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Ronald E. Santoni

By this time, most of us are only too familiar with the vehement denunciations of Benny Lévy and his allegedly manipulative, even pernicious, influence on Sartre during Sartre’s last ten years. In her biography of Sartre, Sartre: A Life, Annie Cohen-Solal highlights some of the attacks on Lévy: Roland Castro indicted him as “the least humanist of all leftists, a monster of cynicism and mysticism”; Olivier Todd charged him with the “corruption of an old man”; an ex-Maoist comrade characterized him as “a moralistic fool … capable of turning … an audience around with his perfect speeches and crushing intelligence.”

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Ronald E. Santoni

In “Santoni on Bad Faith and sincerity: A vindication of Sartre,” Xavier Monasterio uses the recent publication of my book, Bad Faith, Good Faith, and Authenticity in Sartre’s Early Philosophy,1 as an occasion to “reevaluate an important piece of the Sartrean heritage” and to take me to task for some of my detailed criticisms and reconstruction of core Sartrean views on bad faith and sincerity. Charging that I have “missed Sartre’s point” in places, he sets out to show how some basic criticisms in two of my chapters are unwarranted and, hence, that Sartre is in no need of the “rescuing operation,” “salvaging efforts,” or “reconstruction” that I offer in these early chapters.

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Ronald E. Santoni

In the present essay I shall attempt three tasks. First, I shall try to illustrate the frequency and contexts in which Sartre associates violence with bad faith. Though focusing primarily on Notebooks for an Ethics, I shall want to show that this connection is hardly confined to that uncompleted and fragmented work. Second, and usually within the same context, I shall aim to make evident the sense or senses in which Sartre ascribes bad faith to violence. For example, what aspects or dimensions of his analysis of bad faith in Being and Nothingness apply here? Third, I want to raise a fundamental question, intended in part to be critical: If, indeed, violence instantiates bad faith, on what grounds can, or does, Sartre justify it on occasion? Given his overall and persistent criticism of bad faith, as well as his embrace of a conversion to authenticity, how can he, in good conscience, strongly endorse, even justify, violence in specified situations? Is there not an inconsistency here? Would not a justification of violence be tantamount to his justifying bad faith in certain circumstances? If so, is not Sartre in bad faith regarding the justification of violence?

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Ronald E. Santoni

Joseph S. Catalano’s most recent book on Sartre, Good Faith and Other Essays,1 is an important work. The fact that Part Two of this book – amounting to just over half of its extent – consists of essays that have appeared previously in journals does not undermine its significance and worthiness. For, viewed together, the essays in this part represent both some needed contemporary refinements of Sartre’s tantalising concept of bad faith and pioneering philosophical explorations of Sartre’s notions of good faith and authenticity. Ready access to them under a single cover increases the chance of their being read, and serves Sartrean scholarship. As background material, they here supplement Part One, Catalano’s brand new, masterfully honed, ‘A Sketch of a Sartrean Ethics’, which is ‘must’ reading for anyone pursuing the implications of an ‘integral’ Sartre for an ‘integral humanity’.

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Ronald E. Santoni

In this article, I maintain that (1) Sartre's views on violence are ambivalent and (2) Sartre sometimes justifies violence. More specifically, I attempt to establish the misreadings by Michael Fleming and Marguerite LaCaze (on whom Fleming relies) of both my writing and Sartre's in these regards. Each, by arguing that, for Sartre, violence is “sometimes acceptable” or “functionally necessary” or “understandable,” but not morally justifiable, is ignoring Sartre's tendency at times to skirt the issue of justifiability by employing “weasel words” that amount to justification. Both critics seem to forget that Sartre says that, on occasion, violence “could be called just” (qu'on pourrait appeler juste), especially in conditions of last resort defense against oppression, in which case violence, according to Sartre, can restore and regenerate the oppressed. Further, although I acknowledge Fleming's noteworthy emphasis on “structural violence,” I offer considerable counterevidence against his (and LaCaze's) claim that I ignore or slight Sartre's concern for it. I argue, on Sartrean grounds, against his (and Zizek's) claim that structural violence can be purely objective. Finally, I contend that in arguing that Sartre's views are not strictly ambivalent, Fleming, following LaCaze, makes the error of equating “consistency” with not being ambivalent.

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Ronald E. Santoni

In a probing paper entitled "The Misplaced Chapter on Bad Faith, or Reading Being and Nothingness in Reverse," Matthew Eshleman challenges part of my intensive analysis of Sartre's "Bad Faith," arguing that bad faith is essentially a social phenomenon, and that social elements—the Other, in particular—play a "necessary role in making bad faith possible." Although I share many of Eshleman's interpretative points about the importance of the "social" in Sartre's account, I contend, here, with textual support, that Eshleman is too extreme, and slights the original bad faith to which human reality, in its very "upsurge" as consciousness or freedom, is "congenitally" (Spiegelberg) predisposed. My continued appeal to Sartre's concept of "initial," "fundamental," project, or "natural attitude" of consciousness to flee its freedom—what I have called ontological bad faith—becomes the crux of my critical counter-challenge to Eshleman's thesis.

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Ronald E. Santoni

Before addressing Ronald Aronson’s Living Without God, I wish, first, to make a brief remark or two about the perspective from which I come, and secondly, to offer a few summary comments about “Sartre and Atheism,” a theme that underlies much of Aron- son’s analysis and represents a kind of subtitle for this panel-discus- sion and exchange.

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Ronald E. Santoni

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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Ronald Aronson, Ronald E. Santoni and Robert Stone

I would like to shift the question. I don’t think the important question is what Sartre would say after September 11, but rather, “What should we say about Sartre after September 11?”

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Matthew C. Eshleman and Ronald E. Santoni

Can violence ever be justified or is violence necessarily oppressive? Is self-defensive counter-violence or “revolutionary violence” aimed at human liberation, which Sartre defended, necessarily in bad faith? These questions form the crux of the debate between Matt Eshleman and Ronald Santoni. Is violence by nature Manichean, making the Other into an “object” and evil antagonist, and thus dehumanizing and oppressing the Other? Or can violence be liberatory when it is directed at oppressors? Both authors—but especially Eshleman, and Santoni reluctantly—agree that some forms of violence (such as self-defense) do not involve bad faith, but disagree about whether or when revolutionary violence can be justified.