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Bertrand Russell - On Being Modern-minded 汉译

2014-05-30    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训
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On Being Modern-minded

Bertrand Russell

Our age is the most parochial since Homer. I speak not of any geographical parish: the inhabitants of Mudcombe-in-the-Meer are more aware than at any former time of what is being done and thought at Praha, at Gorki or at Peiping. It is in the chronological sense that we are parochial: as the new names conceal the historic cities of Prague, Nijni-Novgorod, and Pekin, so new catchwords hide from us the thoughts and feelings of our ancestors, even when they differed little from our own. We imagine ourselves at the apex of intelligence, and cannot believe that the quaint clothes and cumbrous phrases of former times can have invested people and thoughts that are still worthy of our attention. If Hamlet is to be interesting to a really modern reader, it must first be translated into the language of Marx or of Freud, or better still, into a jargon inconsistently compounded of both. I read some years ago a contemptuous review of a book by Santayana, mentioning an essay on Hamlet ‘dated, in every sense, 1908’ – as if what has been discovered since then made any earlier appreciation of Shakespeare irrelevant and comparatively superficial. It did not occur to the reviewer that his review was ‘dated, in every sense, 1936.’ Or perhaps this thought did occur to him, and filled him with satisfaction. He was writing for the moment, not for all time; next year he will have adopted the new fashion in opinions, whatever it may be, and he no doubt hopes to remain up to date as long as he continues to write. Any other ideal for a writer would seem absurd and old-fashioned to the modern-minded man.

The desire to be contemporary is of course new only in degree; it has existed to some extent in all previous periods that believed themselves to be progressive. The Renaissance had a contempt for Gothic centuries that had preceded it; the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries covered priceless mosaics with whitewash; the Romantic movement despised the age of the heroic couplet. Eighty years ago Lecky reproached my mother for being led by intellectual fashion to oppose fox-hunting: ‘I am sure,’ he wrote, ‘you are not really at all sentimental about foxes or at all shocked at the prettiest of all the assertions of women’s rights, riding across country. But you always look upon politics and intellect as a fierce race and are so dreadfully afraid of not being sufficiently advanced or intellectual.’ But in none of these former times was the contempt for the past nearly as complete as it is now. From the Renaissance to the end of the eighteenth century men admired Roman antiquity; the Romantic movement revived the Middle Ages; my mother, for all her belief in nineteenth-century progress, constantly read Shakespeare and Milton. It is only since the 1914-18 war that it has been fashionable to ignore the past en bloc.

The belief that fashion alone should dominate opinion has great advantages. It makes thought unnecessary and puts the highest intelligence within the reach of everyone. It is not difficult to learn the correct use of such words as ‘complex’, ‘sadism’, ‘Oedipus, ‘bourgeois’, ‘deviation’, ‘left’; and nothing more is needed to make a brilliant writer or talker. Some, at least, of such words represented much thought on the part of their inventors; like paper money they were originally convertible into gold. But they have become for most people inconvertible, and in depreciating have increased nominal wealth in ideas. And so we are enabled to despise the paltry intellectual fortunes of former times.

The modern-minded man, although he believes profoundly in the wisdom of his period, must be presumed to be very modest about his personal powers. His highest hope is to think first what is about to be thought, to say what is about to be said, and to feel what is about to be felt; he has no wish to think better thoughts than his neighbours, to say things showing more insight, or to have emotions which are not those of some fashionable group, but only slightly ahead of others in point of time. Quite deliberately he suppresses what is individual in himself for the sake of the admiration of the herd. A mentally solitary life, such as that of Copernicus, or Spinoza, or Milton after the Restoration, seems pointless according to modern standards. Copernicus should have delayed his advocacy of the Copernican system until it could be made fashionable; Spinoza should have been either a good Jew or a good Christian; Milton should have moved with the times, like Cromwell’s widow, who asked Charles II for a pension on the ground that she did not agree with her husband’s politics. Why should an individual set himself as an independent judge? Is it not clear that wisdom resides in the blood of the Nordic race or, alternatively, in the proletariat? And in case what is the use of an eccentric opinion, which never can hope to conquer the great agencies of publicity?

The money rewards and widespread though ephemeral fame which those agencies have made possible place temptations in the way of able men which are difficult to resist. To be pointed out, admired, mentioned constantly in the press, and offered easy ways of earning much money is highly agreeable; and when this is open to a man, he finds it difficult to go on doing the work that he himself thinks best and is inclined to subordinate his judgment to the general opinion.

Various other factors contribute to this result. One of these is the rapidity of progress which has made it difficult to do work that will not soon be superseded. Newton lasted till Einstein; Einstein is already regarded by many as antiquated. Hardly any man of science, nowadays, sits down to write a great work, because he knows that, while he is writing it, others will discover new things that will make it obsolete before it appears. The emotional tone of the world changes with equal rapidity, as wars, depressions, and revolutions chase each other across the stage. And public events impinge upon private lives more forcibly than in former days. Spinoza, in spite of his heretical opinions, could continue to sell spectacles and meditate, even when his country was invaded by foreign enemies; if he had lived now, he would in all likelihood have been conscripted or put in prison. For these reasons a greater energy of personal conviction is required to lead a man to stand out against the current of his time than would have been necessary in any previous period since the Renaissance.

The change has, however, a deeper cause. In former days men wished to serve God. When Milton wanted to exercise ‘that one talent which is death to hide’, he felt that his soul was ‘bent to serve therewith my Maker’. Every religiously minded artist was convinced that God’s aesthetic judgements coincided with his own; he had therefore a reason, independent of popular applause, for doing what he considered his best, even if his style was out of fashion. The man of science in pursuing truth, even if he came into conflict with current superstition, was still setting forth the wonders of Creation and bringing men’s imperfect beliefs more nearly into harmony with God’s perfect knowledge. Every serious worker, whether artist, philosopher, or astronomer, believed that in following his convictions he was serving God’s purposes. When with the progress of enlightenment this belief began to grow dim, there still remained the True, the Good and the Beautiful. Non-human standards were still laid up in heaven, even if heaven had no topographical existence.

Throughout the nineteenth century the True, the Good and the Beautiful preserved their precarious existence in the minds of earnest atheists. But in their very earnestness was their undoing, since it made it impossible for them to stop at a halfway house. Pragmatists explained that Truth is what it pays to believe. Historians of morals reduced the Good to a matter of tribal custom. Beauty was abolished by the artists in a revolt against the sugary insipidities of a philistine epoch and in a mood of fury in which satisfaction is to be derived only from what hurts. And so the world was swept clear not only of God as a person but of God’s essence as an ideal to which man owed an ideal allegiance; while the individual, as a result of a crude and uncritical interpretation of sound doctrines, was left without any inner defence against social pressure.

All movements go too far, and this is certainly true of the movement toward subjectivity, which began with Luther and Descartes as an assertion of the individual and has culminated by an inherent logic in his complete subjection. The subjectivity of truth is a hasty doctrine not validly deducible from the premises which have been thought to imply it; and the habits of centuries have made many things seem dependent on theological belief which are not so. Men lived with one kind of illusion, and when they lost it they fell into another. But it is not by old error that new error can be combated. Detachment and objectivity, both in thought and feeling, have been historically but not logically associated with certain traditional beliefs; to preserve them without these beliefs is both possible and important. A certain degree of isolation both in space and time is essential to generate the independence required for the most important work; there must be something which is felt to be of more importance than the admiration of the contemporary crowd. We are suffering not from the decay of theological beliefs but from the loss of solitude.


论具有现代头脑

伯特兰·罗素

自荷马时代以降,我们这个时代地方观念最重。我这么说并非就地理教区而言:和以往任何时候相比起来,莫德克姆海岛的居民更多意识到,在布拉哈、高尔基或在北平,人们都在做些什么和想些什么。因此是从年代先后的意义来说,我们抱有地方观念:如同新的地名掩盖了布拉格、尼基尼-诺夫戈和北平这些古城一样,新的时髦语也对我们隐瞒了我们祖先的思想感情,即使在它们和我们的时髦语差别不大的时候。我们自以为才智上登峰造极了,无法相信往代的奇装异服与笨拙词句居然包装着人们,思想也还值得我们重视。如果《哈姆雷特》还使一位真正现代的读者发生兴趣的话,必须首先把它译成马克思或弗洛伊德的语言,或者理想一点的话,译成合二为一的行话。几年前,我读过一篇对桑塔亚那某部书嗤之以鼻的评论,提到一篇哈姆雷特论“在各种意义上都是1908年的老调”——仿佛此后的一切发现都使以前任何一篇欣赏莎士比亚的文字无关紧要,因而也就比较肤浅。他的评论“在各种意义上都是1936年的老调”,这一点没有在评论家头脑闪现过。或许这种想法的确出现于他的头脑,而且使他洋洋得意。他是在为眼前而写作,不是为着一切时代而写作;时隔一年他又将采用舆论的新潮,无论是什么内容,他当然希望只要自己作文不辍,就得不断跟上新潮。对现代头脑的人来说,一位作家的其他任何理想看来都是荒唐过时的。

想成为当代人的愿望当然仅仅在程度上是新的;一切相信当世是进步的历史时期中,都在一定程度不同存在过这种愿望。文艺复兴时期对以前哥特式风行的几个世纪抱有蔑视;17和18世纪用白石灰涂抹价值连城的镶嵌画;浪漫主义运动瞧不起英雄偶句诗体。八十年代莱基责备我母亲受知识界沶的导向而反对猎狐:“我确信,”他这样写道,“你对于猎狐其实并非是感情用事的态度,对主张女权的最堂而皇之的论调,野外骑马,也不会大惊小怪。可你老是把政治和智力看作一种激烈的竞赛,唯恐不够了先进或知识分子气味不浓。”但是在这些时期,对往代的蔑视都不像目前这么彻底。从文艺复兴到18世纪末叶,人们都称羡罗马古风;浪漫主义运动使得中世纪重见天日;我的母亲尽管笃信19世纪的进步,却始终爱读莎士比亚和弥尔顿。只是自1914-1918的大战以来,彻底忽视往代才变得时髦起来。

唯有时尚应该左右舆论这种偏偏大有益处。这种信念使得思维成为多余的了,而且把至高的智力置于每个人可以企及的范围之内。“情结”、“虐待狂”、“俄狄浦斯”、“布尔乔亚”、“偏向”、“左派”,学会正确使用这类字眼并不困难;造就一位出色的作家和清谈者,再也不需要什么了。至少其中某些儿字眼颇多代表了发明这类字眼的人的思想;如同纸币一样,起初可以兑换成黄金。但对大多数人说来,它们已经渐渐地无法兑换了,而在贬值的过程中思想上名义财富却增加了。这样才使我们蔑视往代的无足轻重的的知识财产。

应该假定,具有现代头脑的人看待他的个人能力时非常谦虚,虽然他深信自己时代的智慧。他的最高希望就是,该想什么就想什么,该说什么就说什么,该感受什么就感受什么,他根本不希望思考的思想比他的邻居更高明;说出更有见地的话,也不愿具有某个时髦族所不具有的情感,他的希望无非是在时间上领先一步。他处心积虑地压制他身上反映个性的一面,图的是博得群体的赞赏。一种精神上孤独的生活,诸如哥白尼、斯宾诺莎或王政复辟之后弥尔顿的生活,依照现代标准来看似乎毫无意义。于是哥白尼理应推迟提倡哥白尼体系,直到它能变得时髦起来;斯宾诺莎理应要么做个虔诚的犹太人,要么做个虔诚的基督徒;弥尔顿则应该与时共进,像克伦威尔的遗孀那样,她向查理二世启齿索取养老金,理由是她并不赞同丈夫的政治主张。为什么个人要标榜自己是有主见的判官呢?智慧存在于北欧人种的血统之中,或者换而言之,存在于无产阶级之中,这不是明明白白的吗?况且,无论在哪种情况下,一个标新立异的见解又有何用处呢?它决不可能指望战胜宣传的强大机构。

那些机构可能提供的酬金和遐迩闻名却昙花一现的声誉,在能人的道路上所设置的诱惑难以抵制。在新闻界经常被指认出来,受人羡慕,大名被人提到,赚大钱的捷径有人提供,这是十分令人快意的;一旦所有这些机会都向某个人敞开了,他就会发现很难继续从事自认为最合适的工作,而且不由自主地使自己的判断服从一般舆论。

其他各种因素也促成了这种结果。其中之一便是进步之迅速,已经使得人们不容易从事不会即将被替代的工作。牛顿在爱因斯坦出现之前首屈一指;而爱因斯坦已被许多人视为陈腐。当今之世,很少有科学工作者坐下来撰写一部伟大的著作,因为他明白:他在著述的时候,别人将发现新事物,它们将使他的书在出版之前变显得内容陈旧了。世界的感情基调也是同样迅速的发生变化,因为战争、萧条、革命在世界舞台上竞相出现。而且和往日比较起来,公共事件更为有力地冲击着私人生活。斯宾诺莎尽管抱着异端见解,即使他的国家遭到外敌侵犯的时候,他还能继续出售眼镜,独自沉思;如果他生活在现代,极有可能被征募服兵役或关入牢房。由于这些原因,要一个人站出来反对当世的潮流,必须具有一种更大的个人信念的力量,它超过了文艺复兴以来任何时期所必要的程度。

然而,这种变化还有一层更深的原因。在往日,人们只想虔奉上帝。当弥尔顿想运用“遮掩起来等于死亡的唯一禀赋”的时候,他感到他的灵魂是“注定以它去虔奉我的造物主”。每一位具有宗教意思的艺术家都确信,上帝的审美判断契合他本人的审美判断;因此他自有一番道理,独立于大众的喝彩之上,去从事于他认为最适合的工作,即使他的作风不合时尚。探索真理的科学工作者,即令他与当时风行的迷信发生冲突,仍然在表述造化的奇迹,促使人们不完善的信仰与上帝的完美知识更近于和谐一致。每一位严肃的工作者,不论是艺术家、哲学家,还是天文学家,都曾相信,在遵循自己信念的同时,他是在为上帝的旨意服务。一旦随着启蒙的进步,这种信念开始变得暗淡了,真、善、美依然存在。非人类的标准还是被置于上天,即使上天已经失去地形上的存在。

整个19世纪期间,真、善、美还朝不保夕地保持在热诚的无神论者的心目中。但是他们的热诚却造成了他们的毁灭,因为这种态度使得他们不可能停止在中途客栈。实用主义者的解释是,“真”之所以有价值就是信仰有好处。研究伦理的史家把“善”归结为一种部落习俗的问题。“美”为艺术家所废弃,因为他们反叛庸俗时代华而无实的内容,同时处于一种愤怒的心情,认为满足得之于伤害。因此世界上一扫而空的不仅是作为人而存在的上帝,而且是作为一种理想的上帝的本质,原来人类是对它抱有一种理想上的忠诚;而个人呢,由于对健全的学说所采取的粗俗而无所鉴别的解释,结果内心的防御能力荡然无存,对付不了社会的压迫。

一切运动都走过了头,对主观性的反抗运动当然也是如此,始于马丁·路德和笛卡尔的那场运动是要维护个人,由于一种内在逻辑联系而以个人的彻底屈服告终。真理的主观性是一种仓促形成的学说,不是有效地从那些据认为是包含着它的前提中演绎出来的;多少世纪以来的习惯致使许多事物似乎依赖于神学的信仰,事实上并非如此。人们过去靠着某个幻想生活,他们失去了一个幻想,又陷入另一个幻想。可是我们不能以旧错误来战胜新错误。在思想和感情两个方面,超脱和客观的态度,在历史上而非逻辑上与某些传统信念相联系;保持这两种态度而不抱这些信念是可能而又重要的。在空间和时间上保持一定程度的孤立,这是产生最重要的工作所需要的独立性所必不可少的;必须具有人们觉得是比当代大众的推崇更为重要的东西。我们现在遭受的痛苦不是神学信念的衰退,而是孤独的丧失。

(杨岂深 译)



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