What is not and not what is

I was browsing through ‘Desert Islands and Other Texts: 1953–1974’, a collection of short texts by Gilles Deleuze, not really knowing what to read, not being sure what I had already read, while I noticed something that tickled my fancy. It’s contained in ‘“He Was my Teacher”’. Deleuze (79) mentions Jean-Paul Sartre as having created the concept of bad faith, which pertains to how “consciousness, from within itself, plays on its dual power not to be what it is and to be what it is not”.

Sartre discusses this concept of bad faith in detail in ‘Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology’. However, before I jump into this text, it’s worth noting that the translator has opted to translate apparition as appearance, rather than retaining it as apparition, distinct from appearance, which is rather unfortunate. Where relevant, I’ve consulted the 1943 French original, ‘L’Être et le Néant: sous-titré essai d’ontologie phénoménologique’, to make more sense of the text.

So, Sartre (xlv) starts the introduction of his book by noting that there has been a lot of effort put into overcoming dualism(s) is favor of monism. Simply put, he (xlv) advocates for getting rid of all kinds of ‘embarrassing’ (his wording) dualisms, such as the interior and the exterior, the subject and the object, the thing and the real thing.

These dualisms include all kinds of Platonisms where each sensible phenomenon has a corresponding intelligible noumenon, like an actual table, like the one this computer screen, this mouse and this keyboard rest upon, and the idea of table, tableness, and Kantianisms where the phenomenon is the thing, like this table, as it appears to my senses, and the noumenon is what it actually is, the thing-in-itself, which I can never truly know beyond having an inkling that there is such a thing as my senses are all I have. You could say that the Kantian version gets rid of the noumena and thus makes us focus only on the phenomena, but, then again, while it does push us to focus on the phenomena, as that’s what we can focus on through our senses, it does still retain the noumena. You are still sort of stuck with a dualism, despite the effort that has gone into reworking the age old schema.

Right, so, I pointed out that the translator, Barnes, has opted to translate apparition as appearance. This is rather unfortunate for the reader because in the French original Sartre (11) refers to reality as “la série des apparitions qui le manifestent”, that is to say as a matter of apparition, rather than as the totality of appearances which manifest it, that is to say as a matter of appearance. Now, you could say that the translation of this (xlv), “the series of appearances which manifest it”, retains an important aspect of apparition, its serial nature, as opposed to presenting it as the totality of appearances, but the translation is still rather unfortunate. I don’t know if the more recent translation by Sarah Richmond does a better job at conveying this. Sartre (xlvi) does mention that he is actually referring to the process of “‘appearing’”, i.e. apparition, rather than to appearance, but that doesn’t help the reader much if you are not aware of this distinction. I’ll hop back to Deleuze, who explains this particularly well in the first 1978 lecture on Kant:

“The appearance is something that refers to essence in a relation of disjunction, in a disjunctive relation, which is to say either it’s appearance or it’s essence. The apparition is very different, it’s something that refers to the conditions of what appears.”

This may appear to be a minor distinction, but it has major repercussions, as Deleuze points out during that lecture:

“The difference is enormous because when I say the word apparition I am no longer saying appearance at all, I am no longer at all opposing it to essence. The apparition is what appears in so far as it appears. Full stop. I don’t ask myself if there is something behind, I don’t ask myself if it is false or not false. The apparition is not at all captured in the oppositional couple, in the binary distinction where we find appearance, distinct from essence.”

In short, this involves a major shift in the way we think about reality and, as Deleuze points out during that lecture, it’s markedly phenomenological:

“[T]he problem is absolutely no longer the same, the problem has become phenomenological.”

I pointed out earlier on, a couple of paragraphs back, that Kant reworks the age old schema considerably, while still hanging on to the past. Now, to add to that earlier statement, I don’t think it’s because he wants to hang on to the past, but because he simply cannot find a way to get rid of it altogether or to explain it in a way that wouldn’t make people think of the previous formulations. Anyway, be as it may, Deleuze gives Kant plenty of credit in this regard:

“[W]ith Kant a radically new understanding of the notion of phenomenon emerges. … I think that if there is a founder of phenomenology it is Kant.”

This leads us back to Sartre who uses the term apparition in the context of phenomenology in French original. If you keep this in mind, Sartre’s book will make way more sense to you. He (xlv) state that, for example:

“The [apparitions] which manifest the existent are neither interior nor exterior; they are all equal, they all refer to other [apparitions], and none of them is privileged.

This is also evident from the examples he provides, when he (xlv) argues that force is not something “which hides behinds its effects” and that “an electric current does not have a secret reverse side”. For him (xlv) there is nothing “which is behind itself”. Anyway, to get on with this, the problem with dualisms is that whatever it is that we are dealing with ends up being presented as an appearance of something else, that is to say as a representation, as a re-presentation of it. As he (xlv-xlvi) points out, the problem with that is that whatever we deal with is then considered as “‘that which is not being’”, as having “no other being that that of illusion and error.” So, in agreement with Deleuze, he (xlvi) states that:

“The appearance does not hide the essence, it reveals it; it is the essence. The essence of an existent is no longer a property sunk in the cavity of this existent; it is the manifest law which presides over the succession of its [apparitions], it is the principle of the series.”

And, similarly (xlviii):

“Since there is nothing behind the [apparition], and since it indicates only itself (and the total series of [apparitions]), it can not be supported by any being other than its own.”

That said, he (xlviii) acknowledges how problematic this can appear to people:

“If the essence of the [apparition] is an ‘appearing’ which is no longer opposed to any being, there arises a legitimate problem concerning the being of this appearing.”

He (xlviii) ponders this problem, noting that it would appear that as a being, apparition is its own being, which is, of course, really contradictory, considering that apparition is about how this and/or that appears, as it does, inasmuch it does, the way it does. In his (xlviii) words, “is the being discloses itself to me, which appears to me, of the same nature as the being of existents which appear to me?” That said, as he (xlviii) points out, this would appear to be the case, but isn’t. How so? Well, this problem has to do with what he (xlix) calls the “being of the phenomena” vs. “the phenomenon of being” and how they are connected:

“By not considering being as the condition of revelation but rather being as an [apparition] which can be determined in concepts, we have understoo[]d first of all that knowledge can not by itself give an account of being; that is, the being of the phenomenon can not be reduced to the phenomenon of being.”

In other words, as he (xlix) further elaborates this, “[t]he existent is a phenomenon”, like this table or this keyboard, which “designates itself and not its being”, whereas “[b]eing is simply the condition of all revelation”, the “being-for-revealing” and not the “revealed being”, which I’d simply call apparition. In short, what we sense are phenomena, but the phenomenal conditions that give rise to us sensing them as such, as phenomena are more important.

So, to explain this in the terms used by Deleuze during that lecture on Kant, when I refer to this table, I’m referring to it as a phenomenon, as what appears, but I’m not considering how it comes to appear to me as a phenomenon, the process of appearing, the conditions of apparition. Alternatively, as also suggested by Deleuze, that which appears can be called apparition, for having appeared, as it does, as long as it does, inasmuch as it does, and conditions as the sense of apparition, as in which sense does it appear to us, what conditions must be met that we come to make sense of it or is it just nonsensical, in which case we do not even register it as apparition. Note how this is not at all like with appearance and essence or phenomenon and noumenon, because there is nothing behind what appears, only conditions of apparition which, of course, may vary, so that if something does not appear to me, right now, it does not mean that it might not appear to me in the future, but not because I’m simply ignorant of it being there, but because its apparition is tied to the conditions which make it appear to me, assuming that it does, of course.

For example, if someone asks me whether I saw petunias on my way to work, I’d be inclined to say no because I don’t know what petunias are. The whole ordeal appears to me as nonsensical. I simply don’t know what counts a petunia. Maybe there were petunias, but they don’t make sense to me as such. For all I know it might be that someone made up that word to mess with me, so there might not even be such a thing as a petunia. I might say that I did see flowers if the person I’m talking with me made me aware that petunias are flowers. Then again, I wouldn’t be able to confirm that I did see petunias on my way to work. Perhaps the other person could be able to tell me more about petunias, which would incline me to say that I did see petunias on my way to work and not some other flowers.

Of course I might also answer no because there weren’t any petunias to be seen on my way to work. It might be that I do know what counts as a petunia, for example if I’m a gardener or a botanist (which I’m not), but I simply didn’t see any. In this case they didn’t appear to me because the conditions of their apparition were not otherwise met. In other words, I’d know full well what a petunia is and could indicate if there were such on my way to work. The point here really is that we do not simply come to recognize something, as if it was waiting to reveal itself to us once we encounter it. We don’t know things because they simply are what they are, recognizable as such, but because we have the appropriate knowledge that forms them, providing the conditions of apparition to us. That said, it’s worth adding that it’s not only about knowledge, how we have acquired and thus share in it, after it has been produced so that it can be acquired and shared, but also about what is out there or, rather, what appears to be out there. My knowledge of petunias doesn’t make petunias appear to me, just because, but, then again, I do need to have the knowledge of petunias for them to appear to me. I know what petunias are, because they make sense to me, so I would know if there actually were petunias.

Another way of grasping this would be to call phenomenon appearance, as it is what appears, the way it does, and the phenomenal conditions apparition. Then again, that may mislead people to think of appearance and essence, which is the exact opposite what I’m after here. Sartre (l) provides a concise way of explaining this:

“What determines the being of the [apparition] is the fact that it [appears]. And since we have restricted reality to the phenomenon, we can say of the phenomenon that it is as it appears.”

That said, he (l) does hesitate a bit, not because he isn’t committed to his own concise definition, but because he reckons that it’s easy misunderstand what he is after:

“Why not push the idea to its limit and say that the being of the [apparition] is its appearing?”

Well, the answer is that you don’t to push it to its limit because that reduces apparition, that is to say appearing, into something definite, as if there was something that just appears, rather than varying sets of conditions that result in apparition, something appearing to us, the way it does, inasmuch as it does. His (l) gripe with this is that it results in repackaging George Berkeley’s stance on this. In his ‘A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge’ Berkeley (29) states that things don’t exist in the absence of a sensing and thinking being:

“It is evident that any one who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses; or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind; or lastly, ideas formed by help of memory and imagination – either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways.”

In short, what we call objects are ideas that one thinks of. They are either just thoughts, brought about by what he (29) calls “the passions and operations of the mind” or formed in memory or imagination, going back to some earlier ideas in some way. He (29) continues:

“By sight I have the ideas of light and colours, with their several degrees and variations.”

So, yeah, for him, seeing is connected to thinking, as are the other senses, as he (29) goes on to add:

“By touch I perceive hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance, and of all these more and less either as quantity or degree. Smelling furnishes me with odours; the palate with tastes; and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition.”

I agree. When you think of it, yes, there is more to sensing that just sensing. There is always some thought involved. He (29) summarizes his thoughts on this:

“And as several of these are observed to accompany each other, they come to be marked by one name, and so to be reputed as one thing.”

Well, yes and no. At first, this seems about right, but it isn’t. Yes, we do come to attribute what it is that we see, feel, smell, hear or, more broadly speaking, sense as this or that, but I’d say that’s not the whole story. He (29-30) exemplifies his take with an apple, arguing that it has “a certain colour, taste, smell, figure and consistence” that co-occur, which is why come to understand it as such. I’m on board with how he (30) attributes all things, that is to say everything, to “collections of ideas” that constitute them, what I’d call knowledge, but I’m not on board with how he subordinates it all to a perceiving active being, to a subject, what he also calls “mind, spirit, souls, or myself.” In his (30) words:

“But, besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises diverse operations, as willing, imagining, remembering, about them.”

In short, he distinguishes between objects (objects of knowledge or ideas) and subjects. He (30) then subordinates the objects to the subjects:

“By [mind, spirit, soul, or myself] I do not denote any of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, wherein, they exist, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived – for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived.”

In other words, for Berkeley, the existence of ideas or objects depends on perception. Now, it’s worth going back a bit, to note that, for him, all senses give us ideas, the objects of knowledge or, rather, knowledge of objects. But what is perception? My own understanding of perception is that it’s generally understood as having to do with sensing, that is to say using one’s senses to notice something, but it can also be understood as having to do with thinking, how one realizes something just by thinking. Anyway, as that’s just me, working on my memory alone, lets look at what a dictionary like the Oxford English Dictionary has to say about how we perceive (OED, s.v. “perceive”, v.) something:

“To take in or apprehend with the mind or senses.”

Ah, yes, my memory did serve me right. But, to me more specific, there’s more to this (OED, s.v. “perceive”, v.):

“To apprehend with the mind; to become aware or conscious of; to realize; to discern, observe.”

And (OED, s.v. “perceive”, v.):

“To interpret or look on (a thing, situation, person, etc.) in a particular way; to regard as, consider to be.”

As well as (OED, s.v. “perceive”, v.):

“To apprehend through one of the senses, esp. sight; to become aware of by seeing, hearing, etc.; to see; to detect.”

So, it can be about perceiving through one’s senses, for example by seeing, or by thinking, depending on the context. There are some other uses of perceive that are listed as obsolete and/or otherwise rare. They date all the way back to the 1300s, 1400s, 1500s and 1600s. One of them is particularly interesting (OED, s.v. “perceive”, v.):

“To apprehend (something that is not manifest); to detect or discern (that which is hidden, or not immediately obvious); to see through or into.”

I consider this particularly interesting because it makes it evident how dualistic the process of perceiving is thought to be. It connects well to what I’ve covered so far. What about perception then? Let’s see (OED, s.v. “perception”, n.):

“The process of becoming aware or conscious of a thing or things in general; the state of being aware; consciousness[.]”

And (OED, s.v. “perception”, n.):

“The process of becoming aware of physical objects, phenomena, etc., through the senses; an instance of this.”

As well as, as a countable noun (OED, s.v. “perception”, n.):

“[A] direct recognition of something; an intuitive insight; an understanding.”

Or, by extension (OED, s.v. “perception”, n.):

“[A]n interpretation or impression based upon such an understanding; an opinion or belief.”

And (OED, s.v. “perception”, n.):

“The action of the mind by which it refers sensations to external objects, phenomena, etc., as their cause.”

There are a handful of other uses, namely obsolete ones, but these should be enough. In summary, what’s common to perceiving (to perceive) and perception is the underlying dualism, how the subject comes to perceive objects, as if they were there to be perceived. Anyway, back to Berkeley (30) who stresses the importance of the thinking subject in the process of perceiving:

“[T]he various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is, whatever objects they compose), cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them.”

I was going to point out that he is careful enough to distinguish between sensations and the objects that come to be perceived, but, I’m not so sure about that, considering that he seems to equate sensations with ideas. I can’t be sure, so I won’t further comment on that. Anyway, what’s important here is that he grants primacy to the subject, so that everything follows from that. He (30) moves on to clarify what he means by existence, what he means when he says that something exists:

“The table I write on I say exists, that is, I see and feel it; and if I were out of my study I should say it existed – meaning thereby that if I was in my study I might perceive it, or that some[one else] actually does perceive it.”

So, to him, the existence of an object is subordinate to his own existence or to the existence of someone else. Conversely, he thinks that an object doesn’t exist unless he or someone else observes it. If that’s hilarious to you, it’s because it is, because he is indeed saying that the condition of existence of his table is his perception of it. If you are charitable to him, you could say that he isn’t saying that, at least not strictly speaking, considering that he does acknowledge that someone else may give rise to the existence of the table. Then again, I reckon he is merely saying that he is a subject among other subjects, that you, even you can validate this yourself, by just walking out of sight of a table or some other object that concerns you for some reason.

I could add, to his credit, that this whole discussion of what exists and what doesn’t is, of course, only meaningful if you yourself exist. To put it bluntly, if you are dead or about to die, let’s say because you stumbled in your apartment and hit your head on a table corner, the existence or non-existence of a table just doesn’t matter to you, except, perhaps, in those dying moments when you curse the table your head landed on or whatever you tripped on before your head landed on the corner of the table, the point being that all this talk about tables and hitting one’s head on one of its corners only matters if you are there to ponder it. In his (31) words:

“For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible.”

Exactly! That said, he (31) isn’t content on stating just that, the unintelligibility of such a scenario, and goes on to add that:

“Their esse is percipi, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.”

This is what Sartre (l) means by taking the idea of apparition to its limit, so that, for example, this table that I write on only exists because I’m here to perceive it or if someone, in my stead, is here to perceive it. Sartre (l) objects to this for two reasons. Firstly, perception presupposes knowledge, which means that knowledge is never explained. What is it and where does it come from? In his (l) words:

“This means among other things that an idealism intent on reducing being to the knowledge which we have of it, ought first to give some kind of guarantee for the being of knowledge.”

To be more specific, as he (l-li) goes on to add:

“If one begins … by taking the knowledge as a given, without being concerned to establish a basis for its being, and if one then affirms that esse [is] percipi, the totality ‘perceived-perception,’ lacks the support of a solid being and so falls away in nothingness. Thus the being of knowledge can not be measured by knowledge; it is not subject to the percipi.”

That’s why, for him (l-li):

“Therefore the foundation-of-being … for the percipere and the percipi can not itself be subject to the percipi; it must be transphenomenal.”

In other words, he faults Berkeley for grounding to perceive and to be perceived on to be perceived. To remedy this, he (li) states that:

“Thus the percipi would refer to the percipiens – the known to knowledge and knowledge to the being who knows (in his [or her] capacity as being, not as being known); that is, knowledge refers to consciousness.”

This shifts the discussion from perception and knowledge to consciousness, which he (li) defines as “the dimension of transphenomenal being in the subject” and, to be more specific, “the knowing being in his [or her] capacity as being and not as being known.” To go back to a bit, this is the difference between to be perceived and perceiving. The latter defines this or that, i.e. knowledge, as that what is perceived. The former defines this or that in terms of one’s act of perceiving, the capacity to perceive. Now, to add something here, this, of course, also means that to perceive is to be perceived as if I’m perceiving something, someone else is also perceiving me or might be perceiving me.

He (li) also provides a less abstract definition of consciousness by stating that “[a]ll consciousness, as [Edmund] Husserl has shown, is consciousness of something”, i.e. intentionality, which, in turn, “means that there is no consciousness which is not a positing of a[n] … object, or if you prefer, that consciousness has no ‘content.’” This also means that, for him (li), we must give up on “neutral ‘givens’” that either ground everything on what’s out there or on what goes on in the mind. Simply put, we can’t start with the objects nor with the subjects, taking them as granted.

This leads to the problem of consciousness of consciousness, which, he (lii) argues isn’t mere reflection, mere knowledge of consciousness, because consciousness is not knowledge. Simply put, consciousness is not an object of knowledge, which is why it cannot be approached as such. As he (lii) goes on to add, if it was the case, then we’d end up reintroducing the subject-object dualism we are opposing and trying to get rid of. He (liii) exemplifies this by noting that when we reflect on ourselves, on our own consciousness, we might, among other things, be “ashamed of it”, “proud of it” or “deny it”, that is to say judge ourselves, but this is not how consciousness works because it’s always immediate and spontaneous, lacking judgment. To be more specific, as he (liii) goes on to add, when we encounter something, we don’t mull over it, we simply perceived as such and such. He (liii) uses the example of counting cigarettes that are contained in some case, perhaps their box or an actual cigarette case. He (liii) notes how counting them gives him knowledge of them, how many of them there are in the case, but it doesn’t give him knowledge of counting. As he (liii) also points out, when we do something, like count something, we are probably not even aware that we are doing that, that, for example, we are counting something. It just sort of happens. We don’t stop to think about counting in order to count. We can, of course, reflect on that, as he does in his writing, and as I do here, but, as he (liii) points out, “reflection has no kind of primacy over the consciousness reflected-on.” For him (liii) it’s the exact opposite as “it is the non-reflective consciousness which renders the reflection possible” as there has to be something that be reflected upon prior to the reflection.

He (liv) really stresses the importance of not defining consciousness as a matter of reflecting upon what we are already conscious of. This is the problem with presenting feelings or emotions as something that you ought to reflect upon, as if they were like this or like that. To give you an example, the pleasure you get when someone you like smiles at you is not something to ponder about. It is what it is, that is to say as it appears to you, in its immediacy, at that very moment. If you smile back, then you do, probably because you indeed like that person. If don’t then you might have been surprised or startled by that, but it still gave you pleasure. If doesn’t do anything for you, then it doesn’t, probably because you don’t actually like the person, even if you think you do. You do not stop to ponder how you feel about that and what you might do, what your options are, or at least I hope you don’t. You can of course make a note to yourself, of how pleasurable that was or how long it lasted, to qualify it and to quantify it, but that’s not what pleasure is, in itself. In his (liv) words:

“Pleasure must not disappear behind its own self-consciousness; it is not a representation, it is a concrete event, full and absolute.”

Indeed. That smile is an event. You can analyze it to bits and pieces, as much as you like, but that analysis won’t yield you the smile, nor the pleasure you get from it in that event that you were a part of. This does not, however, mean that analysis of this or that event is therefore pointless. No, no. It’s rather that it’s one thing to enjoy something, as an event, as an apparition, and another thing to analyze it and/or its conditions of apparition, how it came or might have come to being. So, yeah, while I recommend to enjoy the smiles and not to think about them, because you are missing the point if you do, it can, of course, be interesting to assess why someone smiles and why someone else doesn’t, that is to say what might be the conditions of their existence. Do some people smile more than others? Why might that be?

He (lv) moves on to stress that consciousness is a matter of self-determination and self-creation, which means that it does not have a clear beginning nor an end, that is to say a trajectory, nor can it be understood as an act. It’s not a matter of progression involving “self-cause” that leads to “self-effect”, as he (lv) goes on to add. This is also why he (lv) states that “[c]onsciousness is a plenum of existence, and this determination of itself by itself is an essential characteristic.” That said, he (lv) warns not to confuse this, the self-determination and self-creation, as deriving from nothingness as “[t]here can not be ‘nothingness of consciousness’ before consciousness.” Then again, there can, of course, be “nothingness of consciousness” but only if there has been consciousness that no longer is observed by another consciousness which makes note of this passing from consciousness to nothingness, as he (lv-lvi) goes on to add. To explain this in less abstract terms, consciousness always comes to being from something, never from nothing, as he (lvi) remarks in a footnote. Simply put, you always start from the positive, from something, even if you end up on the negative, to nothing, not the other way around.

As this is probably still rather confusing, he (lvi) acknowledges that the self-creation and self-determination of consciousness or “‘self-activated’ existences” may appear paradoxical, considering that how can something be or exist if it appears to come to being through self-activation, but argues that it’s not as that’s just all there is, self-activated existences. To be clear, what he means by self-activation is not something that comes out of nothing, as already pointed out, but rather something continuously (re)produces itself, as he (lvi) also points out in this context. This also means that, for him (lvi), inertia, the resistance to change, from one state to another, regardless of whether it involves movement or not, is just totally incomprehensible or nonsensical because it is assumed that “passive existence” is possible. In other words, inertia makes no sense for him, because it is change that makes something appear unchanging. Stability is thus a mere illusion. What we have instead is metastability.

He (lvi) acknowledges that he hasn’t really explained where consciousness comes from, except that it comes from something. So where does it come from? The simple answer is that comes “[f]rom the limbo of the unconscious or of the physiological” but, being the simple answer, it doesn’t really tell that limbo comes from, as he (lvi) points out. In other words, it does come from those two, from the unconscious and the physiological, they are there, but if we leave it at that, we take the unconscious and the physiological for granted, as having passive existence, which is why he (lvi) isn’t happy with the simple answer. The problem of passive existence remains because those two don’t exactly explain how one moves from the unconscious and the physiological to consciousness, which is why people often seek to explain it away with recourse to something like the will of God. As he (lvi) points out, as there appears to be no necessary connection between the physiological/unconscious and consciousness, only sheer contingency (which is also why the whole world is or at least appears as contingent), we are tempted to fill in the blanks, to bridge the gap, to come up with some explanation that makes this problem go away. This led me on a tangent on what Baruch Spinoza has to say about this, but I opted to focus on that separately. If this interests you, take look at my previous essay.

Anyway, similar to Spinoza, Sartre’s (lvi) answer to what causes consciousness is not the will of God, nor anything similar as “nothing is the cause of consciousness”, but that consciousness is simply that what appears, i.e. apparition, as it “is the cause of its own way of being.” So, what we have, what we are dealing with is “a transphenomenal being”, as he (lvii) points out.

He (lvii) moves on to address the being of the things we perceive, i.e. the perceived. To briefly reiterate a couple of things here, so that you don’t need to crawl back to wherever I presented them first, percipi is what’s perceived, percipiens is the perceiver and percipere is perceiving. Right, to link this to his discussion of consciousness, we got so far prior to that tangent that we don’t simply perceive things that are out there, as if they were waiting for us to perceive them, on an as is basis. Instead, as he (lvii) points out, it is the perceiver that perceives, so that whatever appears to the perceiver depends on the perceiver. This should not, however, be taken to mean that it’s all subjective, because it is more apt to state that what’s perceived depends not on the perceiver but on the knowledge of the perceiver. That said, as already pointed out earlier on, what is perceived is not simply tied to the knowledge of the perceiver as for there to be knowledge, that knowledge has to come from somewhere, as acknowledged by him (lvii). So, for example, this table that my keyboard rests upon does exist, beyond my knowledge of it as a table. It’s not identical to the knowledge of it because then it would not be an actual table but just about knowledge, as he (lvii) goes on to specify. It simply appears to me as a table through knowledge.

So, what’s perceived by the perceiver cannot simply be reduced to what’s perceived. It can neither be reduced to the perceiver, as aptly summarized by him (lviii). So, as I would put it, it’s not objective, nor subjective. The perceived is, of course, to some extent relative to the perceiver as the perceiver’s perception of what’s perceived requires knowledge, as he (lviii) points out. That would, in my view, make it collective. That means that there needs to be reciprocity, so that it’s all connected, directly or indirectly, which, in turn, requires immanence, as otherwise we are trapped in infinite regress. In his (lx-lxi) words, the transphenomenality of consciousness does not sufficiently explain the phenomena that come to be perceived, but rather the other way around as all consciousness is consciousness of something, something which is not itself. To be more precise, he (lxii) states that “consciousness is a being such that in its being, its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.” Now, that is not exactly what Spinoza says as Sartre (lxii) attributes his formulation largely to Heidegger, but I don’t think it’s far from it, considering that for Spinoza (67) each finite thing, us humans included, “cannot exist or be conditioned to act, unless it be conditioned for existence and action by a cause other than itself, which also is finite, and has a conditioned existence”.

To put this all very concisely, as Sartre (lxv) does, there’s no need to think beyond what already is, that is to say to reflect upon it, because what’s reflected upon is not it. As he (lxv) puts it, when we think of ourselves, we can’t think of ourselves, because it’s the self thinking on itself, because “being is opaque to itself precisely because it is filled with itself.” So, when someone states the obvious, that it is what it is, that person has understood exactly what Sartre (lxv) is after, as silly as that might seem. If that person also acknowledges that it didn’t have to be that way and/or that it doesn’t have to be that way, even though it is what it is, that person has also understood what Spinoza (116) means by necessity and contingency. Anyway, the point here is, in all its simplicity, that it is what it is, you are what you, everything is as it is, ought of necessity. If that wasn’t the case, then it would be some other way, but then again that would still be as it is, only that way instead of some other way, out of necessity. I think Sartre (lxvi) puts it quite nicely when he remarks that “[i]t is full positivity” as “being itself does not exist as a lack”. We can certainly assess what was, what we were, but what’s deemed as a lack is not an actual lack that existed in the past, whenever that was present, because, as he (lxvi) points out, there can be no lack in the present. It’s the same with future. We can fear that we will lack something in the future, but that’s not the actual future present, whenever that will be, which means that there will be no lack. None of this, however, means that one is stuck in necessity, beyond the fact that everything is as it is, as assessed here and now. Things didn’t have to be the way they were, nor happen the way they did, even though they did. Things don’t have to be the way they are now, nor happen the way they do, even though they do. To reiterate the gist of the first sentence in this paragraph, this whole assessment of necessity and contingency is simply unnecessary, considering that “the full positivity of being is re-formed on its giving way”, as pointed out by him (lxvi).

So, not that I’ve managed to explain all that I think I need to explain, in, what, ten pages or so (without the tangent on Spinoza, which is like another ten pages or so), like I couldn’t in an actual article, it’s time to return to the concept of bad faith, what Deleuze (79) indicates in ‘“He Was my Teacher”’ as pertaining to how “consciousness, from within itself, plays on its dual power not to be what it is and to be what it is not”. What’s the deal with that? I think you should be able to get the gist of it, to figure out what Sartre means by bad faith, considering that it has a lot to do with what I wrote in the previous paragraph.

Anyway, for Sartre (47-48) bad faith is a resentful attitude which involves a negation of oneself, typically in the form of self-deception, also known as lying to oneself. The person who exhibits bad faith may well be aware of what one is doing, but that’s not necessarily the case, as he (48) points out. It’s one thing to lie in order to deceive others, which he (48) considers to be ideal lie, and another thing to be the victim of one’s own lies, as aptly noted by him (48). I’m not fan of transcendence, because I don’t think there is any otherworldly plane, anything beyond, to the point that I’m not that keen even mentioning it, but something me made me think of something else, perhaps relevant, when he (48) mentions that acting like someone else, someone who does not even exist, like a character, has this claim to transcendence.

So, what this reminds me of is a joke that Slavoj Žižek likes to tell. It’s an old Jewish joke, supposedly loved by Jacques Derrida. You can look this up in ‘Žižek’s Jokes’. It’s a complication of his jokes. Anyway, so, he (52) has this joke about a rabbi, a wealthy businessman and a poor person who, one by one, claim that they are nobodies, which results in the businessman quietly asking the rabbi who does this poor person think (s)he is? It’s like how dare (s)he also claim to be a nobody?

Žižek probably mentions the underlying issue, what the joke is about, in a number of texts, but I chose ‘Tolerance as an Ideological Category’ as it’s from 2008, so dated but highly relevant at the moment, and because it’s the first thing that I came across when searching where he covers this issue in a non-joke format. So, to unpack the joke and to explain the gist of it, there’s this claim to something through identification, when one claims to be this and/or that, whatever that may be. For him (661, 663), there are those who are born into this or that collective, people who don’t think much of it, how it influences them, because why would they, it’s part and parcel of their reality. The point is that being a nobody is not a choice to a nobody, as he (663) points out. Then there are those who can and do choose, those to whom being a nobody is something that can be chosen, as he (661) also points out. Only they “effectively choose a choice”, as aptly noted by him (663). The joke gets this across particularly well. The poor person is just a poor person, a broke-ass nobody. The rabbi is not a nobody, nor is the businessman, which means that they are free to choose who it is that they think they are. Such a person can claim to be nobody without actually being a nobody. The problem with this, claiming to be a nobody while not actually being a nobody, is that involves a claim to universality, to being above it all, above all the particularisms and parochialisms that come from subscribing to this and/or that identity, for example a culture, as he (661) points out.

Back to Sartre (56) who states that humans have this dual capacity: facticity and transcendence. The former has to do with just what is, how things are, be as they may. The latter has to do with going above or beyond that, exceeding or surpassing it. We can grasp this fairly easily because there’s no doubt that things are the way they are, at all times, out of necessity, but we can think otherwise, as discussed in my previous essay. When we are are aware of facticity, that things are the way they are, and come to terms with it, we can transcend them and actually change things. We run into problems when we fail to grasp that. What’s common about people who exhibit bad faith is that it involves “a certain art of forming contradictory concepts which unite in themselves both an idea and the negation of that idea”, rendering “facticity as being transcendence and transcendence being facticity”, as pointed out by him (56).

Simply put, a person who exhibits bad faith makes use of this dual capacity, but in a way that the person thinks that one is this and/or that, which one is not, and then acts according to that, so that one judges oneself according to that. In other words, the poor person doesn’t make a thing out of a situation, beyond acknowledging the facticity, that it is what it is, like life is tough and what not, whereas the other two do make a thing out of it. The other two are great examples of how bad faith works because not only do they claim to be what they are not, which would just be lying, disingenuous really, but they also actually believe that to be the case, that they are what they aren’t, that they are nobodies, because why would they otherwise attend a synagogue. They are only there because they think they should be nobodies, even though aren’t and won’t be. It’s like failing upwards, hence the transcendence. If they’d actually be nobodies, they wouldn’t even have to say anything. It may seem paradoxical to state that less is more, that by claiming that they are nobodies they get to go beyond themselves, but that’s exactly the point, as also noted by Žižek (661).

Before I move on, I think it’s worth emphasizing how good that joke is. Firstly, it’s funny because it’s true. It’s so ironic, on so many levels. Secondly, it’s also funny because it’s about good and bad faith, as exhibited in a place of faith, as told from the perspective of those who profess to be what they aren’t. It is such an apt example because, as noted by Sartre (67), it’s not about lying, nor about being certain, but about belief, about “the fact that bad faith is faith.” I also like the joke because it exemplifies how, as Sartre (68) puts it, “at the very moment when [one is] disposed to put [one]self in bad faith, [one] of necessity [is] in bad faith with respect to this same disposition.” This means that the rabbi and the businessman aren’t simply opting to be in bad faith, lying to others, there and then, when they happen to be at a synagogue, but they already were in bad faith. As Sarte (68) points out, “[t]he decision to be in bad faith does not dare to speak its name; it believes itself and does not believe itself in bad faith; it believes itself and does not believe itself in good faith.” This clear from the fact that the rabbi and the businessman are actually upset by the poor person. They really believe that they are nobodies, even though they most certainly aren’t.

I think it’s also worth noting that Sartre and Žižek aren’t exactly addressing the same thing, even though Žižek does acknowledge that the joke is profoundly Sartrean, as mentioned by him in his 2019 essay ‘They are both worse!’. I’d say they focus on different things. Sartre is more interested in what takes place when a person exhibits bad faith, in relation to oneself, whereas Žižek is more concerned with how a person seeks to gain from it, in relation to others. So, in contrast to Sartre, Žižek focuses on bad faith as an argument. He (661) emphasizes how a claim to nothing is always, strangely enough, a claim to something, something beyond oneself and others. That’s why it’s okay to speak of transcendence and universality in this context, not in the sense that I find them valid, but in the sense that many people do, which is exactly why they work. In Žižek’s (661) view, the problem with this is that it results in what one might call self-elevation (hence the transcendence), giving the person in question authority over others, a moral high ground, if you will, by renouncing a particular position in favor of a supposedly universal position.

Sartre (49) acknowledges the difficulty involved in lying to oneself, the effort that goes into being very aware of something, only to mask it very carefully so as to not be aware of it. He (49-50) adds that there is a further difficulty involved, considering that someone exhibiting bad faith must be aware of it being bad faith, so that, paradoxically, one exhibits good faith towards one’s bad faith. If that seems to require extreme cunning, it’s because it does. It’s like you have to deceive yourself and then be able to submit to that deception in a way that you forget that it’s you who deceived yourself.

He (50-54) assesses whether bad faith can be explained psychoanalytically as pertaining to the unconscious. Long story short, no, it cannot be. In fact, he (53) reckons that psychoanalysis errs in this regard because it attempts to solve bad faith by affirming it. For him (53-54), the problem with it is that there is this cat and mouse game which ends up reifying it. In other words, the analyst seeks to find bad faith and if it doesn’t seem to be there, the analyst thinks that it must be hiding, so that more and more analysis is needed to uncover it. The more the person analyzed denies what it is that the analyst wants to find, the more it appears to the analyst that there is to uncover in the unconscious of the person analyzed.

So, the problem with bad faith is that it is conscious self-deception. This means that the person who exhibits bad faith must actually believe in it all, to be sincere about it. Of course, maybe that’s going too far. It might also be that the person isn’t even sure of one’s wants, as Sartre (55) points out.

He (55) exemplifies this with a woman who is on a first date with a man. To be fair, and not to be sexist, I reckon this example could well be reversed, so that it’s about a man who is on a first date with a woman. It could also be about a man on a first date with another man or a woman on first a date another woman. Any arrangement will do, if you ask me. That said, this is his example, which I take to be time and space specific. Right, the point he (55) is making is that the man seeks to court the woman, showering her with compliments, which she detaches of his intentions to please her, taking them on an as is basis, “as objective qualities”, so that “[t]he man who is speaking to her appears to her sincere and respectful as the table is round or square, as the wall coloring is blue or gray.” He (55) comments on this, noting that the woman in his example “does not quite know what she wants”, so that she is torn between what she desires, what she wants, I’d say intuitively, without much thought given to it, just going with the flow, if you will, and what she thinks she wants, which is to be respected for her personality, for who she truly is. Now, to make more sense of this, my take is that the woman presented in this example has certain desires, what I assume to be sexual desires, but she thinks that she is expected to be modest. She believes more in the latter than in the former, which is why acts the way she does in this imagined example. It’s not what she is but it’s what she thinks she is. He (55-56) takes this example further, so that the man makes a move, taking her hand. She can’t avoid this, as it has already happened, but she ignores this move, so that she doesn’t appear like she rejects him.

Bad faith can, of course, manifest itself in many ways, as he (56) points out, but I’d say that it is, first and foremost, most damaging to oneself. He (57) points out that it revolves around making “judgments which all aim at establishing that I am not what I am” because “[i]f I were only what I am”, no excuses, “I could, for example, seriously consider an adverse criticism which someone makes of me, question myself scrupulously, and perhaps be compelled to recognize the truth in it.” I agree, but I’d say the this aspect of it has more to do with the utility of bad faith arguments, so that, as he (57) points out, “I do not even have to discuss the justice of the reproach.” So yeah, there is this self-deceit through self-elevation, considering yourself beyond reproach. I’d say is this manifests itself particularly clearly in one-sided arguments, where there is no back and forth. It’s almost like there is some sort of realization of it, a disgust of it, marked by the danger of having to come to terms with the self-deception involved. That said, if you manage to push people this far, so that the bad faith becomes apparent, that you are like wow, I think that involved some physical disgust, it’s not what troubles me or it’s not what troubles me the most about it.

What troubles me about bad faith is how commonplace it is, how readily people submit themselves to it. So, what troubles me about it is not really that it manifests in ways that involve other people. It’s rather the way that people buy into it that bothers me. It’s how people come to create their own expectations which they then expect themselves to live up to and punish themselves if and when they don’t manage to live up to those expectations. I think it’s related to other people, yes, considering that we do owe our existence and what we know to others, but what’s so cruel about bad faith is that it’s not only directed to others, but, importantly, to oneself.

He (59-60) comments on this, noting that people end up playing certain roles because it’s simply assumed that one ought to act in a certain way, as “it is precisely this person who I have to be” even though it is “who I am not.” Despite not actually being that person because you always just are who you are, who you happen to be, as already discussed, the person who you have to be, the person who you think you have to be, is “a ‘representation’ for others and for [your]self, which means that [you] can only be … in representation”, as he (60) goes on to specify. In other words, you subject yourself to being who you are not, instead of just being who you are, as you already are. The cruelty of this is that by subjecting yourself to being who you are not, you end up believing that you are what you think you need to be instead of being who you are. It’s a vicious cycle, a negative feedback loop.

To make this more clear, he (60-62) takes his discussion of bad faith to a next level by limiting the discussion to oneself or, rather, what people think concerns only themselves. So, instead of addressing patterns of behavior that we expect of others, how one ought to act in this and/or that setting or context, for example when working in a cafe or on a date, to use his (55-56, 59) examples, he (60-61) addresses something that only concerns oneself as a mode of being. The example he (60-61) uses here is sadness. In summary, sadness is typically considered as something that’s built in, coming from within oneself, which means that it just sort of happens. The point he (61) makes is that we typically don’t think of sadness as a conduct, something that we do, but it is actually a conduct. He (62) provides another example: sincerity. He (62) notes provisionally that “[t]o be sincere … is to be what one is.” Yes, I agree. Then again, as he (62) points out, claiming to be sincere, just thinking that one is sincere, is, paradoxically, the very opposite of sincerity because “[t]hat supposes that I am not originally what I am.” As he (62) aptly characterizes a person in that moment, there is this constant embarrassing constraint that comes with it thinking that I’m this or that because you never are whatever it is that you think you are. I’d say it’s embarrassing in two ways. Firstly, it’s embarrassing because you’ll keep failing, because you’ve set yourself up to fail. Secondly, it’s embarrassing because you fail to realize your own incapacity. In his (62) words:

“[I]t is our very incapacity to recognize ourselves, to constitute ourselves as being what we are.”

Well put, well put. It also works the other way around simultaneously, as he (62) goes on to add:

“It is this necessity which means that, as soon as we posit ourselves as a certain being, by a legitimate judgment, based on inner experience or correctly deduced from a priori or empirical premises, then by that very positing we surpass this being – and that not toward another being but toward emptiness, toward nothing.”

This and what else has already been stated about bad faith may have led you to wonder how is that anything can make sense if something as basic as sincerity is actually insincerity? How does anything work if it’s bound to fail? How does one resolve this duplicity of being and non-being? He (62-64) addresses this very concern by providing an example concerning homosexuality. In summary, he notes that the homosexual in his example has this anguishing feeling of guilt about his homosexuality, which leads him to obsess about it, to the point that it’s all he knows, so that it appears to him as his destiny. In other words, the homosexual in his example is well aware of his homosexual inclinations and what acts of homosexuality he has engaged in, which is fine, no judgment here, yet it appears to him that there is something that bothers him about it, how he feels the need to make it clear to himself that he does not molest people, that is to say those who are under the age of consent.

In this example, the homosexual also has a friend who doesn’t approve this duplicity and who challenges him to recognize that molestation is part of homosexuality. The thing is that there is nothing about homosexuality, in itself, that involves molestation. It’s rather about how homosexuality was viewed at the time and still is viewed to some extent. We don’t know if the homosexual in this example has molested anyone as his acknowledgment of his misdeeds doesn’t necessarily mean that. It could be that he had done nothing illegal, but then again, in this (French) context, the age of consent was considerably higher for homosexual relations, at 21, than for heterosexual relations, at 15, so he could have done something illegal. Of course, it is worth keeping in mind that part of the issue has to do with that age discrepancy. While not presenting homosexuality as illegal, it is heavily implied that, perhaps, it should be. It’s clearly marked as deviancy. Anyway, the point is that we don’t know for sure if he had or hadn’t molested someone according to what was then considered illegal, but now might not be considered illegal. It is implied though. Then again, it’s worth keeping in mind that, heaven forbid, this imagined person may have done something as illegal as had sex with some other imagined person of the same sex who is younger than 21 but older than 15. So, the point is that the man in the example is troubled by this, how he is or might be viewed, which is further reinforced by his friend who confronts him on this.

Sartre (64) notes that the crux of this example is that it “includes … an undeniable comprehension of truth”, so that the homosexual in question is actually correct when he declares to himself that “‘I’m not a paedarast’”, which is the same as saying “‘I’m not what I am’”, but only if he understands it to mean that “‘[t]o the extent that a pattern of conduct is defined as the conduct of a paedarast and to the extent that I have adopted this conduct, I am a paedarast’” while also taking it to mean that “to the extent that human reality can not be finally defined by patterns of conduct, I am not one.’” However, that’s not the case in this example, as Sartre (64) points out, because the person in his example still exhibits bad faith. In other words, this problem wouldn’t exist for the person in his example if he’d just let go of defining himself as this or that, if he’d just say that I am what I am, the way I am, to the extent that I am and reply to others that I am this or that to the extent that it is defined as such, but as that’s not how reality works, I am not really this or that, anymore than I am something something else, whatever that might be. So, as already pointed out, for all we know this imaginary man may have done something as horrible as had sex with some 20-year-old imaginary man, which was, at time time, yes, illegal in France, but that hardly defines him, marking him only as a homosexual molester according to the societal norms of then France.

Returning to the friend of the homosexual in his example, Sartre (64-65) criticizes this type of a person who claims to help others by making them affirm what they are not because it forces them to be who they are not. As he (64) points out, the underlying problem here is that such a person mistakes someone as being something which that person is not and demands that person to be that something which that person is not. It assumes that there is indeed something that needs to be recognized before life can go on, like some sin that needs to be confessed in order to be half pardoned, as he (64) goes on to add. There is this demand of sincerity which simultaneously disturbs and reassures the person addressed, as specified by him (64). I think he (64-65) explains this particularly well when he states that the person acting as the judge asks the judged “that he constitute himself as a thing, that he should entrust his freedom to his friend as a fief, in order that the friend should return it to him subsequently – like a suzerain to his vassal.”

Sartre (65) returns to sincerity in order to contrast it with bad faith. He (65) reiterates much of what’s already been said about it, how the demand of sincerity results in bad faith, being insincere, but adds that what he deals with in connection to bad faith should not be confused with the assessment of sincerity/insincerity, as in, for example, whether what was said by someone was really considered to be true by that person, to the best of one’s knowledge, or not. He (65) wants to be clear about this because there’s nothing wrong in, for example, assessing whether something was the way someone said it was, checking on it, to see if that person was honest about it or not. His (65) objection to sincerity or, rather, the demand of sincerity has to do with how it is set up as a constant check on oneself. In his (65) words, “[t]otal, constant sincerity as a constant effort to adhere to oneself is by nature a constant effort to dissociate oneself from oneself.”

I reckon it’s fair to say that Žižek is known to dislike people who renounce their particularity, sincerely admitting to this and/or that past evil, and denounce those who don’t do the same. He already points that out in ‘Tolerance as an Ideological Category’ but it tends come up in his (more) recent interviews. To explain his position in terms used by Sartre (65), “the sincere [person] constitutes [one]self as a thing in order to escape the condition of a thing by the same act of sincerity”, confessing to being evil only to, “by the same stroke”, escape it, being evil but at the same time above or beyond it. In other words, people may claim to be sincere, to have an honest heart, having publicly confessed to all their past wrongdoings, but, according to Sartre (65), it’s profoundly insincere as it functions as an escape from criticism, “put[tin] oneself out of reach”. There is this going constant back and forth, as aptly summarized by Sartre (66):

“Thus we find at the base of sincerity a continual game of mirror and reflection, a perpetual passage from the being which is what it is, to the being which is not what it is and inversely from the being which is not what it is to the being which is what it is.”

This is the underlying problem with sincerity, as well as bad faith, as Sartre (66) goes on to add:

“To cause me to be what I am, in the mode of ‘not being what one is,’ or not to be what I am in the mode of ‘being what one is.’ We find here the same game of mirrors.”

There is this, what I’d call the doubled subject. The underlying problem with it is that, like with sincerity, there is this ideal of whatever it is that one is supposed to be, as posited by oneself, which one then struggles to attain. In his (66) words:

“Sincerity does not assign to me a mode of being or a particular quality, but in relation to that quality it aims at making me pass from one mode of being to another mode of being.”

So, in short, there is this passage from one mode of being to another mode of being. Anyway, he (66) continues:

“This second mode of being, the ideal of sincerity, I am prevented by nature from attaining; and at the very moment when I struggle to attain it, I have a vague prejudicative comprehension that I shall not attain it.”

So, the shitty thing about sincerity is that you are never actually sincere about it. In other words, your claim to sincerity is insincere, which means that you’ll never be able to attain that ideal you claim to uphold. This is the same with bad faith, as he (66) goes on to add:

“But all the same, in order for me to be able to conceive an intention in bad faith, I must have such a nature that within my being I escape from my being.”

To be clear, he (66) clarifies this with an example:

“If I were sad or cowardly in the way in which this inkwell is an inkwell, the possibility of bad faith could not even be conceived. Not only should I be unable to escape from my being; I could not even imagine that I could escape from it.”

This is not, however, how it is with bad faith, as he (66) goes on to add:

“But if bad faith is possible by virtue of a simple project, it is because so far as my being is concerned, there is no difference between being and non-being if I am cut off from my project.”

If you struggle to understand what he means by that, you are not alone. He (66) clarifies what he means by that:

“Bad faith is possible only because sincerity is conscious of missing its goal inevitably, due to its very nature.”

In other words, as I already pointed out, it only works because it is not possible to reach the goal that one sets up for oneself. He (66) uses the example of cowardice (of being a coward). So, when one images not being a coward, despite being one, in that moment, one attempts to fool oneself to think of oneself as not a coward, so that, at first, it may seem like one isn’t a coward. That said, when one gives it a bit more thought, one remains a coward because, as explained by him (66), the very apprehension of it, whether one is a coward or not, results in its escape and annihilation. In other words, there is this constant self-negation. Trying to convince oneself that one is not a coward instead of overcoming one’s cowardice is, in itself, an act of cowardice. That’s the point he makes about escape and annihilation. Also, you can’t wish not to be cowardly, unless you are a coward, as he (66) points out. If you are not a coward, you don’t think about it. It’s as simple as that. This can, of course, be understood the other way as well, so that one images oneself, for example, as courageous, the point being that one can only image that if one actually isn’t courageous, as noted by him (67). If you already are courageous, you don’t think about it as it’s part and parcel of who you are, your being. It’s as simple as that.

In summary, Sartre (68) notes that the corner stone of bad faith is that instead of considering this and/or that to be the way it is or the way they are, in itself or in themselves, that is to say considering there to be an existing truth of things, an agreement of sorts, one sets out to decide all that first, to decide “the nature of truth.” Argumentatively, that’s the same as rigging the game, as he (68) goes on to point out:

“Consequently a peculiar type of evidence appears; non-persuasive evidence. Bad faith apprehends evidence but it is resigned in advance to not being fulfilled by this evidence, to not being persuaded and transformed into good faith.”

In other words, when you encounter someone who exhibits bad faith, in relation to themselves, which is what interests Sartre, or in relation to someone else, likely you, this is how you notice it. I’d say that it manifests itself as this reluctance to accept evidence that contradicts with the aforementioned truth that has been decided in advance. I wrote a whole essay on this, like a year ago, when I got some feedback for one of my manuscripts. The feedback from one of the two reviewers can be summarized in that way, so that any evidence that should have persuaded that particular reviewer simply didn’t because bad faith doesn’t allow it. This is what Sartre (68) means when he notes that the decision involved is not to be understood as involving “a reflective, voluntary decision, but of a spontaneous determination of [one’s] being.” My interpretation is that the reviewer went through text and came across something that contradicts, challenges or undermines the reviewer’s views in some fundamental way, possibly undermining the reviewer’s own research and/or position in the field, so that bad faith kicked in and all evidence was rendered into non-persuasive evidence. It was just bad faith from the start to finish, sheer unwillingness to be persuaded by the evidence. It seemed like the reviewer didn’t even entertain the idea that the reviewer might not understand what the reviewer read or that reviewer’s limited understanding of what I do, the way I do it, for the reasons I do it, led the reviewer misunderstand or misconstrue what I had written. I think it wouldn’t have been in bad faith had there been that, at least some hesitance, some realization of fallibility. It’s worth mentioning that the reviewer did mention some positive aspects, but I reckon they were there only for the rhetoric effect, not to actually concede but to make a show of conceding. It typically appears in the form of … but … so that what was first mentioned is negated by what follows, what comes after ‘but’. I think it’s also worth mentioning that I’m willing to concede that there were some legitimate concerns, for example that I wasn’t always as clear as I should have been, that some cuts were in order and the like. That’s how you do it, conceding when there’s something to concede, in good faith. Anyway, for Sartre (68), “[o]ne puts oneself in bad faith as one goes to sleep and one is in bad faith as one dreams.” It’s also really hard to get out of it once you are in it, like trying “to wake oneself up”, as he (68) goes on to add.

Having gone on and on about bad faith, he (69) jumps to define good faith. To him (69), it’s about immediacy. What he (69) means by good faith as immediacy is that you take something as it is, at face value. I agree. You could question something, for example what someone says, but you just go with it. It’s like a hunch. He (69) also calls it simple faith because it involves immediate belief. He (68-69) exemplifies this with his relation to one of his friends:

“I believe that my friend Pierre feels friendship for me.”

That’s all he needs. Can he be sure that his friend really is his friend? No, but he trusts his friend to be a friend, acting with certitude, without giving it any actual thought, as he (69) goes on to specify it. If he were to give it thought, to ponder it, to call for mediation, he’d be doubting it and thus no longer having that immediacy, as he (69) further clarifies it. Pierre wouldn’t be his friend if he’d hesitate on that. Simply put, the belief would be turned into non-belief, as he (69) points out. He (69) explains how he views his friendship with Pierre:

“If I believe that my friend Pierre likes me, this means that his friendship appears to me as the meaning of all his acts.”

This same applies to the joke about the rabbi, the businessman and the poor person. The poor person simply appears as poor to others. This is all in good faith. There’s that immediacy to it. The only reason the rabbi and the businessman doubt it is because the actions of the poor person make it apparent to others that their own actions were not done in good faith. Sartre (69) also warns not to confuse belief with acknowledging one’s own belief:

“Belief is a particular consciousness of the meaning of Pierre’s acts. But if I know that I believe, the belief appears to me as pure subjective determination without external correlative.”

In other words, if you feel the need to explain your beliefs, for example why it is that you believe that someone is your friend, you already doubt those beliefs, which in turn negates those beliefs. Awareness of one’s beliefs makes them non-beliefs. This is why he (69) reckons that acting in good faith is very hard. There’s that temptation to doubt which lingers, which then makes it possible to turn it into bad faith, as he (69) goes on to add:

“Consequently the primitive project of bad faith is only the utilization of this self-destruction of the fact of consciousness. If every belief in good faith is an impossible belief, then there is a place for every impossible belief.”

So, in summary, there is good faith and then there is bad faith. The thing about faith is that it always contains the possibility of turning into bad faith. Once one doubts one’s belief, treating it as impossible, it becomes possible to treat that impossible as a belief, and so on and so on, ad infinitum, hence the lure of bad faith. To be in good faith requires you to take things as they come, to face them and to overcome them. He (70) revisits cowardice and courage, noting that one is never simply this or that:

“At the moment when I wish to believe myself courageous I know that I am a coward. And this certainly would come to destroy my belief. But first, I am not anymore courageous than cowardly, if we are to understand this in the mode of being of the-in-itself.”

In other words, you are not born courageous, nor cowardly. That said, you are as courageous or as cowardly as you happen to be at any give moment, as he (70) points out here, reiterating his (64) earlier point about how homosexuality only defines someone’s reality inasmuch as it comes to define their reality as a pattern of behavior among other patterns of behavior. He (70) also adds that there is the problem of certitude about oneself:

“In the second place, I do not know that I am courageous; such a view of myself can be accompanied only by belief, for it surpasses pure reflective certitude.”

This, in turn, reiterates an earlier point made by him (lxv), how being is opaque to itself, how one simply cannot think of oneself. That’s like trying to trying to grab yourself in order to throw yourself. It’s simple as that. If you fail to understand that, you’ll end up acting in bad faith, as he (70) goes on to add:

“In the third place, it is very true that bad faith does not succeed in believing what it wishes to believe. But it is precisely as the acceptance of not believing what it believes that it is bad faith.”

So, as already pointed out, trying to think of oneself, to reflect on oneself, is simply impossible. That’s why those who do try to do that keep failing at it and why they keep failing to be what they aren’t.

To link the issue of bad faith to other texts, Sartre (47, 65) mentions what Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s calls the relation between the master and the slave, between mastery and servitude, in the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’. For Hegel (108-109), self-consciousness is twofold or doubled, in the sense that one sees oneself through the other, that one recognizes oneself in the other. For him (109-110), this results in sublation of oneself, in the sense that the recognition of oneself in the other comes back to oneself and reconfigures oneself. In other words, one continuously synthesizes oneself through others, so that what always gets sublated, synthesized or reconfigured is always based on what has already been sublated, synthesized or reconfigured. To link this back to Sartre, for a moment, Hegel (110) notes that, in its simplest form, one always is for oneself, that is to say a singular being. Things get muddled after this, when one goes beyond oneself, that is to say when one encounters another singular being, as Hegel (110-111) goes on to point out. When this happens, when one being encounters another being, each being in the encounter must hold its ground, to remain being for oneself, to retain its singularity, which then happens at the expense of the other being or beings who also seek to do the same, inasmuch as they do, of course, as also explained by him (111-112). Another way to put this is that one asserts one’s freedom, that one is for oneself, and not for the others, which, of course, comes at the expense of the freedom of the others who, of course, do the same. In his (112-113) words, “[o]ne is self-sufficient; for it, its essence is being-for-itself”, whereas “[t]he other is non-self-sufficient; for it, life, or being for an other, is the essence”, so that “[t]he former is the master” and “the latter is the servant.”

Hegel (113) further clarifies that the master is what exists for itself, but not only through itself, but also through the others. What he means by this is that you can’t be a master unless you are master to someone else, that is to say someone else’s master. To link this to Sartre’s discussion of bad faith, a master never truly exists for itself because it lacks the necessary immediacy to it, because it is only for itself as mediated through others, as Hegel (113) points out. So, yes, the master has dominance over its servants and the master is free to do as it chooses. That said, the master has this freedom to do as it chooses only on the condition that this freedom is not impeded by the others, which is why the master has forced them into servitude, to be its slaves. So, oddly enough, the master can only be free, for itself, only if others recognize the master as such. This dependence, of course, severely undermines that freedom, so that it’s doubtful whether the master truly ever exists only for itself. In short, by asserting one’s freedom through mastery over others, one always ends up negating it because that very freedom depends on the servitude of others, as he (113) points out. In a sense, the servants are the ones in charge because the master depends on them. That said, as noted by him (113, 115), the servants cannot achieve freedom, to be for themselves, because they are the guarantors of the master’s freedom. In summary, to link this back to Sartre again, the master “constitutes the truth of [one’s]certainty of [one]self”, that is to say that one decides what counts as truth, just like in bad faith, but also fails to achieve this certainty of oneself because it is not who one is, only what one thinks that one is, as Hegel (114) points out.

What’s the way out for Hegel then? Firstly, you can’t be a master, because, oddly enough, making other people do what you want makes you dependent on them, which is the exact opposite of what a master is, or what a master is supposed to be. Secondly, you can’t be a servant or a slave either as while you most certainly are engaged in doing something, you are doing it for someone else, not because you want to, but because you have to. This does give you some control over a master, making the master dependent on you, but that’s not much of a consolation as you still are working for the master, doing its bidding. So, the way out for Hegel (115) is as simple as to work for yourself, not for someone else, nor making others work for yourself. That said, he (116) also points out that there needs to be an understanding of this dynamic for you to truly escape it. He (116) emphasizes that without fear of this master-servant arrangement, working for yourself will only result in vanity. He (116) also adds that if this fear remains superficial or largely trivial, it will only result in stubbornness, as resistance which is, nonetheless, servile.

Friedrich Nietzsche is also known for his discussion of the master-servant or master-slave arrangement, covering it in ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’. As the title suggests, he (3-4) is interested in morality, questioning the origins of good and evil, how did they come to be as they are understood contemporarily, both in his day and in mine. He (3) emphasizes that nothing is simply given, what one would call objective, nor simply individual, what one would call subjective, but marked by “a fundamental will to knowledge” that speaks through people, what I’d call a collective will or understanding.

Nietzsche (7-8) challenges people to consider the silliness of “placing higher value on ‘the good man’ than on ‘the evil’”, how “the good” is seen as offering “higher value in the sense of advancement, benefit and prosperity”. He (8) ponders “[w]hat if the opposite were true”, what if “the good” was actually regressive, preventing people from all that they deem to be positive to their well-being?

As a related, yet somewhat unrelated matter, taking nothing for granted, always questioning things, no matter how inconvenient that may be, whether it takes resources, namely time and/or money, or ruffles some feathers, is certainly what strikes a chord in me when I read Nietzsche. I like the way he (9) explains this when it comes to reading, how people seem to have forgotten how to do it, how it’s an art that involves what all the cow’s do, rumination, chewing on what you read, over and over again, really digesting it, connecting the dots yourself, rather than expecting everything to be explained to you, predigested. There’s something rather servile about expecting things to be explained to you, as opposed to being left to figure things out yourself, because it doesn’t push you to question things. That said, of course, I don’t think things need to be as impractical as possible, so that the more of an inconvenience something is, the better. No, no. I have nothing against being practical or convenient. I’d say it’s more of an attitude or disposition that he finds lacking in people, which results in taking things for granted, not asking questions such as who and why.

Anyway, he (11-13) comments on good, noting that what people typically mean by good, when they take it for granted, is what they consider to be useful to themselves. The problem for him (11) is that the two have been conflated, so that what is considered good is considered as such, not as good for this and/or that person, even though that’s really how it is. So, when someone this and/or that is good, in general, what they really mean is that it’s good for this and/or that person. Conversely, there’s nothing unegoistic about good, as he (12) points out. He (11) really emphasizes that it’s the other way around, so that those you said ‘good’ always meant themselves, as opposed to some other people who they didn’t consider to be good. For him (11-12), this is how we get to a distinction between the high and the low, the noble and the common, the ruler and the ruled, the good and the bad, which, if you ask me, are the same as the master and the servant. That said, he (12) does acknowledge that we’ve come to think the other way, so that what’s considered to be good is also considered to be good as such, useful and/or unegoistic.

He (15-17) expands on this split between the high and the low or the noble (aristocrats) and the common (commoners), noting that the good and the bad got flipped by priests, by which he means any kind of religious leader, be it Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. He (16) doesn’t comment on any of the religions he mentions because that’s beside the point he is making. The issue he (16-17) takes with priests, the point he is making, is that they are the kind of people who seek to gain a position of power, that is to have the right to exercise power over others, by flipping everything on its head, so that, for example, anything high or noble (good, strong, powerful, beautiful, happy, etc.) is deemed bad (thus not good), cruel, insatiate, lustful or wicked, and anything low or common (bad, weak, powerless, ugly, unhappy, etc.) is deemed good (thus not bad), pious or salvable. In his (17) view this happened because the high or the noble were indeed marked by their physical prowess, like brute warriors, and they could only be countered by intellect.

It’s worth noting here that you could interpret him (17) as antisemitic in this context, considering that he does certainly heavily emphasize that “the Jews, that priestly people” had “the most entrenched priestly vengefulness” and “the most unfathomable hatred”. He (17) states that what they did was “huge and incalculably disastrous initiative”. Then again, it’s worth noting that he (17) objects to other priests as well, as also already pointed out, and acknowledges that others have also played their parts in this reversal of the good and the bad. Later on he (32) mentions that “the Romans were the strong and noble, stronger and nobler than anybody hitherto who had lived or been dreamt of on earth”, whereas, in contrast, “the Jews were a priestly nation of ressentiment par excellence, possessing an unparalleled genius for popular morality”, only to add that others, such as the Chinese and the Germans, had similar tendencies, albeit not to such great extent, the point being that there’s nothing exclusive about the high and the low to the Romans and the Jews. He (17) also points out that the Jewish rejection and reversal was done “with awe-inspiring consistency”. My take is that, for him (18), the Jewish priestly hatred was hatred, just like any hatred, but it was “the deepest and most sublime” form of hatred of its time. He (32-33) is well aware that things have changed, as they do, and notes that, oddly enough, it’s now in Rome where you find the ressentiment par excellence. It’s this priestliness that he is against, no matter who the actual priests are.

It’s also worth noting that he (18) isn’t saying that deep hatred of the high or the noble happened suddenly, out of nowhere, overnight, or the like, but “needed to millennia to achieve victory”. He (20) is also well aware why people would develop such deep hatred, how it’s unsurprising that “those beings who, denied the proper response of action, compensate for it only with imaginary revenge.” He (25-26) isn’t at all surprised by how the weak oppose the strong. It’s in their best interest to do so. It’d be patently absurd not to. It would also be just plain stupid to try to oppose the strong with strength because it’s what the weak lack. It totally makes sense to use your intellect and to outnumber the few strong ones. Duh!

Anyway, what interests me in Nietzsche’s take is his discussion of ressentiment. It’s not exactly the same as bad faith, but it is related to it as it deals with “the nihilation of a possibility which another human reality projects as its possibility”, as mentioned by Sartre (47). It’s this negation, this principle of saying no and not to everything that isn’t oneself, to all of reality itself, as explained by Nietzsche (20) and Sartre (47). To be more specific, Nietzsche (20) explains the noble morality:

“[It] grows out of a triumphant saying ‘yes’ to itself[.]”

In order to contrast it with the slave morality (20):

“[It] says ‘no’ on principle to everything that is ‘outside’, ‘other’, ‘non-self’[.]”

He (20) further contrasts the noble morality and the slave morality. The latter is reactionary as it functions by opposing actions that have already taken place, in order to negate them, whereas the former involves acts and only reacts to other acts in order to affirm them, not to negate them. In connection to bad faith, what I find particularly interesting about his take on ressentiment is how he (21) reckons that the nobles simply exhibit certain qualities without having “to construct [them] artificially by looking at their enemies, or in some cases by talking themselves into it, lying themselves into it”, like “all men of ressentiment are wont to do”, so that it’s part and parcel of what they do, so that it’s not separate from action. Simply put, like with good faith, they don’t think about themselves, not to mention anyone else in order to think about themselves. That said, ressentiment isn’t the same thing as bad faith because you can, for example, express something positive in bad faith, whereas ressentiment is more about harboring “poisonous and hostile feelings” and viewing happiness “as essentially a narcotic, an anaesthetic, rest, peace … something passive”, as explained by Nietzsche (21). Then again, ressentiment does have some similarities with bad faith because someone who exhibits ressentiment “is neither upright nor naïve, nor honest and straight with [one]self.” In other words, both bad faith and ressentiment share this underlying conscious self-deception. It also seems that similar to bad faith, it’s really hard get rid of ressentiment once it manifests in a person. As Nietzsche (21) points out, ressentiment makes one’s “mind love[] dark corners, secret paths and back-doors”, so that “everything secretive appeals to [oneself] as being [one’s own] world, [one’s own] security, [one’s own] comfort”. Simply put, it’s all an imaged me, me and me. As also pointed out by him (21), there’s also this lack of immediacy that’s mentioned by Hegel (113) and Sartre (69), so that one does not forget. Instead, as he(21) adds, one waits, “temporarily humbling and abasing [one]self]”, until the time is right for one’s revenge. As he (22) goes on to specify, instead of an immediate confrontation, or letting things slide, deeming it, whatever it is that one is dealing with, as too minor and shrugging it off, one becomes poisoned by vengefulness. Another way of saying this is that ressentiment results in bad blood.

He (22) also further distinguishes two sets from one one another. Firstly, there’s the good and bad of the noble morality. In this case what’s good is just what one considers to be good, spontaneously or, as I’d put it, intuitively as it’s not really something that one even thinks about. Bad is, as he (22) puts it, “an afterthought, an aside, a complementary colour”. In other words, it’s what’s one deems not to be good, there and then. It’s exactly an afterthought, in the sense that one has to think of it, in contrast to what’s good, which you don’t really have to even think of, except now that one specifies bad in contrast to it. Secondly, there’s good and evil of the slave morality. In this case, what one considers to be good is what’s considered bad in the noble morality and what one considers to be evil is what one considers to be good in the noble morality. The same terms are not used in both cases, in the sense that one would simply flip them, because, for him (22), rendering the good of the noble morality into evil in the slave morality involves substantial re-conceptualization and re-interpretation, so that one starts to see evil everywhere, all the time, really focusing on it, rather than considering it in passing, as an afterthought of good.

He (23) likens those who exhibit the noble morality to “beasts of prey” that “enjoy the freedom from every social constraint” and lists “Roman, Arabian, Germanic” and “Japanese nobility, Homeric heroes” and “Scandinavian Vikings” among them. They are those who were considered “‘barbarian’” for their daring, which may also appear as “mad, absurd and sudden in the way it manifests itself”, as he (23) goes on to add. They also appear to be cheerful, unconcerned and scornful of “safety, body, life” and “comfort”, taking “delight in all destruction”, in “all the debauches of victory and cruelty”, as also specified by him (23). He (23) also refers to these noble wild beasts as the magnificent blonde beasts when he discusses how the Germanic tribes were viewed by others. I reckon this is one of those things that people take out of context, thinking that the Germans are somehow racially superior, as marked by their blondness. I can see how it might be tempting to think that he thinks or thought that to be the case, but it’s worth keeping in mind that he does also list others not known for their blondness, including Arabian and Japanese nobility. He (23-24) also notes that you can’t even claim that contemporary Germans are blonde beasts, nor their descendants.

In contrast to the wild beasts who exhibit the noble morality, he (24) likens those who exhibit the slave morality, those marked by reaction and ressentiment, to household pets, to those beasts that have been tamed and civilized. He (24) notes that people often think that tameness and civility indicate that one is cultured but considers the exact opposite to be the case. As already mentioned, he (24) also reiterates that there is certainly something to fear when one encounters those who exhibit the noble morality. It certainly makes sense to be opposed to them. Then again, he (24-25) reckons that it is better to deal with fear head to head, staying ever vigilant, confronting what one fears, while admiring what one fears, than to deal with it by removing it altogether, pacifying it all, so that there is nothing left to fear, nor admire, only tameness and mediocrity that is heralded as excellence.

He (25) notes how common the slave morality has become, noting that it’s like breathing bad air that suffocates him, draining his will to live. There is something similar to Hegel (115-116) and Sartre (lxv) here. It’s not exactly the same, no, no, but I think they are similar in the sense that they all reject it and advocate in its stead what Nietzsche (25) refers to as someone who justifies oneself, just as is, what Hegel (115-116) specifies as working for oneself and Sartre (lxv) calls just being, affirming what one already is without connecting to it or reflecting upon it.

I think this is also connected to the already discussed issue of immediacy and mediacy. Nietzsche (26) argues that there is something absurd about attempting to explain what it is that people will or desire, “this driving, willing and acting” as subordinated to an autonomous rational subject. I’m not sure his (26) attempt to explain human behavior through likening the noble as birds of prey and the common to lambs works that well, as I think it’s overly simplistic, but, be as it may, he does have a point when he (26) argues that it’s not like the birds of prey choose to prey on the lambs, as if they had deliberated upon it, weighing the pros and cons, nor that the lambs view the birds of prey as choosing to prey on them, as having deliberated upon it, weighing the pros and cons, but just that they do. Now, I reckon some animals are able to weigh different options, to take into account what is and what isn’t advantageous, even in groups with other animals, be they the predators or the prey themselves, but you can’t explain their behavior, whatever it may be, as something that they chose to do.

He (26) really stresses the absurdity of explaining it all through what is known as a “‘subject’” because it involves inventing “‘the doer’” after the fact, after something has happened or taken place. To use his (26) bird of prey example, the birds that prey on other animals do not choose to manifest their strength. Instead, they are strong. That’s part and parcel of what they are. They wouldn’t be birds of prey if they didn’t prey on other animals, nor would they be able to prey on other animals unless they had the necessary strength to do so. He (26) does use other examples as well, one in which people separate lightning from the flash, as if a flash was something a lightning does, and another in which some force moves or causes something, as if the force was separate from what happens. This is bordering on quantum mechanics, whether we have particles or waves, or both, and he (26) does mention quantum in this context, but I won’t get into that in this essay because the point he is making is that whatever this and/or that is, whatever we are dealing with, is, in fact, inseparable from what takes place. I think he (26) is correct when he points out that language is to blame here, as “only the seduction of language (and the fundamental errors of reason petrified within it), which construes and misconstrues all actions as conditional upon an agency, a ‘subject’, can make it appear otherwise.”

This, what Nietzsche says about language, made me think of what Benjamin Lee Whorf says in ‘Science and Linguistics’. So, Whorf (207) states that language is always systematic, having its own logic, and thus “by no means entirely personal and haphazard”. He (207-208) notes that people tend to think of language as universally the same, reflecting what’s already there, out there, formed non-linguistically, so that languages are thought to be merely its glosses, so that no matter what language you speak, “Chinese or Choctaw”, you’ll always end up speaking about the same thing. This is, however, a profoundly Western conception of language in which “each language is … merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas”, as opposed to being “itself the shaper of ideas”, as he (208, 212) points out.

To summarize Whorf (215), we are tempted to think in terms of nouns and verbs even though there’s no actual basis for that. That’s the point Nietzsche (26) makes. Whorf (215) even includes one of the examples used by Nietzsche (26), noting that some languages, such as English, treat lightning as a noun, whereas other languages, such as Hopi and Nuu-chah-nulth, treat it as a verb. It’s worth noting how he (215-216) struggles to get outside the confines of this noun verb split that is part and parcel of English as he attempts to explain how in Nuu-chah-nulth everything is an event (note how I’m also struggling here, using nouns to explain how everything is a verb, which, itself, is another noun), so that “‘[a] house occurs’ or ‘it houses’” and “‘a flame occurs’ or ‘it burns.’” What he is trying to say is that ‘house’ is always understood as ‘housing’ and ‘flame’ is always understood as ‘flaming’, so that, in a way, what we think of as a house or as a flame is implied by ‘housing’ and ‘flaming’. It’s like this with rain in Finnish, how there’s not it that rains, when there’s rain.

The point Whorf (213) makes, and what I want to make is that:

“We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way – an agreement that holds through our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language.”

I think he (213-214) is also correct when he states that such an agreement is obligatory. That said, I think it’s also worth noting here that he isn’t saying that there is just one agreement that everyone subscribes to as there are as many agreements as there are speech communities. Nietzsche led me to think of Whorf, but now Whorf led me to think of William Labov, what he (94) calls optional or variable rules in ‘Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular’. This is because, for Labov (94-95), speech is first and foremost about variation, free, but not entirely free, because if there’s no agreement, then there’s no accountability, then anything goes, then there’s just individual idiosyncrasy. It’s obligatory that there are rules, but the rules themselves are optional or variable, which is the point Whorf (213-214) makes. The problem is that, as Nietzsche (26) points out, people think that they are autonomous rational subjects when they are not, as Whorf (214) goes on to emphasize:

“”[N]o individual is free to describe nature absolute impartiality but is constrained to certain modes of interpretation even while he [or she] thinks him-[ or her]self most free.”

I think it’s also worth clarifying that a speech community can be nearly anything. Deleuze explains this well alongside Félix Guattari (94) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’:

“In the course of a single day, an individual repeatedly passes from language to language. He successively speaks as ‘father to son’ and as a boss; to his lover, he speaks an infantilized language; while sleeping he is plunged into an oniric discourse, then abruptly returns to a professional language when the telephone rings.”

Valentin Vološinov (97) makes the same observation in ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’:

“A different type of structure is worked out in the case of conversation between husband and wife, brother and sister, etc. In the case where a random assortment of people gathers – while waiting in a line or conducting some business-statements and exchanges of words will start and finish and be constructed in another, completely different way.”

So, to be clear, a speech community is not to be understood as some fixed entity, like speakers of Finnish or speakers of a certain dialect of Finnish. I’d say it’s a dynamic conception of how language works. Vološinov (85) further explains how it is to be understood:

“The word is oriented toward an addressee, toward who that addressee might be: a fellow-member or not of the same social group, of higher or lower standing (the addressee’s hierarchical status), someone connected with the speaker by close social ties (father, brother, husband, and so on) or not.”

Note how he (85) states that that there is this expectation to be aware of who you are dealing with and what that person’s social standing is in relation to you. This also applies even if there appears to be no addressee, just like there appears to be no addressee as I’m writing this essay, as there always is, sort of, as he (85) points out:

“Utterance, as we know, is constructed between two socially organized persons, and in the absence of a real addressee, an addressee is presupposed in the person, so to speak, of a normal representative of the social group to which the speaker belongs.”

He (93) aptly summarizes the constraints of language:

“The structure of the utterance and of the very experience being expressed is a social structure.”

Right, to summarize all this, and to get back to Nietzsche, Whorf (262-263) states in ‘Language, Mind, and Reality’ that “[w]e are compelled in many cases to read into nature fictitious acting-entities simply because our sentence patterns require our verbs, when not imperative, to have substantives before them”, to “unknowingly project the linguistic patterns of a particular type of language upon the universe and [see] them there”, so that “[a] change in language can transform our appreciation of the Cosmos.”

Nietzsche (26) argues, much like Whorf (248, 252, 262-263), that our Western way of thinking, which “is older than Plato”, colors the way we think, so that it’s, I’d say, rather unsurprising that people come to think that they are free do, say or think as they please. To get back on track here, Nietzsche (26) notes that people assume that not only is it possible to act against what one is, which is certainly true, and Sartre would agree with that as that forms the core of bad faith, but also that it is good to do so, so that those who act as they do come to be held responsible for doing so, for choosing to be evil, as if was a conscious choice to do so. As he (26-27) goes on to point out, there appears to be this hatred and jealousy of others who are what one would wish to be but what one isn’t, which is why one seeks to level the playing field by denouncing it. He (26-27) exemplifies this with strength and weakness. One would like to be strong, because it is advantageous to be strong, but because one isn’t strong nor, possibly, capable of becoming strong, one seeks to make everyone believe that while it is advantageous to be strong, one should choose not to be strong, because it is not good to be strong, because it is good to be weak.

To give a more contemporary example, one which doesn’t have to do with birds of prey and lambs, (ice) hockey is a sport that is inclusive to all kinds of people: short or tall, slim or muscular, light or heavy. Skating is, perhaps, the most important part of it. While it’s not that important for goalies, it is, nonetheless, central to everyone else on the ice. Of course, you also need to be able to play the puck and to stay on the puck when you have the puck, and to gain the puck when you don’t have the puck. That means that you need finesse and strength. The former is what people think of as the skill aspect of hockey and the latter is what people think of as the physical aspect of hockey. A finesse player that lacks strength can be very successful. It’s the same with a physical player that lacks finesse. It really depends on the player and the tactics utilized by the team. A finesse player is unlikely to be successful if the team tactics rely on physical prowess. It’s the same with a physical player if the team tactics build on finesse. There is, however, a somewhat recent tendency to favor the finesse players over the physical players. What I mean by this is that physical players, those who are able to stay on the puck by being strong and to gain possession of the puck by being strong, are seen as violating the finesse players when they make use of their strength to their and their team’s benefit. One is expected not to be physical and to be held responsible for being physical, as if it was evil to be physical, even though physical strength is most certainly advantageous in hockey, both on and off the puck. So, instead of putting in the effort to become stronger in order to be more fit, to be able to challenge the strong opponents, one seeks to gain advantage over them by disadvantaging them, by stripping them of their advantage over oneself. This also functions to remove the fear of strong and tough opponents. Instead of becoming stronger, tougher and more courageous, one seeks to remove the fear. It is, of course, advantageous to do so, but it is done to disadvantage those who are strong, tough and cause fear in the opponents. To be clear, what I mean by fear here isn’t about the fear of being roughed up by a stronger opponent, which can and does, of course, happen, but the fear of being rammed into by someone bigger and stronger than oneself. This is already the case in women’s hockey where body checking is not allowed. If you ask me, this is simply hatred of the strong, mind over body, a cunning move to give more value to what oneself is good at while reducing the value of what one is not good at. Now, to be fair, this does not mean that one should promote physical prowess over skill either. In fact, in many cases the best players are skilled and strong, not skilled or strong. I’d also argue that having the physical aspect, including the fear that comes with it, actually forces the players not only to become stronger but also more skilled. When you remove the physical aspect, the more you have time and space for yourself. When you don’t have the time and space, when there’s this constant threat, if not fear, of being body checked, you need to learn to be play faster and smarter, which, in turn, means that you need to be more skilled on the puck.

My own view is that the fairly recent rule change on body checking that limited the window of opportunity made the things much better. You are still allowed to play the body, retaining the imminent danger of being hit, but you don’t see as many hits, which helps to reduce the number of injuries. If you’d take out body checking, you could stay longer on the puck, take your time, which, in turn, diminishes the importance of skill.

Speaking of women’s hockey, not allowing body checking is not simply a conscious decision made by women who play hockey, in order to promote skill in hockey. I’d say it’s tied to a prevailing notion of female fragility. Nancy Theberge covers this issue in book ‘Higher Goals: Women’s Ice Hockey and the Politics of Gender’. While her book is somewhat dated, it’s actually rather fortuitous that it deals with how things were in the early 1990s. She (1, 10-11) notes that, overall, sports or athleticism has been constructed to go hand in hand with masculinity and heterosexual gender roles, so that athletic women have been seen as undesirable outcomes, becoming assertive, acting like men while not being men, and having failed as heterosexual women. This has not always been the case, as the rules were the same in the 1920s and the 1930s, as noted by Andreas Krebs (93-94) in ‘Hockey and the Reproducion of Colonialism in Canada’.

When it comes to hockey, Theberge (115-116) notes that women’s hockey has an uneasy relationship with physical play. Women’s hockey is “typically portrayed as a game of speed, finesse and playmaking” and stands in clear “contrast to the more aggressive physicality of the men’s game, which favors force and intimidation”, as she (115) points out. This is not, however, how women’s hockey used to be and the informants of her (116-119) study, women who play(ed) hockey, note that body checking is a skill, just like any other skill, and not allowing it disadvantages those who are tough and physical. Of course, not everyone in her study agreed. Those who hadn’t played hockey when body checking was allowed and those suffering from injuries were against it, as she (119) points out. Then again, you do have to take into account that those who are not used to body checking are inclined to support there being no body checking because they are not good at hitting or taking hits. In other words, they are biased against it because it’s not in their interest there to be body checking. It’s the same with player who have been injured. Now, of course, you do have to consider whether it even makes sense to compete in something physical, not to mention something as physical as hockey, if you are afraid of being injured. You also have to know how many injuries actually result from physical play, from body to body collisions, as opposed to, say, poor conditioning which makes the player prone to certain injuries. Krebs (94) also makes note of these issues.

The unease with physical play in women’s hockey doesn’t have to do with physicality. Some prefer it, others don’t, which is the same in men’s hockey. Instead of allowing women to play the body, you could equally well ban men from doing it. There are different views and it’s possible to favor skill and/or strength. The unease has to do with how women’s hockey ends up being constructed as a gender appropriate version of hockey, fit for women, which implies that women are inferior to men, as Theberge (135) points out in reference to one of her informants who complains that by playing women’s hockey, according to the rules of women’s hockey, she isn’t playing hockey, but women’s hockey. One of her (136) informants flips this on its head by challenging the prevailing notion that body checking is somehow masculine, as opposed to feminine. That’s a very good point! By branding women’s hockey as something that’s hockey, yet not hockey, by being not exactly the same as hockey, for marketing purposes, because, you know, girls are girls and boys are boys, you end up with this ‘girly’ hockey, reinforcing the image of women as docile and inferior to men, not built for sport, or so to speak, as she (136-137) goes on to point out.

To get back to Nietzsche, the problem with this is, as he (27) puts it, that:

“[T]his grim state of affairs, this cleverness of the lowest rank which even insect possesses … , has, thanks to the counterfeiting and self-deception of powerlessness, clothed itself in the finery of self-denying, quiet, patient virtue, as though the weakness of the weak were itself – I mean its essence, its effect, its whole unique, unavoidable, irredeemable reality – a voluntary achievement, something wanted, chosen, a deed, an accomplishment.”

To be clear, not to diss either the weak, nor the strong, nor anyone else, what he is saying is that one is what one is, at any given moment, in this case weak, strong or something in between. If one happens to be weak, well, then one is. It’s the same with being strong. If strength is understood as being about brawn, it’s most certainly possible to become strong or, well, at least stronger (in the sense that you can’t exercise to be taller in order to have the advantage of a bigger frame to fill in with the muscle). I’d say that you can also improve yourself in other ways, not only in terms of brawn, to become stronger in other ways. It’s going to take time and it’s going to be a gradual process, so, yeah, it’s not like it’s a choice. Anyway, the way I see this is that being weak, strong or something in between is just what is, the way it is, and that’s it, no judgment here. The problem arises when judgment is involved, so that it would appear, as if, people somehow chose to be this or that way, when, in fact, it’s not like people chose to the way they are, by simply wishing themselves into being in a certain way.

So, what troubles Nietzsche (27-28) is that weakness is rendered into an accomplishment, the lack of capacity to act, i.e. impotence, into goodness, shyness, timidness or bashfulness into humility, submission into obedience, and having to wait into patience through raffinement, through refined and good mannered speech. For him (28-29), this is further exacerbated by taking this for granted, as a given, so that revenge and hatred, which may arise, from time to time, do not result in swift retribution, grounded on just that, “sweet revenge”, and nothing more, but in demand of justice, for the injustice. That’s why I’ve italicized every judgment mentioned in this essay (except the ones in quotes). I don’t know how well this meshes with how things are currently, considering how things have changed quite a bit since his time, but, I guess, he (29) is right when he attributes this to the final or last judgment, the judgment of God, so that people act in this way, these days, perhaps, even more unwittingly than they used to, because they think they have to do so in order to succeed, to get what they want, to be compensated for it all in the afterlife. He (29) playfully exemplifies this with how what’s written above the gate to Dante Alighieri’s hell would be more suited to be placed above the gate to paradise:

“‘Eternal love created me as well’”

But with a minor but crucial alteration to the text, rendering it into:

“‘Eternal hate created me as well’”

He (29) considers this to be apt, considering that Thomas Aquinas states in his ‘Summa Theologiae’ that the more you wait for the others to be punished, the more you’ll enjoy seeing them punished. He (30-31) also mentions Tertullian as advocating against swift retribution. It’s this lingering hate that bothers Nietzsche. It’s this just you wait and you’ll see attitude.

Now, the way I see this is that he is not saying that one should do the exact opposite either, so that strength is accomplishment, so that everyone has to be potent, courageous, belligerent, offensive, impatient and revengeful, as he (28) does point out that this is not a black-and-white issue. As he (31-32) goes on to remind his readers, this is not about good and evil, but about good and bad. It’s, as he (33) points out, about going ‘Beyond Good and Evil’.

So, in summary, bad faith and ressentiment are not the same thing. There’s some overlap, but that’s about it. As a final bit, there’s a bit in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ that is relevant to both concepts, which is why I actually chose to write on them. I’ve mentioned this a number of times in the past, but it’s worth reiterating and further discussing as I haven’t done that in the past, at least not to this extent. So, Deleuze and Guattari (129) state that:

“There is always an appeal to a dominant reality that functions from within[.]”

They (129) mention the Old Testament and the Reformation, as well as trade and capitalism, as examples of this appeal, which involves what I earlier on called a doubled subject, “a kind of reductive echolalia” in which “[t]he subject of the statement has become the ‘respondent’ or guarantor of the subject of enunciation”. Relevant to this, in addition to the Old Testament, Nietzsche (33) also mentions the Reformation and the French Revolution as involving dominant, popular or majority appeal. Anyway, Deleuze and Guattari (129) add that:

“There is no longer even a need for a transcendent center of power[.]”

In other words, we don’t have some despot, some emperor or a king surrounded by a small circle of advisors, priestly bureaucrats, who tell everyone how things work. Okay, to be accurate, that’s only how it is in most countries, not everywhere. Anyway, that’s why they (129) add that:

“[P]ower is instead immanent and melds with the ‘real,’ operating through normalization.”

This should be easy comprehend if you know what they mean by normalization. It’s just another way to say how people should act according to some dominant, popular or majority way. They (129) continue:

“A strange invention: as if in one form the doubled subject were the cause of the statements of which, in its other form, it itself is a part.”

Here we have the doubled subject, which functions the way Sartre says it does, so that people end up not being who they are and being who they are not. Deleuze and Guattari (129) further specify this:

“This is the paradox of the legislator-subject replacing the signifying despot: the more you obey the statements of the dominant reality, the more in command you are as subject of enunciation in mental reality, for in the end you are only obeying yourself!”

To paraphrase this, if you have some despot, that emperor or a king, you don’t even get to play this game. Instead, you’ll be told who and what you are. If you don’t have that, you are not told who and what you are. You are just who and what you are. It’s as simple as that, yet, oddly enough, as discussed in this essay, you end up playing the role of the despot. There is no central authority, only this dispersed authority that everyone participates in, hence their point about normalization. You are both the master (the legislator) and the slave (the subject to that legislation). This is why they (129) state that:

“You are the one in command, in your capacity as a rational being. A new form of slavery is invented, namely, being slave to oneself, or to pure ‘reason,’ the Cogito.”

The funny, yet particularly cruel thing is that you, just like everyone else, does it to themselves. It’d be easy there was some despot. That’s why they (129) wonder if:

“Is there anything more passional than pure reason? Is there a colder, more extreme, more self-interested passion than the Cogito?”

Well put, well put. I don’t think there is. I think it also summarizes the issue of bad faith quite well. That said I really enjoyed reading Sartre and all the tangents that it led me on. He also coveres the issue of apparition particularly well, so I’d recommend reading him also for that reason. What will I write on next? I don’t know yet.


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