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The Bad Faith of Violence—and Is Sartre in Bad Faith Regarding It?

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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?

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2005

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