Thursday, April 21, 2011

Axiom 2: Mauvaise Foi - How the Choices You Are Unaware of Can Change Your Life Most

"A man is what he wills himself to be." - Jean-Paul Sartre 

"I call a lie: wanting not to see something one does see, wanting not to see something as one sees it... The most common lie is the lie one tells to oneself; lying to other is relatively the exception." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Existentialists, for which I am one, believe in personal free will. The belief that you are free to choose and shape your own destiny. Mauvaise Foi, is a french existentialist term meaning "bad faith." It was a ground breaking concept Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about in the 1940s. Simply put, bad faith is when a person denies their free will. It is a process deeply rooted in self-deception.  

Here are some examples of how acting in bad faith works:

First, let us suppose Bill Gates decided not to drop out of Harvard to pursue computers. The hypothetical reasoning being that he would upset his parents, and that a successful career in computers would be nearly impossible without a college education. If he had then decided that he did not have the free choice to drop out of school he would have been acting in bad faith. He would have unconsciously limited his freedom. 

Secondly, let's consider Stephen Hawking's career in physics. His most amazing work was not done while he was healthy, but after he became paralyzed and diagnosed with three years left live. He could have easily acted in bad faith and stopped a career in physics on the grounds that his health would not allow it. But in doing so he would have denied his freedom to pursue physics in unconscious self deception.  

Lastly, let's look at Michael Jordan. He was cut from his high school basketball team. He could have acted in bad faith and quit, choosing to only play for recreation. He chose instead to practice harder and try for the team again, and the rest is history. He did not let adversity limit his freedom.

The examples above show that everyone has physical and environmental advantages and disadvantages. Do not allow these to limit your free-will. More importantly do not let your unconscious defeat you and limit your opportunities in life. If you continue to blame your lack of success on your parents, health, lack of money, location, looks, and so on, you are living in bad faith.

For better and for worse our lives are the sum of our decisions. The more we limit our options, the more we limit our freedom. 

It is time to wake up and realize as Sartre wrote, "We are condemned to be free."