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Bad Faith and Character in Jonathan Webber's Sartre

An Appreciation and Critique

Ronald E. Santoni

Abstract

I have two aims: to analyze Jonathan Webber's analysis of bad faith and compare it to my own, traditional, account and to show that Webber's focus on character, as a set of dispositions or character traits that incline but do not determine us to view the world and behave in certain ways, contributes further to understanding Sartre's ‘bad faith’. Most Sartre scholars have ignored any emphasis on ‘character’. What is distinctive and emphatic in Webber's interpretation is his insistence ‘on bad faith’ as a ‘social disease’ distorting the way one views, interprets, and even thinks about the world. (Matt Eshleman also moves in this direction). But, again, this pattern is not deterministic. Early in his work, Webber tells us that Sartre does not claim that we have bad faith by ‘ascribing character traits where there are none but by pretending to ourselves that we have ‘fixed natures’ that e.g. preclude the behaviour or character trait of which one is being accused.

Though hardly disagreeing radically with Webber (or he with me) I do offer critical considerations. While Webber focuses on character, I focus on Sartre's contention that the ‘most basic’ or ‘first act’ of bad faith is ‘to flee from what [the human being] cannot flee, from what it is’, specifically human freedom. And I disagree partially with Webber's articulation of the ‘spirit of seriousness’, and strongly with both Sartre's and his supporting claim that bad faith cannot be cynical. I also demur from Webber's overemphasis on the ‘social’. For me, the root of all bad faith is our primitive ontological condition; namely, that at its very ‘upsurge’, human reality, anguished by its ‘reflective apprehension’ of its freedom and lack of Being, is disposed to flee from its nothingness in pursuit of identity, substantiality - in short, Being.

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Beauvoir and Writing as the Creation of the Self

Memoirs, Diaries, Biography

Liesbeth Schoonheim

Kate Kirkpatrick, Becoming Beauvoir: A Life (London: Bloomsbury, 2019), xiv +476 pp. ISBN: 9781–350–04717–4

Simone de Beauvoir, Diary of a Philosophy Student: Volume 2, 1928–29. The Beauvoir Series. Edited by Barbara Klaw, Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir, Margaret Simons, and Marybeth Timmerman; translated by Barbara Klaw; series edited by Margaret Simons and Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2019), xii +374 pp. ISBN: 978–0-252–04254–6

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Book Reviews

Kyle Michael James Shuttleworth and Nik Farrell Fox

George Pattison and Kate Kirkpatrick, The Mystical Sources of Existentialist Thought: Being, Nothingness, Love (New York: Routledge, 2019) 228 pp., ISBN-13: 978-1138092372 (hardback)

Oliver Davis and Colin Davis, eds, Freedom and the Subject of Theory: Essays in Honour of Christina Howells (Cambridge: Legenda, 2019) vii +216 pp. ISBN: 978-178188-7332 (hardback)

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Editorial

John Gillespie and Katherine Morris

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In Praise of Sarah Richmond's Translation of L'Être et le néant

Matthew C. Eshleman

Abstract

This article surveys most of the recent reviews of Sarah Richmond's excellent new translation of L'Être et le néant. It offers some close textual comparisons between Richmond's translation, Hazel Barnes’ translation, and the Checklist of Errors of Hazel Barnes’ Translation of L'Être et le néant. This article concludes that Richmond delivers a higher semantic resolution translation that overcomes nearly all the liabilities found in Barnes and does so without sacrificing much by way of readability.

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Responses to Matthew Eshleman and Adrian van den Hoven

Sarah Richmond

I am so grateful to Matthew Eshleman and Adrian van den Hoven for their generous, insightful comments. Translating can be a lonely activity, especially when the text is as lengthy as BN. At the end of hours of involvement with Sartre's French – perched, as it were, on the edge of his mind – I often felt in need of other, auxiliary minds to re-centre me, to save me from toppling over completely into Sartre's consciousness and drowning. In these moments, I usually turned to dictionaries and other internet resources to bolster my critical distance; more rarely, I would email fellow translators or philosophers for help. But I have had very little of the attentive, fine-grained dialogue offered here, and I have immensely enjoyed, and benefited from, this exchange. Hopefully, SSI readers will also find it of interest.

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Sarah Richmond's Translation of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness

Adrian van den Hoven

Abstract

Sarah Richmond's translation makes an important contribution to Sartrean scholarship. L'Etre et le néant was first translated by Hazel Barnes in 1956 but it contained various errors. Richmond also had access to the internet and to Sartre's French and German sources. Her edition also contains an Introduction and a ‘Notes on the translation’ section.

Sartre published his work in 1943 and, unable to access all the works he cited, he often did so from memory. He also adopted certain translators’ neologisms: for example, Corbin's translation of Heidegger's Qu'est-ce que la métaphysique? , and when he quoted Nietzsche, he used two different translations, and he quotes Spinoza using a text by Hegel. He quotes a line from the playwright Beaumarchais without clarifying the context.

Sarah Richmond deals with many of these problems and also notes that the French gender system can be problematic. Also, Sartre's neologisms rendered finding English equivalents difficult. This is an excellent translation.

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Sociality, Seriousness, and Cynicism

A Response to Ronald Santoni on Bad Faith

Jonathan Webber

Abstract

This article is a clarification and development of my interpretation of Sartre's theory of bad faith in response to Ronald Santoni's sophisticated critique, published in this issue. It begins by clarifying Sartre's conception of a project and explaining his claim that one project is fundamental, thereby elucidating the idea that bad faith is a fundamental project. This forms the groundwork of my responses to Santoni's critique of my interpretation, which comprises four arguments: Sartre does not consider us to be ontologically and congenitally disposed to bad faith; Santoni is right that social pressure cannot explain the prevalence of bad faith, but this is a problem with Sartre's theory rather than a problem for my interpretation of it; Sartre's conception of seriousness is merely an optional strategy of bad faith; and Sartre is right to deny that bad faith is an inherently cynical project.

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Book Reviews

Thomas Meagher and Farhang Erfani

A. Shahid Stover, Being and Insurrection: Existential Liberation Critique, Sketches and Ruptures (New York: Cannae Press, 2019), 266 pp., $20, ISBN: 9781733551007 (paperback)

Yoav Di-Capua, No Exit: Arab Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Decolonization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 336 pp., $35, ISBN: 9780226503509 (paperback)

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Contemporary “Structures” of Racism

A Sartrean Contribution to Resisting Racial Injustice

Justin I. Fugo

Abstract

This paper develops an account of racism as rooted in social structural processes. Using Sartre, I attempt to give a general analysis of what I refer to as the “structures” of our social world, namely the practico-inert, serial collectives, and social groups. I then apply this analysis to expose and elucidate “racist structures,” specifically those that are oftentimes assumed to be ‘race neutral’. By highlighting structures of racial oppression and domination, I aim to justify: 1) the imperative of creating conditions free from oppression and domination, over the adherence to ‘ideal’ principles which perpetuate racial injustice; 2) the shared responsibility we have collectively to resist and transform social structural processes that continue to produce racial injustice.