MD Migration towards Dynamic Quality

From: Matt the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat (
Date: Thu May 31 2001 - 19:40:50 BST

I told myself to be a good little Buddha and leave it alone. "You've said your
piece, anything else will detract from it." Right, exactly. Nit-picking is
annoying and just starts a huge brawl.


There happens to be something I said in my last e-mail (and then repeated in
Platt's MD Summary of the MOQ) that took me a long time to finish when I was
writing it:

> 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)

The part that I struggled on was: Why is it higher?

I knew what I wanted to write. "It's higher 'cuz, well, take a long look at
history and you'll see it evolving towards ... something...." I was kinda'
stuck in my own rhetoric. Everything I wrote down I had a "Why?" for. It was
real annoying, but sometimes it's the annoying parts that are the most
enlightening. I ended up going with what I did because it was catchy,
definitive, and straight out of ZAMM. Always good to pull together two books
in the same cause.

But now the annoying buzz became a definitive racket. "What if Dynamic isn't
the high ground? What if static is the high ground? Nothing in nature says
that Dynamic is higher. The world could function if static were higher.
So why
isn't it? Why? Why!?! WHY!?!"

I stared at my computer screen for 15 minutes while the internal debate raged.
I told myself "Attention can't be properly placed on it today. It's not the
point of my argument, only a piece. A piece that will hopefully be overlooked
and taken on Pirsig's word." So I finished the e-mail and drowned out the
racket with some nice, mind-numbing television. But going back today and
having nice words said about me by Platt and then reading his post (Yes, I read
it again. I happen to like my rhetoric.), well, it started the racket again.
"Please, tell me why Dynamic is higher. I know you want to know. So just tell
me. Just, think about it some more. Please. Please! PLEASE!!!"

And then the bombshell:

> 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?)

Simon saw it!!! He was willing to say it. I don't know if he quite
understands it yet, and it certainly isn't coherent yet, but there it is:
Why? Why!?! WHY!?!

So there it is. Why is Dynamic higher than static? Why is life a migration
towards Dynamic and not a migration towards static. This is probably the most
important question about the MOQ because it's the pivotal assertion that allows
for every single useful thing the MOQ has to offer. Static's moving towards
Dynamic. Without it the MOQ is a shell.

If you have trouble getting at the question (I know I did) then think of it
like this: where does Pirsig get the idea that Dynamic is higher than static?
If it's from nature, than how? If not, than is making static higher just as
coherent as making Dynamic higher?

As a preliminary answer, I went back to Pirsig today for a hand and was able to
piece together that the "towards" in my "It's higher 'cuz, well, take a long
look at history and you'll see it evolving towards ... something...." is really
an "away" and the something is static patterns. (Lila Ch 11) That's what I was
struggling for yesterday. But today, its not good enough. What if the first
cut of Quality, static-Dynamic, placed static at the top? Would the world


That's the unsettling answer. (And I want to hear lots of comments telling me
different.) The world wouldn't change because if static were at the top,
change would still be allowed for in the rare (and bad) Dynamic moment.
(Incidentally, I brain-washed myself a year ago into thinking that change would
not be possible if static were the more desired one and, therefore since change
happens, Dynamic is higher than static. It's why the question has never come
up before.)

The main reason I'm thinking this way (though it cuts to my very core) is
because I'm being unduly influenced by an English political theorist that I've
studied recently (and that I also despise): Michael Oakeshott. Oakeshott
would agree with a MOQ that placed static higher than Dynamic because he was a
conservative. As far as I could tell, he was an 18th-Century Imperialist
writing in the 20th-Century. Oakeshott believed that change was bad. Being
Dynamic is only rarely useful. Not indispensable because he had to allow for
good change ('cuz it did happen). Oakeshott's theory about change being the
Great Satan failed (as I would have it in an essay I wrote) because of an
argument founded on the MOQ: Dynamic having higher status than static.

If Dynamic isn't higher, and it's the other way around, suddenly we have a
metaphysics that reinforces Oakeshott. That means a metaphysics that says that
letting the slaves go and giving them voting rights is bad and wrong. It means
oppression of all kinds is good. Sexual Revolution? Out the window.
Aparthied? Sounds good to me, can I have another? Aristocratically ruled
feudalism? I'm afraid so.

As a side note about what you can say and can't say (well, you can say it, but
you can't say I didn't warn you) in response. You can't say that the MOQ is
not an ethical system and that it allows any ethical system to have
"real"-ness. Why? Because the MOQ is an ethical system (if there were any
additional way to stress the "is" I would do it). Why is it an ethical
system? I'm glad you asked, 'cuz now it's time for a little Intro to
Philosophology lesson.

There are three branches of philosophology: epistemology, metaphysics, and
axiology. Epistemology deals with the How do I know something? questions.
Metaphysics deals with the What is reality? questions. Axiology is a little
known word that formalizes the question of What has value? And there you are,
the three key words to philosophology that clue you in to what kind of
philosophology you are doing: know, reality, and value. The beautiful thing
that Pirsig did was make axiology and metaphysics the same thing. Value is
reality. After that you're just left with epistemology which is what was
predominately covered in ZAMM. (In fact, in Ch 18 of ZAMM, we find Pirsig
essentially asking the question How do we know reality has value? That was the
pinnacle question to establish Quality. Now we need to establish the MOQ by
answering Why is Dynamic better than static?) So, essentially Pirsig reduces
axiology into metaphysics, a niffty move if I've ever seen one. What that also
means is that the (at minimum) three branches of axiology (politics,
aesthetics, and ethics) become the same thing as his metaphysics. Pirsig's
metaphysics is his ethics.

Oh, and what you can say is that "because all of this good change has happened,
it is obvious that Dynamic is better than static." This is essentially
Pirsig's point, but he puts it more eloquently and defends it. The problem
with this point is that it doesn't rule out an Oakeshott interpretation of the
Dynamic-static cut. Oakeshott could just come back and say, "Well, it's
obvious that Static is better than dynamic. Hell, I even Germanized it. Heh,
heh. I'm an evil man. Go rich people!" The problem is with the word
"obvious". It's really not a good argument. I or somebody else could flesh
out why it isn't (think Kuhn and that evil, evil relativism) and the
consequences. I'd rather not waste my breath at this point. I want to hear
everyone's thoughts for a different argument, first. If all we got is "It's
obvious" then we can go from there with the consequences.

As an aside, even though I don't think I could, I really hope I'm not shooting
the MOQ in the head. It's definitely the coolest thing I've ever read,
defended, and used. To kill it would disenchant me for the rest of my life.
Kinda' like in ZAMM when Pirsig was so disenchanted with science and then
drifted laterally for a while. Except, I know I'm not innovative and Dynamic
(let alone smart) enough to create something to fill it's void.

So, I'm begging you. Please tell me I'm wrong. Please. Please! PLEASE!!!

As humble as ever,


p.s. After writing this all down and re-reading it, I think I'm beginning to
see some holes. I think it has something to do with "value". (You decide if
my tongue is in my cheek.)

And now, like a good little, pudgy Buddha ("Look at the cute Buddha! Isn't he
so cute? Yes he is. Yes he is!") I'll shut up.

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