On Liberty 論自由

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最近到圖書館了借到了這本, John Stuart Mill 的 “On Liberty"。剛開始讀 Introduction,最大的想法是,Liberty 其實是 limitation,不過限制是有理據而非以個人偏好 (preference) 作為基礎。在 Introduction 裡,強調了 Likings, Preferences, Opinion, feelings 與 Reason 作為確立限制自由的規則或原則的差異。

Mill 提出的 Tyranny of Majority,亦並非限於或只著眼於政治制度。他所擔心的,似乎是在政治制度以外的 tyranny of majority。

其中一段如是寫道:

“The tyranny of majority was at first, and still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant – society collectively, over the separate individuals who composes it – its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts when it may do by the hands of its political functionaries."

此段用上了 " But reflecting persons perceived… " 以及前句 “was at first, and still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating…" 可見,其實在 public authorities 中的 tyranny of majority 並非他所最感憂慮的。

其後他再寫道:

“Society can and does execute its own mandates : and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle,

it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppressions, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself."

而作為鋪陳論點,在寫出上面兩段之前,Mill 其實提到了,有關 self-government ( 自治?)及 people (人民)二字未能完全反映真實。他認為:

“The ‘people’ who exercise the power are not always the same people with those over whom it is exercised; and ‘self-government’ spoken of is not the government of each by himself, but of each by all the rest"

而人民的意志 ( will of the people) 往往指的,是最多數人的意志,或人群中最活躍發言的人的意志;多數人(The majority) ,則是「被認可為多數人的一群(”those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority” )。這裡可見,即使在說 “tyranny of majority”,也不見得等同於,人是最多。「多數人」可能只是一群被認可、接受作為 majority 的一群人,人數多寡可能並不重要。

最關鍵的一句,是 “The people, consequently, may desire to oppress a part of their number; and precautions are as much needed against this as against any other abuse of power.”

這些在 19 世紀中期出版的想法,放諸今天仍有參考價值。尤其在近日民粹主義在世界各地之風行,讓人不得不認真細想,到底自由是什麼。這個問題在香港尤其值得仔細的問,因為「自由」作為口號被如此廣泛地運用,可是自由到底是什麼,卻似乎並非大家所關心的。

Side Note 1 : 此書為 Penguin Books 出版,封面實在太美。

Side Note 2 : John Stuart Mill 的文字頗難讀,感覺上很精煉,但又常常在句中加插較詳細的解釋,因此句子結構多層且複雜,逗號之多,有時候真的讀到頭昏眼花。

Side Note 3:讀到 “it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppressions, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.” 此段,腦海中思緒浮出文革。文革似乎是把 tyranny of ruler + tyranny of majority 兩者混合出的結果。文革以外,大抵納粹也是同樣的情形。然而民族之不同性格似乎使兩個國家朝向兩種相反的道路走去。
德國在二戰後一直反思歷史的教訓,至此其文化中的省思、自我批判的性格,似乎使得其在文化藝術等創作,以至哲學上走在世界前端(起碼在劇場中如是),儘管其文化影響力不及英美(那又另有政治與歷史因素)。中國則採取一種迴避歷史的態度,只是藉改革開放與世界大趨勢之巧合,而走到今天這境地。但歷史是難纏的,往往越迴避歷史,歷史越會重演。

Side Note of Side note 3 : 近來亦越來越有意欲想學學德文,看看這個國家民族的思考方法。

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