Re: MD md death penalty

From: Simon Knight (
Date: Thu May 31 2001 - 15:52:43 BST

Hi Matt, Rasheed, Platt et al. (Sorry it's ended up so long)

With exams once more looming large, I think I'll lurk again temporarily after this post.

Quality is all there is, has been and will be. Let morality be synonymous with quality if it helps the language of the MoQ. Through the application of value judgements to quality, 'substance' (for want of a better word) is created. The source of value judgements is quality, a combination of DQ and sq. What allows us to make value judgements are our value patterns, not the MoQ. And here is where I (and I think others, including perhaps Pirsig) have tried to make the MoQ into a system of ethics for making value judgements. It is not an ethics system, it is a metaphysics that (perhaps uniquely, perhaps not, but certainly better than SOM) allows ethics systems and value judgements to have "real"-ness. The MoQ can't declare whether it is moral or not to kill someone, as a fundamental piece in the machinery of the MoQ is that it is dynamic. If, by giving foundations to ethical systems you mean it accords them "real"-ness, then yes it does give them foundations, but it can't give different ethical systems stronger foundations than others. When Pirsig says that it is moral to fight against slavery and kill innocent people in the process, he says this because he is a Western 20th century liberal, not because any application of the MoQ says that it is moral (even if one reading of the patterns can show that it is, another can show that it is not).

IMHO, the dynamic-static split highlights where we get our value judgements from - some are a direct response to experience (the dynamic), others we inherit (the static). Over time, more and more static patterns of value have become inheritable - initially, the inorganic, then the biological, then the social, and most recently the intellectual. Such a list is useful in showing the static sources of value patterns, and as is my understanding, they are afforded a hierarchy because, as you say, life is a migration towards DQ, and therefore the more recent, the closer it is to DQ, and therefore the more moral it is. If any of that is a controversial reading of the MoQ, then yes, I still don't get it. Perhaps, and this does go against Pirsig's direct word, we should recognise that DQ never gets any closer, and conclude that therefore no levels are superior to other levels (is it BAD that a plague should wipe out a society? is it BAD that a society should wipe out a plague?)

So, if we are faced with an ethical decision, such as whether murderers should be executed, we can do it with recourse to the '4 levels' (apologies if that sounds like something out of Demolition Man), but they won't get us any nearer to a conclusion (and in many cases will not be as helpful) than using ethical systems based upon such principles as utilitarianism, bodily integrity and fundamental rights, and social retribution, even gut feeling. The 4 levels of static quality should be seen as the source of value patterns, and should be left at that. The MoQ can't tell me whether I should be a Nazi or fight the Nazis, but I can tell myself (and I think Sartre would say that I must tell myself, as if I let someone else tell me then I am living in bad faith). Mangiola stressed this much more clearly than I could.

(As regards, morality as opposed to quality, morality as a term has a special status (anthropologically I guess). It spearates the important value decisions that bind the social level together by reference to socio-intellectual (and socio-biological ?) concepts. Not even all social value patterns are morality patterns by the conventional definition of morality. I recognise that Pirsig is trying to raise all value judgements up to the level of morality judgements, but that as a result waters down what morality is. Morality is at the top of the tree as far as value judgements go, and no matter how high the tree grows, the top remains the top, just with more wood below it.
Earlier today as I was playing on the computer in a break from revision a piece of magnificent solar engineering occurred, by which, my eyes, the monitor, the window in my room, and the sun aligned themselves so that the glare made me unable to see the screen - a low quality situation I think you will agree, so I shifted myself and my monitor slightly (being unable to move either the sun or my window) and the quality of my situation increased. Now this involved a value judgement (or number of them) on my part, but it was not of the same moral magnitude as the value judgements that take place before deciding whether or not I should punch someone.
I hope that explains what I see as the difference between morality and quality, and why I feel uneasy about making the two synonymous - it's not that I don't find all value judgements important, it's that I find some more important morally than others. Before I get any backlash about fixing motorcycles or assembling barbecues, I would like to stress that that isn't the difference, the value judgements there are equally important in the whole scope of quality, but having been raised in a western christian democratic world value judgements that affect the integrity of others have a higher moral status.)

Maybe you'll still find my gloss on the MoQ leaning towards the positivist side, and if all I have done is regurgitated the conventional take on the MoQ then I apologise, but this argument was essentially an argument with myself as I tried to straighten out the niggling creases in the MoQ that had been arising to me over time, and I needed to use this forum to really make myself think about it. And now I fear, I must start thinking about the criminal law (a subject which would be much easier if the MoQ was the accepted metaphysics. At least then I could answer questions with "Because it is good")

Would like to hear your responses, although I may well be too busy to reply.


ps. Rasheed, thankfully your hormones don't really change when you hit 18, although I hope your "anything that moves" has some qualifications, for your sake ;~) My favourite example? "But your honour, I was relieving myself out on the moors, and the sheep backed itself into me." I really hope that I've taken in something besides that from lectures this year.

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