Though influenced by Heidegger, Sartre was profoundly sceptical of any measure by which humanity could achieve a kind of personal state of fulfilment comparable to the hypothetical Heideggerian re-encounter with Being. Being and Nothingness is regarded as both the most important non-fiction expression of Sartre’s existentialism and his most important philosophical work, original despite Sartre’s debts to Heidegger. Important ideas in Being and Nothingness build on Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology.
To both philosophers, consciousness is intentional, meaning that there is only consciousness of something. While being-in-itself is something that can only be approximated by human being, being-for-itself is the being of consciousness. From Sartre’s phenomenological point of view, nothingness is an experienced reality and cannot be a merely subjective mistake. The absence of a friend and absence of money hint at a being of nothingness. In the first chapter, Sartre develops a theory of nothingness which is central to the whole book, especially to his account for bad faith and freedom.
The human attitude of inquiry, of asking questions, puts consciousness at distance from the world. Every question brings up the possibility of a negative answer, of non-being, e. For Sartre, this is how nothingness can exist at all. As Bad faith, Sartre describes one’s self-deception about the human reality. It can take two forms, the first one is making oneself falsely believe not to be what one actually is.
This essentially means that in being a waiter, grocer, etc. The difference between existence and identity projection remains at the heart of human subjects who are swept up by their own condition, their “bad faith”. Let us consider this waiter in the café.
His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. Sartre also gives, as an example of bad faith, the attitude of the homosexual who denies that he is a homosexual, feeling that “a homosexual is not a homosexual” in the same sense that a table is a table or a red-haired man is red-haired. Sartre consistently mentions that in order to get out of bad faith, one must realize that one’s existence and one’s formal projection of a self are distinctly separate and within the means of human control. This separation is a form of nothingness. Nothingness, in terms of bad faith, is characterized by Sartre as the internal negation which separates pure existence and identity, and thus we are subject to playing our lives out in a similar manner.