Jean-Paul Sartre & the Self-Deception of Bad Faith

sartreSelf-Deception in the Existential philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre takes the terminology of what Sartre calls bad faith. Below is an excerpt from Sarte’s Being And Nothingness.

“Good faith seeks to flee the inner disintegration of my being in the
direction of the in-itself which it should be and is not. Bad faith
seeks to flee the in-itself by means of the inner disintegration of
my being. But it denies that it is itself in bad faith. Bad faith seeks
by means of ““not-being-what-one-is”” to escape-from the in-itself
which I am not in the mode of being what one is not. It denies
itself as bad faith and aims at the in-itself which I am not in the
mode of ““not-being-what-one-is-not.”” If bad faith is possible, it
is because it is an immediate, permanent threat to every project of
the human being; it is because consciousness conceals in its being a
permanent risk of bad faith. The origin of this risk is the fact that
the nature of human consciousness simultaneously is to be what it
is not and not to be what it is.”

Here Sartre contrasts both “good-faith” and “bad faith”. According to Sartre there is a tension between GF and BF which is similar to what he means by “Being” and “Nothingness” (the title of the book) or to put it another way facticity and liberty.  Also, the “in-itself” refers to what man ought to be or facticity.

According to Sartre the tension between BF and GF becomes unbearable with the realization of BF that man has the liberty to self-authenticate or be what he wants. In such a case he will go so far as to lie to himself about GF in order to adopt the liberty in BF. Such is the reason Sartre says “… the nature of human consciousness simultaneously is to be what it is not and not to be what it is.

Such an attitude is what I referred to earlier as self-deception.


JIm Ryan’s Self-Evident Truths of Social & Political Philosophy

Below is a blog post by Jim Ryan where he lists several “self-evident truths of social and political philosophy.

Some Self-Evident Truths

A “self-evident” proposition is one that is obviously true to anyone who understands it. These truths are self-evident:

1. To support a free market does not mean to oppose the regulation of commerce. On the contrary, the concept of a free market without the rule of law hardly makes any sense.

2. It is not theocratic to argue that abortion ought to be as illegal because it is the wrongful killing of a human being. The civil rights movement, as deeply Christian as much of it was, was not theocratic. It is not obvious that the current moral support for abortion is not as foolish and wrongheaded as the moral support for slavery was in the early 19th Century.

3. To argue that big government welfare destroys self-reliance and prosperity and makes national bankruptcy inevitable should not be confused with arguing that one should not offer assistance to the poor.

4. There is a wide array of values we have inherited: liberty, hard work, justice, limited government, courage, charity, involvement in civil society, etc. It makes no sense to raise equality in property above these values.

5. It is not clear that equality in property is ever preferable to liberty, hard work, team work, charity, and self-reliance. It is not clear what would count as a good reason to say that a society in which liberty, hard work, team work, charity, and self-reliance were flourishing would be even better if the the government decreased the achievement of those values so that equality in property could be increased. For this reason it is not clear that equality in property is even a value at all.

6. It is hypocritical for a wealthy person to maintain his great wealth while advocating equality in property and holding that it is unjust for some to be rich while others are poor.

7. To advocate a system in which a small group of leftwing leaders and their technocratic experts maintain enormous political power and wealth while they keep the overwhelming majority of people in society relatively powerless and poor is to advocate kleptocracy and totalitarianism, not to take any sort of moral stance at all.

8. Leftism and totalitarianism both advocate the government’s having great control over individuals’ economic endeavors and property. If all the preceding truths are self-evident, then it is not clear how a leftwing government can maintain power without controlling speech and thought in order to stop those truths from being communicated, explained, discussed, and understood. If that is true, it is not clear how a leftwing government can avoid full totalitarianism if it is to maintain power.

Is Justified True Belief Knowledge? A Look At Gettier Cases

Gettier Cases Gettier Cases are scenarios that were presented by Edmund Gettier where he demonstrated justified beliefs that failed the test of genuine knowledge. So for example prior to Gettier philosophers would reason that you only had knowledge of P iff (1) P is true (2) you believe P (3) you poses justifiable evidence for P. One of the common Gettier cases is,

You have a justified belief that someone in your office owns a Ford. And as it happens it’s true that someone in your office owns a Ford. However, your evidence for your belief all concerns Nogot, who as it turns out owns no Ford. Your belief that someone in the office owns a Ford is true because someone else in the office owns a Ford. Call this guy Haveit. Since all your evidence concerns Nogot and not Haveit, it seems, intuitively, that you don’t know that someone in your office owns a Ford. So you don’t know, even though you have a justified belief that someone owns a Ford, and, as it turns out, this belief happens to be true.

The problem in this case comes up because in order to know that someone in your office owns a Ford you must have absolute certainty or it ceases to be true knowledge. Do you see the problem here? If true knowledge required absolute certainty there would be precious little that we can claim to know.  Some who have taken on these Gettier Cases have tended to argue from the position of either fallible or defensible evidence. As you can probably imagine there is much more to say about attacking Gettier Cases and if I come across a good approach I’ll be sure to post it. In the mean time you can hone up on Gettier by clicking the link below.

Is Justified True Belief Knowledge? By Edmund Gettier

Naturalism, Theism, Obligation and Supervenience by Alvin Plantinga

Plantinga received a research grant from the Ammonius Foundation to write on the subject of naturalism and objective morality.  The completed paper is out and published in Faith & Philosophy (vol. 27, no. 3 (2010)).  If you are interested you can find Plantinga’s paper entitled  Naturalism, Theism, Obligation and Supervenience by clicking the link.  I haven’t had the opportunity to read the paper completely but Plantinga argues that naturalism does not accommodate moral theorizing.  

Deconstructing God By Gary Gutting

This is the third in a series of interviews about religion that I am conducting for The Stone. The interviewee for this installment is John D. Caputo, a professor of religion and humanities at Syracuse University and the author of “The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion Without Religion.”

Gary Gutting

You can read this interview here . Depending on your background you might look at this interview as mindless quibble or an interesting example of Deconstruction. I will begin by saying that Caputo is not one for pointless games but is a serious philosopher and is seriously articulating the outcome of his Deconstruction on his religious faith.

Deconstruction is one of those topics that is hard to articulate and the moment you make a definitive statement about it you have just negated it. See what I mean?

Think for a moment about any claim that one would make. “It is dark outside”. That claim has meaning to us in so far as it relates to the outside when its light out. Statements tend to have this binary oposition to one another and most often the former is preferred over the latter. So for example, “good” / “bad”, “truth” / “false”, “right” / “wrong”. What if these binaries didn’t exist or were “Deconstructed”. This is what Caputo is getting at when he says things like, “After making a distinction in deconstruction, the first thing to do is to deconstruct it, to show that it leaks, that its terms are porous and intersecting, one side bleeding into the other, these leaks being the most interesting thing of all about the distinction.”

What I see as problematic in this interview is the assumption that God can be deconstructed. Obviously this depends on what we mean by “God”. In other words, it is possible to generate a conception of deity that is less than God and more like a figment of our imagination. In such a case deconstruction is very possible. Caputo didn’t go into the type of deity he is referring to. Once he begins to qualify a deity for us then we have a better understanding of whether or not such a deity can be deconstructed.

Aristotle on First Philosophies

640px-Aristotle_Altemps_Inv8575Thinking about Aristotle and first philosophy can make one consider the many “first philosophies” she might poses and reason from (at least it does for me). We all come at reality with our governing presuppositions, but are they helpful to us? That is, do they help us in understanding reality or do the hinder our understanding?

Aristotle seems to believe that there is no difference between reality and logic. For Aristotle a logical view of reality is a true outlook on reality or even further, being. So the problem for Aristotle comes in when we talk about sub disciplines as first philosophy. Sub disciplines are limited in their field of comprehending reality. For example geometry’s concern with being is only in so far as it relates to space. Botany’s involvement in reality is restricted to nutrition and growth of plants.

Aristotle’s point is, there seems to be a lack of universality in these sub disciplines that doesn’t exist with logic. Logic along with being or reality exist universally and thus are understood by Aristotle to be first philosophies.