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60131Zizek's Inimitable Take on Mauvaise Foi

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  • Mary
    Aug 8, 2013
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      One last excerpt, this time from Zizek, on Sartre's concept of Bad Faith. I promise not to post anything more until Jim has time to catch up. Zizek has an approach that turns concepts upside down and inside out in order to philosophically invigorate them. I had suspected Sartre throughout B&N was explaining that bad faith was more than identifying with a role. It was identifying with the role in order not to be the role and that by signaling to others he was more than a waiter, he was either fooling himself or freeing himself. Does the 'performance' open a space for actual freedom or false freedom? Mary

      ~Does not Sartre's underlying ontological thesis—that "the waiter in the cafe can not be immediately a cafe waiter in the sense that this inkwell *is* an inkwell"—point forward towards Lacan's classic thesis that a madman is not only a beggar who thinks he is a king, but also a king who thinks he is a king? We should be very precise in this reading: as Robert Bernasconi notes in his commentary, there is much more to Sartre's thesis than a simple point about mauvaise foi and self-objectivization (in order to cover up—or escape from—the void of his freedom, a subject clings to a firm symbolic identity); what Sartre
      does is show how, through the very exaggeration of his gestures, through his very over-identification with the role, the waiter in question signals his distance from it and thus asserts his subjectivity.

      And it is crucial to supplement this description with its symmetrical opposite: one is *truly* identified with one's role precisely when one does not "over-identify with it, but accompanies one's role playing, following the rules, with small violations or idiosyncrasies designed to signal that, beneath the role, there is a real person who cannot be directly identified with it or reduced to it. In other words, it is totally wrong to read the waiter's behavior as a cause of mauvaise foi: his exaggerated act opens up, in a negative way, the space for his authentic self, since its message is "I am not what I am playing at being." True mauvaise foi consists precisely in embellishing my playing a role with idiosyncratic details—it is this "personal touch" which provides the space for false freedom, allowing me to accommodate myself to my self-objectivization in the role I am playing.

      Sartre also draws attention to a crucial distinction between this kind of "playing a role" and a theatrical "playing a role" where the subject merely imitates the gestures of a waiter for the amusement of spectators or as a part of a stage performance: in clear opposition to
      the theatrical imitation, the waiter who "plays at being a waiter" *really is a waiter*. As Sartre put it, the waiter 'realizes" the condition of being a waiter, while an actor who plays a waiter on stage is "irrealized" in his role. In linguistic terms, what accounts for this difference is the performative status of my acts: in the case of an actor, the performative "efficacy" is suspended. A psychotic is precisely one who does not see (or, rather, "feel") this difference: for him, both the real waiter and the actor are just "playing a role." ~
      Less Than Nothing pp. 355-6
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