Being-for-itself and the Ontological Structure

Can Being-for-itself Avoid Bad Faith?

in Sartre Studies International
Ronald E. Santoni Maria Theresa Barney Chair Emeritus of Philosophy, Denison University, Ohio, USA

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In this paper, I pay tribute to Jonathan Webber, one of the most dependable interpreters among recent Sartre scholars. I do so by challenging both him and Sartre on an issue that has long frustrated my work on Sartre. In short, Sartre contends that the For-itself's desire to be (and to pursue) Being-in-itself-for-itself (i.e., God) is in bad faith. This raises two issues: (1) Is this desire to be ens causa sui part of the ontological structure of the For-itself? (2) If so, is bad faith an essential part of the human being? I contend that the desire to be the In-itself-for-itself is, on Sartre's premises, part of the ontological structure of an existing human being (pour-soi). As our original flight from freedom and “fundamental project,” this constitutes bad faith's “coming into the world,” and remains part of Being-for-itself's “natural” disposition to bad faith.

Contributor Notes

Ronald Santoni is the Maria Theresa Barney Chair Emeritus of Philosophy at Denison University in Ohio and is a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. He has published 170 articles, commentaries, and reviews in international philosophical journals and national magazines. He is also the author of Bad Faith, Good Faith, and Authenticity in Sartre's Early Philosophy. He has presented numerous scholarly papers on Sartre, more recently at The University of Paris (Sorbonne), at Université D'Amiens/Picardie in France, and at Universität Luzern in Switzerland. In June 2014, he was one of the four American Sartre scholars whose work on Sartre was honored at a conference held in St. Louis on The Diverse Lineages of Existentialism.

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Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture


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