I am not a philosopher. But I did work at a restaurant when I was younger, and my daughter is studying philosophy in school. Sartre's following quotations feel like bullying, spurning waiters. Doubtless, waiters have been remunerated relatively meagerly, and have never constituted a mighty profession! Why didn't Sartre target a wieldier profession, and itemize its affectations and mannerisms instead?

Certainly, pretentiousness isn't limited to waiters! Why didn't Sartre scorn clergy for their vestments? Or general officers for their medals and uniforms? Even in 2022, some barristers and judges still wear robes and wigs! In my honest opinion, I would trust a waiter over a politician. Politicians have more bad faith than waiters!

Sartre’s most famous example of bad faith is of a café waiter. This waiter seems determined by his role as a waiter. It is as if he is acting a role. His movements are exaggerated: the way he bends forward to the customer, or balances his tray. It is all a kind of ceremony, an elaborate dance. Sartre points out that the waiter, however hard he tries to become his role, cannot be a waiter as an inkwell is an inkwell. A for-itself cannot by an act of will power metamorphose into an in-itself (except, perhaps, by committing suicide). Sartre diagnoses the waiter as someone trying to deny his freedom, as if he didn’t have the choice of staying in bed rather than getting up at 5 o’clock, even though that would mean getting the sack. His mechanical movements betray a desire to be what he cannot be, an in-itself. Thus the waiter is in bad faith because he is deceiving himself about the limits of his freedom.

Nigel Warburton, Philosophy : The Classics (2014), p 377.

Bad faith

Going back to the café scenario where you hoped to meet Pierre, Sartre describes the waiter. He comes to your table and greets you with an eager speech he has given a thousand times. His movements are so efficient that they are mechanical. He smiles considerately without ever quite looking you in the eye. He is playing his role. He has turned himself off. He doesn’t want to think or feel anything because his job doesn’t allow it.

Sartre argues that most of us spend much more time acting like the waiter than we would like to admit. We find ourselves in rigidly defined social roles: student, parent, spouse, employee and so on. In order to carry out these roles day in and day out, we become passively detached, ignoring all the possibilities free will presents to us.

Sartre calls this way of living bad faith. Although the waiter is trying to forget that he is free, he nevertheless freely chose to allow himself to descend into this disenchanted state. He is therefore responsible for what has happened to him. Moreover, he still catches a glimpse, from time to time, of what he has become. He is engaged in an elaborate form of self-deception.

Sharon Kaye, Philosophy A Complete Introduction (2014). Anyone know the page number?

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Sartre wants us to freely create our own lives and hence he is focusing our attention on a profession that we can all relate to because it is so familiar: that of waiting. For this he does not need a profession that has status and prestige. Familiarity is enough.

However, the world he is urging us towards, if not tempered, is just as exhausting and inhuman as the world he wants us to leave: the world of ceremony and routine. For the world of perpetual novelty, when taken to excess, is as tyrannical as the factory line - just in a different way.

Kant talked about the Kingdoms of Ends and not the Kingdom of Innovation or the Kingdom of Creativity. Creativity and innovation are now just buzzwords adopted by Capitalism when they realised they could commoditise amd fetishise them.

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