, I could care less about a girl, as after I was hurt from a few excursions, I didn’t believe them to be worth my time. Nowadays I’ve gone back to feeling having a nice woman in my life wouldn’t be so bad.
All of what you’re hearing is mindset. You’re seeing me change my position with the world. All of these are changes I chose to make. You can see that what the ideal girl, the ideal job, or the ideal anything will be will be based on how you’ve positioned yourself with the world via your mindset — and this mindset is the mindset you’ve CHOSEN to adopt. You are responsible for it. You made it.
If you’ve chosen to be pessimistic, depressive, etc, you’ll be attracted to those types of people. A depressive, pessimist will not be attracted to Greg and I. We are Napoleon Hill, “Think and Grow Rich”, “We can do anything”, “we are tanks on our way to anything we want” kind of guys. We’re ambitious, want things out of life, think life is wonderful, and can’t wait to work on all of our projects. I’m never idle, always reading, studying, and moving forward. We don’t like wasting time as we’re out to get as much out of each moment as we can. I plan to be an old man one day, whom you can ask near anything, no matter how difficult, and I will be able to tell you the answer you’re needing to hear. I get frustrated with having to work a little too much sometimes, but overall, I love life.
Your mindset is your choice to make, that is your freedom. What reality it will bring you is your responsibility. You need to be studying and figuring the consequences of each choice you can make, and make good decisions. If you look for this ‘ideal’ based on ‘who you are’, you’ll only find the culimation of whatever mindset you have in your mind right now. If this mindset is not good, your culmination will not be good either. If it’s vague, you will find a vague culmination, such as ‘close to God’, or ‘happiness’, ‘enlightenment’, etc. Those kinds of vague statements are culminations of vague mindsets. They can’t put it into words because there’s nothing there to begin with. They haven’t made a decision as to what they want to be in life. When you finally do make this decision as to what you want from life, your imagination will be able to project to you the end result of what you’re wanting to be. You’ll be able to close your eyes and see it! You won’t know how to get there neccessarily, but you can imagine the end, and that’s all you need! The rest will come to you, if you diligently pursue that end and are faithful to it.
E. Sincerity: A Denial of Freedom To Regain Freedom
In Being and Nothiness, Jean-Paul Sartre gave a rather fascinating example of bad faith in action. This book was written in 1943, and because of social pressures of the time, a homosexual was made to feel very uncomfortable about his sexual position.
Two men are in a restaurant, and a friend of the homosexual gets frustrated as the homosexual keeps changing his position on whether or not he was gay, and why he was so. The friend says, “Just admit it! You’re a homosexual!”. Sartre asks the question: Who is in bad faith?
As for the homosexual, his teetering back and forth between “Yes I am a homosexual” and “No, I’m not a homosexual”, seems to be something to be frowned upon, especially since he is doing so out of social pressure. In short, it’s shown that homosexuality is a choice, not something that the man is or is not. Sexual attraction is one thing I suppose, but the actions he does in his body, another. To say he is a homosexual, as a table is a table, or a piece of paper is a piece of paper, is to deny his freedom to be such a thing anyways. You can’t ask him to be ‘sincere’ about homosexuality. If he is, by his inner nature, a homosexual, he has no choice in the matter, and you cannot look at him, and ethically condemn him for not being “honest” with himself. You can’t have ethics without the capability of choice. Sincerity based questions deny the freedom of the person you’re asking, in the area in question, and hence logically refute the very purpose of the ethical question to begin with.
As for the man telling the homosexual to be “honest” with himself, and admit to being a homosexual, we find an interesting paradox. This man is saying to the homosexual, “You’re not being honest with yourself. You’re not living as free and as well as you should be. Admit that you’re a homosexual, and you’ll be free.” But if he admits he’s a homosexual, he had no choice in the matter. The sincerity questioner asks the homosexual to deny his freedom, in order to regain his freedom once again in the questioner’s eyes. The questioner will respect the homosexual, and say he’s asserting his freedom and being “real” with himself, if he will only deny his freedom.
Sincerity, or being ‘honest’ or ‘true to oneself’, based questions are rooted in bad faith and confusion.
F. Evasion Of Responsibility
Bad faith is always generated when a person is wanting to evade responsibility. They cling to an unsure principle, because they want it to be true. It’s always avoidance of confronting something disagreeable. The truth set before them is something they do not want to look upon, so they lower their critical mental faculties, and accept the principle they want to accept. I spoke initially on ‘mistaken identity’ and how some people hold determinism philosophies based on bodily processes. Though there probably are geniune cases which are grounded in real evidence, determinism is more often used by people to evade responsibility. They don’t know if it’s chemical levels making them an irritable person, or whether it’s their own mind’s doing, but a lot of people want to evade responsibility for this. Even though they really have no idea one way or the other, they cling to the belief that makes them the best person ethically, to comfort their mind. Whenever they can push the blame onto something that is not their doing, they do so.
Before closing this entry, I would like to give a really good example of bad faith, coming from a friend I just talked with the other day. Here is the scenario:
I have a friend who is in a relationship with a girl A. Before entering the relationship with girl A, however, he had very strong feelings for another girl, B. He used to come to me and tell me how wonderful girl B was, and how he would love to have a relationship with girl B. Girl B did not seem to share this same affection for him, so, a very short while later, he had to move on to a different girl, who is girl A.
Now this friend of mine, after entering the relationship with A, still spends a lot of time with girl B as a friend. In fact, he is very close to girl B, and they have many intimate conversations.
I told him, “You spend quite a bit of time with girl B. You still have feelings for her?”
Him: “Oh not anymore. It’s not like that.”
Me: “I don’t believe that.”
Him: “I’m serious. I don’t have any feelings for her anymore.”
Me: *shakes head*. “There’s no way. I bet you still do like her. Feelings as strong as you had do not disappear in a month. You know what? I think your feelings for her are not only still there, but are still growing! You just don’t want to admit it, because of your ethical convictions to [girl A].”
I could tell it was a touchy subject. At every turn, he tried to change the subject. There were the looks, the twitching, tapping of feet. He tried to change the subject every other sentence. He showed every sign of a Freudian repression. He didn’t want to deal with this issue.
Me: “I think you’re doing an awful injustice to [girl A]. You’re playing with fire. Right now, your ethical convictions may be holding back your feelings for [girl B], but if you start hitting rough times with [girl A], you’re going to feel those powers weaken. Hard times are going to hit with [girl A], and all the sudden, like a flood, you’re going to feel your feelings for [girl B] fill your mind. You’re going to think, [girl B] isn’t like this. Why can’t [girl A] be more like [girl B], etc. You love [girl B], but the only thing holding those feelings back is your duty to [girl A].”
Him: *Hesistant*… “I don’t want to talk about this.”
Me: “Of course you don’t. Your feelings are building up for [girl B], like a dammed river. Day by day you feel the water rising, and the only thing holding that water from flooding your mind is the dam, and that dam is only as high and as strong as your feelings for [girl A]. You’re setting yourself up for failure. You need to get that water out of your system, or it’s going to ruin things with [girl A].”
Now we find he knows he’s had these feelings all along (and we’re not surprised):
Him: “So what? I can’t choose who I like.”
Now the bad faith reveals itself. He’s set up his own bad faith, which tells him he’s not responsible for this river. He’s not responsible for this dam, or any of these feelings. He acts like they’ve just magically erected themselves, and he can’t help that. Afterall, his inner nature built this dam!
Me: “You know that’s not true. There may have been an initial attraction to [girl B], which was outside of your control, but you did not have to let it build to what it is now. You’re the one who has chosen to spend so much time with [girl B], and you’re the one who has spent hours, night after night, telling [girl B] your intimate thoughts and feelings. You’re responsible for this water building up. You’re the one who has kept this river flowing. And, you’re responsible to end things with [girl B], and stop this build-up.”
This isn’t even technically my view on the matter. I told him his attraction to [Girl B] was not his responsibility. In reality, I believe his mindset, which is something he’s chosen to create, is what is determining nearly all of the attraction
to [Girl B]. I did not want to over-complicate things, however, so I pandered to his already existent beliefs.
He of course, changed the subject again. People do not like it when you tread on their bad faith. Whenever you shine light on their unlikely principle which they are holding in bad faith, they try with all their might to stop you, especially if it is in an important area of their life that they do not want to deal with. He’s ashamed of himself and his immoral treatment toward [Girl A]. He loves [Girl B], and still wants her to be in his life in every way possible. If he admitted to this, he’d feel awful about himself, so he erected the concept, “I can’t control this love for [Girl B]. My inner nature drew me to her.” He knows that’s unfounded, and knows he’s responsible for this entire dilemma. He just does not want to take the blame, or make a decision which girl he wants. Down deep, I have little doubts he’s thinking that if something doesn’t work out with Girl A, he’ll still have girl B around, and even if it’s not as full of a relationship as he’d like, it’s better than nothing.
Those who know me know that I’m not a pushy guy. I typically do not invade in people’s personal lives, nor judge. This man is a good friend of mine though, and I honestly felt it was going to destroy his relationship (which he’s worked so hard to get), and I’d hate to see him screw it up because he won’t disconnect himself from his past.
Sartre had a large discussion where he argued against psychoanalysis, and said that bad faith is what is really going on in the mind, not Freudian repression. I will soon discuss this in a later journal entry, dedicated to the comparison of repression and bad faith, and on what points they differ. They are very similar in nature. Freud would say this man’s love for [Girl B] was hidden in the unconscious, and until we broke through the repression (his excuse, defaulting this situation to his inner nature), he was unaware of these feelings for [Girl B]. We brought the unconscious affections back into consciousness. Sartre hates the distinction between conscious and unconscious, and thinks this man is fully responsible for these dilemmas, and knew he had feelings for [Girl B] the entire time we were talking to him. There is no biological “id” forming these repressions. The person is behind this entire affair.
I don’t entirely agree with Sartre on this point, however. This example maybe, but not all repressions seem capable of explanation through bad faith. Some repressions, such as major hysterias, seem to be auto-created by traumatic events, and do not follow the same guidelines of bad faith. I don’t see how a person can create, by their own mindset, a mindset that would result in the loss of functionality of a limb, such as a leg or arm. Greg made a good point on this when I brought it up to him, saying he felt the body defaults to a base biological system, unless the rational mind forms a new way it wants to handle things. He may well be right in this area. This discussion will have to be left for another day.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this entry, as I’ve enjoyed writing it. This is one of my favorite subjects, if you can’t tell! 🙂Tags: bad faith, existentialism, Sartre