Re: MD md death penalty

From: Matt the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat (
Date: Wed May 30 2001 - 23:01:14 BST


I'm sorry, my bad! We were talking through each other and not about the real

You think there's a foundation to your [social] morals.

Myself, Pirsig, Sartre, Camus, Foucault, and every other existentialist and
post-modernist would, however, disagree. That's not to mention the Analytics
and Pragmatists.

Pirsig was attacking the logical empiricist/positivist position that holds that
values, morals, religion, and art aren't verifiable (because they remain in the
subject) and, therefore, are not areas in which we can have legitimate
knowledge. (Lila Ch. 8) Pirsig, and everyone here I would presume, disagrees
with this. But now Pirsig has to come up with where they exist and how and why
they are verifiable. This is the core message of ZAMM and Lila. And its not
neccessarily and easy thing to do, hence the second book, Lila.

Existentialists and Post-Modernists would vary the attack slightly. After
Nietzsche knocks down any outside interference from God, the attack would be
that morals and values are given by society. What's wrong with that, you say?
They're completely arbitrary, of course! Enter relativism, the intellectual
scourge that has laid waste to our society's foundations for, well, whatever
foundation ya' got.

There have been attempts to resurrect a foundation in the vacuous hole left by
society's morals. All of the people who have made these attempts fully
understand the implications of modern science, which is partly responsible for
the intellectual hole. These include utilitarianism and Simone de Beavoir's
Ethics of Ambiguity. They also include attempts at ethics by
scientist/philosophers. They are written in books with titles like The
Philosophy of Biology and The Metaphysics of Evolution and Biology and the
Foundation of Ethics. None of them, however, quite work. Why? Because as
Pirsig has pointed out, they are using the wrong language.

You seem to take offense at the use of morality in relation to physics and
inorganic static patterns of value, in general. Fine. Whatever. It's not
important what words we use. It's the truth that's behind them that's
important. The "socially high quality" in not killing someone is, by itself,
intellectually foundationless. It is that way for all the reasons given
above. Pirsig, in the Metaphysics of Quality, gives it an intellectual
foundation. He says that "Thou shalt not murder" is a social static pattern of
value. Still foundationless. That's just renaming "socially high quality".
The foundation comes from "All life is a migration of static patterns of
quality towards Dynamic Quality." (Lila Ch. 11) Why is it migrating towards
Dynamic Quality? It must be because DQ is inherently higher up on the totem
pole. Why is it higher? Its higher for the same reason that Quality exists in
the first place: the world wouldn't function if it weren't or at least it
wouldn't look the way it does. (ZAMM Ch. 18)

So, essentially, if you already agree that "Thou shalt not murder" than, yeah,
MOQ doesn't say anything new. What it does do is give a foundation to the
argument made towards those who do not believe in "Thou shalt not murder".
Without that foundation you get lost in relativism, specifically cultural
relativism. And the MOQ then gives a foundation for other arguments made in
relation to other, more morally fuzzy statements such as "Thou shalt not abort"
or "do drugs".

(And by the way, if you define morals as "social values" than, yeah, of course,
it will only apply to social static patterns of value. What Pirsig was doing,
in naming moral judgements the foundations of reality, was continuing to make
light of the fact that positivists believe that values only reside in the
subject and that, therefore, aren't real and blah, blah (you probably know the
argument against SOM in ZAMM and Lila by now). "Conventional morals" are all
those foundationless codes that I've named off above. They are foundationless
partly because positivists don't acknowledge the reality of values. "...moral
judgements are essentially assertions of value..." didn't include the "social"
bit because values already implicitly meant subject/society/person/whatever.
Pirsig is saying that this implicit assumption is dead wrong. The reason
society has the "moral" high ground against biology and can control it in the
name of society is because of the MOQ foundation. Without it we would have a
recurrence of the 1920's when Intellectualism declared itself supreme and that
society was foundationless and biology was the last stop before the intellect.
(Lila Ch 21 and 22))


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