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60090Re: Fixed nature

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  • Jim
    Jul 22, 2013

      Again you express some of Sartre's ideas very clearly and elegantly. I don't think I can match your formulations.

      Thanks for posting the bad faith section from Being and Nothingness. I have benefitted from reading it, but it just is very hard!

      Sartre talks of the "double property of the human being, who is at once a facticity and a transcendence". He goes on:

      "These two aspects of human reality are and ought to be capable of a valid coordination. But bad faith does not wish either to coordinate them nor to surmount them in a synthesis. Bad faith seeks to affirm their identity while preserving their differences. It must affirm facticity as being transcendence and transcendence as being facticity, in. such a way that at the instant when a person apprehends the one, he can find himself abruptly faced with the other."

      Gregory McCulloch in his commentary on this section makes the point that this is all so difficult because we just have one verb "to be", but we really need two verbs – to be1 and to be2 – to talk about being in-itself (facticity) and being for-itself (transcendence). He writes:

      "To be in the mode or manner In-itself and to be in the mode or manner For-itself are utterly different things. Let us write the first as `to be1' and the second as `to be2'. [McCulloch actually uses capitals for the first and bold for the second, but as I can't get bold into my Existlist text, I'll use numbers.] An inkwell is an inkwell in the manner In-itself: so an inkwell is1 an inkwell. A waiter is a waiter in the manner For-itself: so a waiter is2 a waiter. But it is not true that an inkwell is2 an inkwell (or anything else), and it is not true that a waiter is1 a waiter (or anything else). Ordinary language is confusing because it only has the one verb – `to be' – where in reality it needs two if Sartre's fundamental distinction in Being holds: `to be1' and `to be2'. As Sartre puts it, the concept of being is `two-faced' (B&N: 67). Not only this, but Sartre's principal idea is that this fundamental ambiguity or two-facedness is playing the crucial role in the cases of bad faith he discusses." (McCulloch, p. 57)

      So in the famous waiter example, the waiter thinks he is1 a waiter – he things that is his essence – whereas in reality he is2 a waiter – he continually chooses to be a waiter, he re-invents himself every morning as a waiter.

      Further Sartre suggests others pressurize the waiter to live up to the role – others want the waiter to be1 a waiter, as that is less threatening to them.

      As you say, Mary, this is all very insightful. We do have radical freedom to re-invent ourselves out of nothing each day of our lives, but living with this knowledge is unsettling to us, it gives us a sense of vertigo, and we often find the bad faith path of identifying our essence with our current role, or our past characteristics, the path of least resistance.

      My brain is beginning to hurt with the effort to understand and articulate these Sartrean ideas, so I'll stop here.

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