活,也让别人活

《论自由》这本书很了不起,是John Stuart Mill最重要的著作,自1859年起,欧美无数个出版社出版了无数个版本,它的影响力可见一斑。

第二部分题为“论个性—-人类幸福的基石” (On individuality, as one of the elements of well-being),讲的基本是“活,也让别人活”。人的自愿任何行为,只要不伤害其他人,对他人有不良影响,都应该是ta自己完全的决定。对别人的与自己不同或与习俗不同的怪异举动要包容。

我第一次接触到这个想法是在大学。那时候有个女同学,不用功学习,天天打扮的像韩国人,“钓鱼”,希望交韩国男朋友。作为一个深受给天下立规矩的孔孟思想影响的山东人,我对她看不顺眼。我们有一个共同的德国华裔朋友,这个朋友跟我说了一句话:“那是她自己的人生,她有权利选择怎么活。”

Mill认为,人只有自作主张才算真正的活,随波逐流不算活,不做决定就是懒:

“The human faculties of perception, judgment, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making a choice. He who does anything because it is the custom, makes no choice. ”

“He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties. He must use observation to see, reasoning and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision.”

“Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.”

我是不是做事前老是要想,别人会怎么看我?别人会怎么做?为什么没有从自己的角度出发,想想依我的性格,脾气,喜好,应该做什么?我是不是一个毫无个性的人?我到底是谁?是不是只是一个新陈代谢的机器?基因传递的工具?只管吃喝拉撒睡的一头猪,各种欲望控制的奴隶?我创造了什么?我留下了什么独有的?如果这世界我不曾来过,会不会毫无差别?我是不是羊群里的另一只羊;墙里的另一块砖?羊和羊还不一样呢!“Human beings are not like sheep; and even sheep are not undistinguishably alike.”对别人的模仿,是不是也意味着不自信乃至自卑?

Mill把天才称作“地球之盐” the salt of the Earth,平庸之人是无法理解天才的独创性的。只有多样性、包容性的社会,才是天才生长的土壤:

“Persons of genius, it is true, are, and are always likely to be, a small minority; but in order to have them, it is necessary to preserve the soil in which they grow. Genius can only breathe freely in an atmosphere of freedom. Persons of genius are, ex vi termini, more individual than any other people — less capable, consequently, of fitting themselves, without hurtful compression, into any of the small number of moulds which society provides in order to save its members the trouble of forming their own character. ”

“Originality is the one thing which unoriginal minds cannot feel the use of.”

这一节的最后,Mill黑了一下中国。为什么中国的学校、老师都喜欢听话的学生?

“If there were nothing new to be done, would human intellect cease to be necessary?”

“This is the case over the whole East. Custom is there, in all things, the final appeal; Justice and right mean conformity to custom; the argument of custom no one, unless some tyrant intoxicated with power, thinks of resisting. And we see the result. Those nations must once have had originality; they did not start out of the ground populous, lettered, and versed in many of the arts of life; they made themselves all this, and were then the greatest and most powerful nations in the world. What are they now?”

“We have a warning example in China — a nation of much talent, and, in some respects, even wisdom, owing to the rare good fortune of having been provided at an early period with a particularly good set of customs, the work, in some measure, of men to whom even the most enlightened European must accord, under certain limitations, the title of sages and philosophers. They are remarkable, too, in the excellence of their apparatus for impressing, as far as possible, the best wisdom they possess upon every mind in the community, and securing that those who have appropriated most of it shall occupy the posts of honor and power. Surely the people who did this have discovered the secret of human progressiveness, and must have kept themselves steadily at the head of the movement of the world. On the contrary, they have become stationary — have remained so for thousands of years; and if they are ever to be farther improved, it must be by foreigners. They have succeeded beyond all hope in what English philanthropists are so industriously working at — in making a people all alike, all governing their thoughts and conduct by the same maxims and rules; and these are the fruits. The modern regime of public opinion is, in an unorganized form, what the Chinese educational and political systems are in an organized; and unless individuality shall be able successfully to assert itself against this yoke, Europe, notwithstanding its noble antecedents and its professed Christianity, will tend to become another China.”

“A people, it appears, may be progressive for a certain length of time, and then stop: when does it stop? When it ceases to possess individuality.”

联想到这本书出版于马尔葛尼访华受辱(1793年)几十年后,两次鸦片战争之间(1859年),Mill的思想受到了多大的时局的影响,难说。

这本书是欧美中学生的必读书,也是我相见恨晚的书之一,见解振聋发聩,论证有力,很惭愧,我至今才读。

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