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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龐蒂論自由 506
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.

庞蒂论自由 544
Choice of an intelligible
sort is excluded, not only because there is no time anterior to time, but
because choice presupposes a prior commitment and because the idea
of an initial choice involves a contradiction. If freedom is to have room*
in which to move, if it is to be describable as freedom, there must be
something to hold it away from its objectives, it must have a field, which
means that there must be for it special possibilities, or realities which
tend to cling to being.


As J. P. Sartre himself observes, dreaming is
incompatible with freedom because, in the realm of imagination, we
have no sooner taken a certain significance as our goal than we already
believe that we have intuitively brought it into being, in short, because
there is no obstacle and nothing to do.4 It is established that freedom is
not to be confused with those abstract decisions of will at grips with
motives or passions, for the classical conception of deliberation is relevant
only to a freedom ‘in bad faith’ which secretly harbours antagonistic
motives without being prepared to act on them, and so itself
manufactures the alleged proofs of its impotence.


3 J. P. Sartre, L’Etre et le Neant, p. 544

We can see, beneath
these noisy debates and these fruitless efforts to ‘construct’ ourselves,
the tacit decisions whereby we have marked out round ourselves the
field of possibility, and it is true that nothing is done as long as we
cling to these fixed points, and everything is easy as soon as we have
weighed anchor. This is why our freedom is not to be sought in spurious
discussion on the conflict between a style of life which we have no
wish to reappraise and circumstances suggestive of another: the real
choice is that of whole character and our manner of being in the world.


But either this total choice is never uttered, since it is the silent upsurge
of our being in the world, in which case it is not clear in what sense it
could be said to be ours, since this freedom glides over itself and is the
equivalent of a fate—or else our choice of ourselves is truly a choice, a
conversion involving our whole existence.


In this case, however, there is presupposed a previous acquisition which the choice sets out to
modify and it founds a new tradition: this leads us to ask whether the
perpetual severance in terms of which we initially defined freedom is
not simply the negative aspect of our universal commitment to a
world, and whether our indifference to each determinate thing does
not express merely our involvement in all; whether the ready-made
freedom from which we started is not reducible to a power of initiative,
which cannot be transformed into doing without taking up some
proposition of the world, and whether, in short, concrete and actual
freedom is not indeed to be found in this exchange.


It is true that
nothing has significance and value for anyone but me and through anyone
but me, but this proposition remains indeterminate and is still indistinguishable
from the Kantian idea of a consciousness which ‘finds in
things only what it has put into them’, and from the idealist refutation
of realism, as long as we fail to make clear how we understand significance
and the self.


By defining ourselves as a universal power of Sinn-
Gebung, we have reverted to the method of the ‘thing without which’
and to the analytical reflection of the traditional type, which seeks the
conditions of possibility without concerning itself with the conditions
of reality. We must therefore resume the analysis of the Sinngebung, and
show how it can be both centrifugal and centripetal, since it has been
established that there is no freedom without a field.

凭借定义我们自己,作为是「被赋予意义」 Sinn Getung 的普遍性力量。我们转移到「没有的物象」thing without which ,并且转移到传统种类的分析的反思。这种反思寻找可能性的情况,却并不关怀现实的情况。我们因此必须重新开始分析「被赋予的意义」Sinn Getung ,然后显示它如何有时离心力,有时又是向心力。因为已经被证实的是,自由必然会有场域。


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