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Mauvaise foi or bad faith is a philosophical concept popularized by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre to describe the propensity for human beings to oppose absurdism in order to justify the circumstances in which they live. As an existentialist, Sartre believed that existence is a function of the meaning and values the individual gives to the world. If this is the case, then there are no valid excuses as to why an individual cannot change their circumstances. The idea that Individuals who do not believe this to be the case and believe that their life is dictated primarily by external forces is what Sarte referred to as bad faith.
If existence relies on the actions of the individual, then that individual possesses the authority to change their circumstances. The lack of this belief is what Sartre called bad faith and viewed this to be one of the biggest problems plaguing modern civilization. He used the example of the café waiter who sacrificed all of their authentic self in order to serve customers. Speaking in a tone and moving in a fashion that has objectively turned him into what is in essence, a waiter. There is a realization point in which the waiter understands that being a waiter is not the ideal career choice, but he must persist because it is his only choice in life. This type of existence is the exact opposite of what Sartre believed human beings to be. Sartre believed that essence comes as a result of existing.
In the modern world, the concept of bad faith is visible all around us. It is expected that we go to college to pursue a career path that we will follow for decades into the future Buy a big house, get married and start a family is the standard. We accept these ideals because they are what is considered normal and due to the illusion of choice scattered into these ideals. We can pick which career path we want to go down, but ultimately these are different paths going down the same road. Once we go down these roads, it is hard to deviate from them. It is difficult for someone that has spend twenty years doing one job to switch and learn a new profession. The difficulty of these choices is the fallacy that Sartre points out in the concept of bad faith. While some of these choices are very difficult, the choices can and should be made in order to maximize or freedom, which in turn will gives us more satisfaction in our lives.
The issue of bad faith can be remedied beginning with honesty. Just Acknowledging the mutability of your own existence is a good start. It is often perfectly justified to cite the difficulty in which an individual could face as a result of changing their circumstances, but the acknowledgement of the ability to change is important. Sartre observed that we often are aware of the mutability of our circumstances by our own free will, but we suppress these thoughts in exchange for the comfort of the status quo. The fallacy here is that the status quo represents a discomfort that has caused us to contemplate the possibility of changing our circumstances. Whether the change in circumstances leads to a better or worse situation, the right choice is to make a move because the incentive to potentially improve on the current situation is strong.
It is very easy to blame external factors for the issues that we face. Even when we acknowledge that we do have the ability to change our own circumstances, we are more likely to ignore and put aside those thoughts because change is difficult. The problem with this way of thinking is that the status quo is the issue and only change from within can remedy that. The example Sartre cites is the robotic waiter who has fully immersed himself in the role of the waiter and in turn has sacrificed his own being. Sartre viewed insincerity as bad faith, even if that meant you received good service.
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