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Bad faith and the unconscious

Webber, Jonathan ORCID: 2019. Bad faith and the unconscious. LaFolette, Hugh, Deigh, John and Stroud, Sarah, eds. International Encyclopedia of Ethics, John Wiley and Sons, (10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee619.pub2)

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The ethical task of becoming a better person requires identifying and fairly assessing one’s motivations. Any ethical theory needs to be consistent with the structure of human motivation. Ethics therefore requires an understanding of how self-deception about motivation is possible. The two main theories of self-deception about motivation are Sigmund Freud’s theory of repression and Jean-Paul Sartre’s theory of bad faith. Freud distinguishes between rationally structured and purely mechanistic aspects of the mind, arguing that repression is a process of preventing oneself from becoming conscious of some mechanistic item. Sartre argues that this explanation fails, since the activity of repression would need to be concealed but cannot be mechanistic. Sartre’s alternative rests on his theory of projects as the ground of motivations. Since projects structure conscious experience, they structure our reflective awareness of our own projects, which allows features of our projects to become hidden from our view. Sartre’s theory is internally coherent and consistent with the view of motivation currently emerging from social psychology. But it is inconsistent with his own theory of radical freedom. It requires instead Simone de Beauvoir’s theory of project sedimentation, which in turn entails a non-purposive form of self-deception.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Uncontrolled Keywords: bad faith, commitment, drives, dualism, endorsement, Jean‐Paul Sartre, mind, motivation, projects, rationality, René Descartes, repression, resistance, sedimentation, self‐deception, Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir, symbolism, unconscious, undertaking
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons
ISBN: 9781405186414
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2022 07:27

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