Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dealing with Bad Faith

Let us return to the lovely couple out on their first date. The man makes his advance in the form of taking her hand. Sarte proposes that she acts in bad faith by feigning to notice. However, let us examine this from the prospective of the man. The man took her hand in order to create an immediate reaction and allow him to properly evaluate the situation. While Sarte explains her inaction as bad faith, the man does not have such luxury of understanding. Positive action on her part would tell him she was attracted; negative action would tell him she wasn’t. Either way, the action would at least confirm to him that his action—and intention—was received, and allow him continue according to her given response.

However, no response is uncertainty; it creates anguish. The woman’s apparent ignorance of his advancement baffles the man. Did she really not notice his hand? This is possible, perhaps, but the man thinks it unlikely. As he would have read her action, he now tries to read her inaction. He creates her possibilities: she likes him and she’s playing hard to get; or, she doesn’t like him but at the same time she doesn’t want to be rude, etc. Or, he realizes, these theories are solely the product of his own mind; she in fact did not notice his hand. But he is sure she had to have, so he presses for a more satisfactory explanation.

This is a form of nihilation. The man guesses at the situation by creating various attitudes for the woman, only to realize that these attitudes have no existence outside of his own mind; he has created nothing. It is possible, maybe even likely that he postulated accurately on what the woman was in fact thinking. However, given the gross ambiguity of the situation, it is extremely unlikely that he dwelled on that answer any longer then any of the others anyway. It may have in fact crossed his mind, for example, that she didn’t move her hand because she was pretending not to notice so she could postpone her decision. However, the man immediately realizes how preposterous such an idea is. Chances are, he reasons, she really didn’t notice his hand, and he is overanalyzing the whole situation.

Of course the woman felt his hand. Better yet, she knows exactly the anxiety she has created in the man. She knows her inaction utterly confuses the man because she knows it doesn’t make any sense to him. She knows because it is for this reason she left her hand there in the first place! So the man continues to think.


  1. I think this is exactly what Sartre is saying with his ideas on facticity and transcendence and their inability to be separate. In the situation, the woman is trying to see his actions as mere facts without transcending his intentions, yet as we pointed out in class we cannot chose one. The man is the perfect example to show the correspondence between facticity and transcendence. He is holding her hand, recognizing the intentions, and searching for a response. Facticity and transcendence go hand in hand and one must recognize the reliance upon the other.

  2. But why must she look at just the facts and not the transcendent meaning? She is basically denying a whole half of understanding by just looking at the facts, and there is no way she can look at the facts and not be aware of the transcendent meaning. She is aware there is a transcendent meaning and chooses to ignore it only causing problems.

  3. It seems to me that both the man and the woman are denying the facts and the transcendent meaning of the situation. Everyone has simply ignored a suitor and waited until "they got the picture" instead of confronting the situation head on. It is not admirable to be evasive in this way, but it seems to be a route we take often. Why? Probably because confronting the facticity and transcendent meaning of a situation is hard.


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