龐蒂論自由 01

龐蒂論自由 01
Merleau-Ponty on Freedom
From The Phenomenology of Perception 感覺現象學 p.434

Again, it is clear that no causal relationship is conceivable between the subject and his body, his world or his society. Only at the cost of losing the basis of all my certainties can I question what is conveyed to me by my presence to myself.


Now the moment I turn to myself in order to describe myself, I have a glimpse of an anonymous flux, a comprehensive project in which there are so far no ‘states of consciousness’, nor, a fortiori, characteristics of any sort. For myself I am neither ‘ jealous,’ nor ‘inquisitive’, nor ‘ hunchbacked’, nor ‘ a civil servant’.


It is often a matter of surprise that the cripple or the invalid can put up with himself. The reason is such people are not for themselves deformed or at death’s door. Until the final coma, the dying man is inhabited by a consciousness, he is all that he sees, and enjoys this much of an outlet. Consciousness can never objectify itself into invalid-consciousness or cripple-consciousness, and even if the old man complains of his age or the cripple of his deformity, they can do so only by comparing themselves with others, that is, by taking a statistical and objective view of themselves, so that such complaints are never absolutely genuine: when he is back in the heart of his own consciousness, each one of us feels beyond his limitations and thereupon resigns himself to them. They are the price which we automatically pay for being in the world, a formality which we take for granted. Hence we may speak disparagingly of our looks and still not want to change our face for another.


No idiosyncrasy can, seeming, be attached to the insuperable generality of consciousness, nor can any limit be set to this immeasurable power of escape. In order to be determined ( in the two sense of the word) by an external factor, it is necessary that I should be a thing. Neither my freedom nor my universality can admit of any eclipse. It is inconceivable that I should be free in certain of my actions and determined in others: how should we understand a dormant freedom that gave full scope to determinism? And it is assumed that it is snuffed out when it is not in action, how could it be rekindled? If per impossibile I had once succeeded in making myself into a thing, how should I subsequently reconvert myself to consciousness?


Once I am free, I am not to be counted among things, and I must then be uninterruptedly free. Once my actions cease to be mine, I shall never recover them, and if I lose my hold on the world, it will never be restored to me. It is equally inconceivable that my liberty should be attenuated; one cannot be to some extent free, and if, as is often said, motives incline me in a certain direction, one of two things happens: either they are strong enough to force me to act, in which case there is no freedom, or else they are not strong enough, and then freedom is complete, and as great in the worst torments as in the peace of one’s home.


We ought, therefore, to reject not only the idea of causality, but also that of motivation. The alleged motive does not burden my decision; on the contrary my decision lends the motive its force. Everything that I ‘am’ in virtue of nature or history—hunchbacked, handsome or Jewish—I never am completely for myself, as we have just explained; and I may well be these things for other people, nevertheless I remain free to posit another person as a consciousness whose views strike through to my very being, or on the other hand merely as an object.


It is also true that this option is itself a form of constraint: if I am ugly, I have the choice between being an object of disapproval or disapproving of others. I am left free to be a masochist or a sadist, but not free to ignore others. But this dilemma, which is given as port of the human lot, is not one for me as pure consciousness: it is still I who makes another to be for me and makes each of us be as human beings.


Moreover, even if existence as a human being were imposed upon me, the manner alone being left to my choice, and considering this choice itself and ignoring the small number of forms it might take, it would still be a free choice. If it is said that my temperament inclines me particularly to either sadism or masochism, it is still merely a manner of speaking, for my temperament exists only for the second order knowledge that I gain about myself when I see myself as others see me, and in so far as I recognize it, confer value upon it, and in that sense, choose it.


What misleads us on this, is that we often look for freedom in the voluntary deliberation which examines one motive after another and seems to opt for the weightiest or most convincing. In reality the deliberation follows the decision, and it is my secret decision which brings the motives to light, for it would be difficult to conceive what the force of a motive might be in the absence of a decision which it confirms or to which it runs counter.


When I have abandoned a project, the motives which I thought held me to it suddenly lose their force and collapse. In order to resuscitate them, an effort is required on my part to reopen time and set me back to the moment preceding the making of the decision. Even while I am deliberating, already I find it an effort to suspend time’s flow, and to keep open a situation which I feel is closed by a decision which is already there and which I am holding off. That is why it so often happens that after giving up a plan I experience a feeling of relief: “ After all, I wasn’t all that involved’; the debate was purely a matter of form, and the deliberation a mere parody, for I had decided against from the start.



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