龐蒂論自由 02

龐蒂論自由 02

We often see the weakness of the will brought forward as an argument against freedom. And indeed, although I can will myself to adopt a course of conduct and act the part of a warrior or a seducer, it is not within my power to be a warrior or a seducer with ease and in a way that ‘comes naturally’; really to be one, that is.


But neither should we seek freedom in the act of will, which is, in its very meaning, something short of an act. We have recourse to an act of will only in order to go against our true decision, and, as it were, for the purpose of proving our powerlessness.


If we had really and truly made the conduct of the warrior or the seducer our own, then we should be one or the other. Even what are called obstacles to freedom are in reality deployed by it.


An unclimbable rock face, a large or small, vertical or slanting rock, are things which have no meaning for anyone who is not intending to surmount them, for a subject whose projects do not carve out such determinate forms from the uniform mass of the in itself and cause an orientated world to arise—a significance in things.


There is, then, ultimately nothing that can set limits to freedom, except those limits that freedom itself has set in the form of its various initiatives, so that the subject has simply the external world that he gives himself.


Since it is the latter who, on coming into being, brings to light significance and value in things, and since no thing can impinge upon it except through acquiring, thanks to it, significance and value, there is no action of things on the subject, but merely a signification ( in the active sense), a centrifugal Sinngebung.


The choice would seem to lie between scientism’s conception of causality, which is incompatible with the consciousness which we have of ourselves, and the assertion of an absolute freedom divorced from the outside. It is impossible to decide beyond which point things cease to be εψμων. Either they all lie within our power, or none does.


The result, however, of this first reflection on freedom would appear to be to rule it out altogether. If indeed it is the case that our freedom is the same in all our actions, and even in our passions, if it is not to be measured in terms of our conduct, and if the slave displays freedom as much by living in fear as by breaking this chains, then it cannot be held that there is such a thing as free action, freedom being anterior to all actions.


In any case it will not be possible to declare: “ Here freedom makes its appearance”, since free action, in order to be discernible, has to stand out against a background of life from which it is entirely, or almost entirely, absent. We may say in this case that it is everywhere, but equally nowhere. In the name of freedom we reject the idea of acquisition, since freedom has become a primordial acquisition and, as it were, our state of nature.


Since we do not have to provide it, it is the gift granted to us of having no gift, it is the nature of consciousness which consists in having no nature, and in no case can it find external expression or a place in our life. The idea of action, therefore, disappears: nothing can pass from us to the world, since we are nothing that can be specified, and since the non-being which constitutes us could not possibly find its way into the world’s plenum.


There are merely intentions immediately followed by their effects, and we are very near to the Kantian idea of an intention which is tantamount to the act, which Scheler countered with the argument that the cripple who would like to be able to save a drowning man and the good swimmer who actually saves him do not have the same experience of autonomy.


The very idea of choice vanishes, for to choose is to choose something in which freedom sees, at least for a moment, a symbol of itself. There is free choice only if freedom comes into play in its decision, and posits the situation chosen as a situation of freedom.


A freedom which has no need to be exercised because it is already acquired could not commit itself in this way: it knows that the following instant will find it, come way may, just as free and just as indeterminate. The very notion of freedom demands that our decision should plunge into the future, that something should have been done by it, that the subsequent instant should benefit from its predecessor and, though not necessitated, should be at least required by it.


If freedom is doing, it is necessary that what it does should not be immediately undone by a new freedom.


Each instant, therefore, must not be a closed world; one instant must be able to commit its successors and, a decision once taken and action once begun, I must have something acquired at my disposal, I must benefit from my impetus, I must be inclined to carry on, and there must be a bent or propensity of the mind.


It was Descartes who held that conservation demands a power as great as does creation; a view which implies a realistic notion of the instant. It is true that the instant is not a philosopher’s fiction. It is the point at which one project is brought to fruition and another begun—the point at which my gaze is transferred from one end to another, it is the Augen-Blick.


But this break in time cannot occur unless each of the two spans is of a piece. Consciousness, it is said, though not atomized into instants, at least haunted by the specter of the instant which it is obliged continually to exorcise by a free act.


We shall soon see that we have indeed always the power to interrupt, but it implies in any case a power to begin, for there would be no severance unless freedom had taken up its abode somewhere and were preparing to move it.


Unless there are cycles of behavior , open situations requiring a certain completion and capable of constituting a background to either a confirmatory or transformatory decision, we never experience freedom.



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