Lecture 2. Existentialism and Self-Identity Chapter section: B. Existentialism: Self-Identity and the Responsibility of Choice Existentialism Existentialists believe that self-identity, in every case, is a matter of choice. The self is created through choices.
Concepts: The interaction of the self and the world; the creation of the self in time.
Jean-Paul Sartre Sartre argued that there are no set standards for self-identity, either for individuals or for people in general. There is no such thing as "human nature," and what we are—and what it means to be a human being—is always a matter of decision. There is no correct choice; there are only choices.
On Sartre's account, each person chooses which facts are to be considered as essential to one's self-identity. The facts alone are not enough to judge a person (this is called facticity). The person's projections into the future, her ambitions, intentions, hopes, etc., also have to be considered (a person's transcendence).
Bad Faith Bad faith is the possibility of refusing to accept responsibility for one's choices. This can happen in two ways:
One can attempt to reject certain facts and actions as relevant to self.
One can believe that certain actions forever fix one's self-identity.
This results ultimately in avoiding responsibility for selfhood.
Bad faith reveals that there is no personal self-identity. We are always more than whatever facts can be ascribed to us.
We are identified by facts, but also
Possibly discuss mechanisms of bad faith, using Sartre's famous examples: the café waiter or the woman on her first date. Bad faith and self-deception: Is every case of self-deception a case of bad faith? What about procrastination? Distraction?
Also: Bad faith and authenticity.
Note to instructor: Bad faith can also be introduced at the conclusion of The Individual and the Community lecture below.