Monday, October 12, 2009

Bad Faith and Self-Identity

After reading Sartre’s Patterns of Bad Faith, it seems to me that any attempt to develop a concrete sense of self is ultimately futile. Through living in the world, and participating in society, it seems virtually impossible to not be in some sort of bad faith. Perhaps it is possible to be in bad faith in some actions more so than others, but we are always, on some level, in bad faith. We constantly make ourselves objects based on the ideas of the people and world around us. This is how we understand who we are. Our culture, family, and friends are highly influential; if they are the source, even in part, of who we become, then we can never be entirely sincere, as sincerity is defined by being ourselves, as not acting as objects.

Of course, we can distance ourselves from our family, friends, and culture, but can we say that doing so would not be in some way based on our experiences with our culture, family, and friends? That distancing would be insincere—what Sartre equates with bad faith—it would be a decision not entirely our own. In other words, we would be objectifying ourselves, as the Other, to the rest of society.

Sartre’s example of the waiter helps illustrate this problem of bad faith and self-identity. It seems that one can objectify oneself to a great degree, as does the waiter who actively tries to become the waiter as the world perceives a waiter should be. He does not see himself as an individual human being, but rather as solely an object. This of course is bad faith; he is insincere, and could likely be more “himself,” by not trying to be something else.

However, even if we are not actively pursuing bad faith in the way in which the waiter is, are we not still in some way in bad faith, and thus not ourselves? If we are the patrons of the restaurant, we objectify ourselves to some degree, acting the way we think someone at a restaurant should act. This is again bad faith, but to a lesser degree.

My point is that it does not seem that we can escape bad faith, and ever really be ourselves. We will always, on some level, be playing a role. Perhaps the only way to be completely sincere is to be entirely self-interested, but then again it is difficult to say which interests are truly our own

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