Live and Let Live

While a prisoner of war in 1940/1941 Sartre read Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, an ontological investigation through the lens and method of Husserlian phenomenology (Husserl was Heidegger’s teacher). Reading Being and Time initiated Sartre’s own enquiry leading to the publication in 1943 of Being and Nothingness whose subtitle is ‘A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology’. Sartre’s essay is clearly influenced by Heidegger though Sartre was profoundly skeptical of any measure by which humanity could achieve a kind of personal state of fulfillment comparable to the hypothetical Heideggerian re-encounter with Being.

In his much gloomier account in Being and Nothingness, man is a creature haunted by a vision of “completion”, what Sartre calls the ens causa sui, and which religions identify as God. Born into the material reality of one’s body, in an all-too-material universe, one finds oneself inserted into being (with a lower case “b”). Consciousness is in a state of cohabitation with its material body, but has no objective reality; it is nothing (“no thing”). Consciousness has the ability to conceptualize possibilities, and to make them appear, or to annihilate them.

While a prisoner of war in 1940/1941 Sartre read Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, an ontological investigation through the lens and method of Husserlian phenomenology (Husserl was Heidegger’s teacher). Reading Being and Time initiated Sartre’s own enquiry leading to the publication in 1943 of Being and Nothingness whose subtitle is ‘A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology’. Sartre’s essay is clearly influenced by Heidegger though Sartre was profoundly skeptical of any measure by which humanity could achieve a kind of personal state of fulfillment comparable to the hypothetical Heideggerian re-encounter with Being.

In his much gloomier account in Being and Nothingness, man is a creature haunted by a vision of “completion”, what Sartre calls the ens causa sui, and which religions identify as God. Born into the material reality of one’s body, in an all-too-material universe, one finds oneself inserted into being (with a lower case “b”). Consciousness is in a state of cohabitation with its material body, but has no objective reality; it is nothing (“no thing”). Consciousness has the ability to conceptualize possibilities, and to make them appear, or to annihilate them. edit] Introduction In the introduction, Sartre sketches his own theory of consciousness, being and phenomena through criticism of both earlier phenomenologists (most notably Husserl and Heidegger) as well as idealists, rationalists and empiricists. According to him one of the major achievements of modern philosophy has been to free us of the kinds of dualism that set the existent up as having a “hidden” nature as with Kant’s noumenon; Phenomenology has removed “the illusion of worlds behind the scene. “[3]

Based on an examination of the nature of phenomena, he describes the nature of two aspects of being, being-in-itself and being-for-itself. While being-in-itself is something that can only be approximated, a sort of being that can only be imagined as itself if it is imagined without a witnessing consciousness, being-for-itself is the being of consciousness. [edit] Part 1 Chapter 1: The origin of negation When we go about the world, we have expectations which are often not fulfilled. For example, Pierre is not at the cafe where we thought we would meet him, so there is a negation, a void, a nothingness, in the place of Pierre.

When looking for Pierre his lack of being there becomes a negation; everything he sees as he searches the people and objects about him are “not Pierre. “[4] So Sartre claims “It is evident that non-being always appears within the limits of a human expectation. ” [5] [edit] Part 1 Chapter 2: Bad faith Bad faith or “Self-Deception”, as translations vary, can be understood as the guise of existing as a character, individual or person who defines himself through the social categorization of his formal identity.

This essentially means that in being a waiter, grocer, etc. one must believe that his or her social role is equivalent to his or her human existence. Living a life defined by one’s occupation, social, racial or economic class, is the very faith of “bad faith”, the condition in which people cannot transcend their situations in order to realize what they must be (human) and what they are not (a grocer, etc). It is also essential for an existent to understand that negation allows the self to enter what Sartre calls the “great human stream”.

The great human stream arises from a singular realization that nothingness is a state of mind in which we can become anything, in reference to our situation, that we desire. The possibility of playing is afforded by time and situation. It isn’t difficult to see how Sartre’s ideas are linked to post-modernist/structural claims offered by Michel Foucault. However, the theories differ vastly with regard to human identity. In any light, the difference in existence and identity projection remains at the heart of human subjects who are swept up by their own condition, their “bad faith. One of the most widely discussed examples of projection (via Freud’s conception of the human mind) that Sartre uses is the cafe waiter who performs the duties, traditions, functions and expectations of a cafe waiter. “[W]hat are we then if we have the constant obligation to make ourselves what we are if our mode of being is having the obligation to be what we are? Let us consider this waiter in the cafe. His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid.

He bends forward a little too eagerly; his voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. Finally there he returns, trying to imitate in his walk the inflexible stiffness of some kind of automaton while carrying his tray with the recklessness of a tight-rope-walker by putting it in a perpetually unstable, perpetually broken equilibrium which he perpetually re-establishes by a light movement of the arm and hand. All his behavior seems to us a game.

He applies himself to changing his movements as if they were mechanisms, the one regulating the other; his gestures and even his voice seems to be mechanisms; he gives himself the quickness and pitiless rapidity of things. He is playing, he is amusing himself. But what is he playing? We need not watch long before we can explain it: he is playing at being a waiter in a cafe. There is nothing there to surprise us. ” Sartre consistently mentions that in order to get out of bad faith, one must realize that his or her existence and his formal projection of a self are distinctly separate and within the means of human control.

This separation is a form of nothingness. Nothingness, in terms of bad faith, is characterized by Sartre as the internal negation which separates pure existence and identity, and thus we are subject to playing our lives out in a similar manner. An example is something that is what it is (existence) and something that is what it is not (a waiter defined by his occupation). Yet, Sartre takes a stance against characterizing bad faith in terms of “mere social positions”; I am never any one of my attitudes, any one of my actions.

The good speaker is the one who plays at speaking because he cannot be speaking. This literally means that, like the cafe waiter, the speaker is not his condition or social categorization, but is a speaker consumed by bad faith. Thus, we must realize what we are (beings who exist) and what we are not (a social, historical, preoccupation) in order to step out of bad faith. Yet, existents (human beings) must maintain a balance between existence, their roles and nothingness to become authentic beings.

Additionally, an important tenet of bad faith is that we must enact a bit of good faith in order to take advantage of our role to reach an authentic existence. The authentic domain of bad faith, is realizing that the role we are playing is the lie. The goal of authenticity can be traced back to Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. Dostoevsky has been called “The Grandfather of existentialism. ” To live and project into the future as a project of a self, while keeping out of bad faith and living by the will of the self is living life authentically.

This is perhaps one of the main goals of Sartre’s opus. One of the most important implications of bad faith is the abolition of traditional ethics and morality. Being a “moral person” requires one to deny authentic impulses (everything that makes us human), and allow the will of another person to change one’s actions. Being a moral person is one of the most severe forms of bad faith. Essentially Sartre characterizes this as “the faith of bad faith” which is and should not be, in Sartre’s opinion, at the heart of one’s existence.

Sartre has a very low opinion of conventional morality, condemning it as a tool of the bourgeoisie to control the masses. Examples include a “Keep Off The Grass” sign, which derives its being from a bourgeois need but hinders the need of the masses for play and relaxation. Bad faith also results when individuals begin to view their life as made up of distinct past events, like the “perfect moments” or “adventures” from Nausea. By viewing one’s ego as it once was rather than as it currently is, one ends up negating the current self and replacing it with a past self that no longer exists (as illustrated by Anny in Nausea).