Volume 27, 1998
Philosophy of Culture
The Good Faith of the Invisible Man
I use Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man to consider the requirements of existentialism to be relevant to racialized experience. Black existentialism is distinguished from white existentialism by its focus on anti-black racism. However, black existentialism is similar to white existentialism in its moral requirement that agents take responsibility so as to be in good faith. Ralph Ellison's invisible man displays good faith at the end of the novel by assuming responsibility for his particular situation. The idiosyncratic development of the novel can be interpreted as an example of the ways in which existentialist values ought to be instantiated through unique individual experience. However, blackness, or any racial identity, is not itself an existential structure because it is not universal. Rather, existentialist requirements for good faith can be applied to racialized situations by both whites and blacks.