Bad faith in Nausea


Fear and anguish in the face of an immeasurable existential burden lead individuals to seek an escape from the responsibility that comes with human freedom. In Sartre‘s (1905-1980) philosophy, the tendency to present oneself as indifferent to one’s free existence is termed “bad faith”. One is in bad faith when one is not responding directly to one’s existence; rather one has got an artificial construct mediate between him and reality. That is, one is guilty of regarding oneself not as a free person but as an object. Bad faith, however, has to be differentiated from falsehood, as Sartre makes a distinction between the two:  

“Bad faith… has in appearance the structure of falsehood. Only what changes everything is the fact that in bad faith it is from myself that I am hiding the truth”. 

 So bad faith is a kind of self-deception. Based on this definition, I shall attempt to point out and explain the instances of bad faith scattered across the novel, Nausea.   

More Notes: Nausea

Monsieur Fasquelle’s bad faith  

As Roquentin’s existential examination of the world goes on, we mela numeral people who ate in “bad faith” without being of it. Monsieur Fasquelle the manager of Cafe Mably infected with “Bad faith”, as he seems to have defined himself by his profession:  

When his establishment empties, his head empties too. 

He has forgotten that he has chosen the profession. It is a common trait among professionals to internalize certain fixed ways of looking at life. They are keen to perform social roles imposed upon them from outside without attempting to create their individual essences. They always look for a label to explain things.   

  More Notes: Jean-Paul Sartre

The bad faith of Doctor Roge and Achille  

Doctor Roge is one such fellow. He dubs Monsieur Achille “an old crackpot”, Achille too is in “bad faith’, as he humbly accepts the label. In the Sartrean world, if you accept the label given by others, you are not exercising your freedom to create essence for yourself. At a certain stage of life, you feel that you have gained the experience to label people, and pass judgment on them. If you do that, you are not encountering existence, you are using hand-me-down labels. Again, if you think that you are getting wiser because you are aging, you are in “bad faith, trying to hide the painful reality with a comforting facade. This is exactly what happens in the case of Doctor Roge. Evading the fact that he is getting closer to death, and his body and mind disintegrating he looks in the mirror and pretends to feel that the creases on his face are signs of his wisdom and experience. Roquentin’s observation of Doctor Roge is a disturbingly fascinating expose of man’s attempt to take refuge in “bad faith”:  

He has only to look in a mirror every day he looks a little more like the corpse he is going to become… he would like to shut his eyes to the unbearable reality that he is alone, without any attainments, without any past, with a mind which is growing duller, a body which is disintegrating. So, he has carefully constructed, carefully furnished, and carefully padded his little compensatory fantasy: he tells himself that he is making progress.  

 He has gaps in his thinking, and moments when his head seems quite empty. That’s because his judgment is no longer as impulsive as it was in his youth. Does he no longer understand what he reads in books? That’s because he has left books so far behind. He can’t make love anymore? But he has made love in the past. To have made love is much better than to go on making it: looking back, you can judge compare, and reflect. And to be able to bear the sight of this terrible corpse’s face in mirrors, he tries to convince himself that the lessons of experience are engraved in it.   

More Notes: Suggestions

The bad faith of self-Taught Man  

people like the Autodidact will certainly not pay heed to any such disillusioning suggestion, an eccentric fellow, who aims to read all the books of the Bouville library in alphabetical order, the Autodidact embraces ‘bad faith’ and attaches too much importance to certain essences. He tries to escape his existence with the stuff of knowledge and dreams of adventure. He pretends that life is elsewhere, outside. He cannot create his own meaning – hence always refers to books or other people’s thoughts.   

Bad faith in Roquentin’s diary  

Some other instances of ‘bad faith can be found in Roquentin’s diary. On one occasion, when a young couple enters a restaurant,    

One distinguished-looking gentleman … nods his head with a certain coquetry playing at feeling paternal”. 

 Though he is old he pretends “that with his dark complexion and slim figure he is still attractive”.  

The bad faith of the young couple  

The young couple is in ‘bad faith. They assume an air of innocence, even though both of them are aware of their sexual interests in each other;  

They are going to sleep together. They know it. But as they are young chaste, and decent, as each wants to keep his self-respect and that of the other, and as love is a great poetic thing which mustn’t be shocked, they go several times a week to dances and restaurants, to present the spectacle of their ritualistic, mechanical dances. 

More Notes: Nausea


Through the above instances of ‘bad faith’, we can understand how people deny their freedom and are reluctant to accept existential responsibility. For Sartre, one must accept that one is free and hence responsible for one’s actions. Thus, Sartre rejects determinism, indicating that it is our choice how we respond to determining tendencies. If we say we have acted under someone’s advice responsible for choosing that advisor. In no way, we can cease being free. So, in order to become an authentic individual, one must refrain from bad faith.  

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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