After thinking about Satre’s notion of bad faith and Buber’s notion of human reciprocity, I think there is somewhat of a contradiction concerning the individualist aspect of Existentialism. On the one hand, we must be attuned to our own self-interest and personal responsibility—and prevent ourselves from being in bad faith. We thus should not consider ourselves things in-themselves, because we have the ability to choose who we will be. It seems, then, to not be in bad faith, we must be self-interested in the sense of not allowing the influences of the exterior world—the world of “Da-sein,” as Heidiegger would say—to affect us.
However, when we consider Buber’s philosophy, recognizing the importance of the I-Thou relationship, the value of the individual becomes slighted. We are not entirely self-interested in the sense described above, because we garner meaning from the interaction with other freedoms. As Buber writes, “meeting the Thou, I become” (321). Therefore, our very existence rests on an encounter with “the Thou.” How then can we not be in bad faith if we follow Buber’s philosphy? If it takes viewing someone else in the world to understand who we are, then it seems we can never really choose for ourselves. In Sartre’s terms, it seems that if the self depends on the other, the self is not a true self at all. It is a self in bad faith.
How then do we get rid of the apparent discrepancy between the two viewpoints? Certainly Buber’s philosophy coincides with Satre’s, and Existentialism’s, fundamental premise that existence precedes essence. But it seems that according to Buber, the original human essence is not one chosen by the individual, but rather by an interaction with another freedom in the world. According to Satre, it seems, true essence is entirely incumbent upon the individual’s desires, what the individual wants for himself. Maybe the encounter with the Thou is our own personal choice: a choice made by the individual. Perhaps if we can choose how to relate to the Thou and how we wish to understand ourselves through this relationship, we are not in bad faith. This might be congruent with Sartre, but I’m not entirely sure. I’d appreciate any other ideas on this problem. It still seems to me that someone is in bad faith he allows the world of the other to substantially impact who he will be.