Re: MD food for thought

From: Platt Holden (
Date: Sat Sep 14 2002 - 15:30:52 BST

Hi Matt:

Thanks for further explaining Rorty's post-philosophy, especially where
you related it to the MOQ. A couple of observations and questions:
> Irrationality is a charge leveled at those who are following
> Dynamic Quality. The post-Philosophical culture is a culture that attempts
> to foster Dynamic Quality.

I don't think if you follow DQ that you thereby automatically become
irrational. If you do become irrational as a result of following DQ, you fall
back from the intellectual to the social or, more likely, the biological
level (like the 60's Hippies). In any case, did you mean to leave the
impression that postmodernism fosters and celebrates irrationality?

> On natural human rights, I think Pirsig would once again favor Rortyan
> historicism. Static patterns change and morality follows the highest
> static patterns and Dynamic Quality. Human rights are relative to the
> historical context you are working from. Rights aren't relative as in "Any
> right is as good as any other," but, rather relative in the sense of 20th
> C. BCE Sumerians have a different notion of human rights than 20th C. CE
> Americans. (I couldn't actually think of any times Pirsig mentions rights
> off the top of my head, so if anyone knows of any, I'd be curious to know
> what he says.)

Here's what Pirsig says about rights, from Chap.24 of Lila:

"What passed for morality within this crowd was a kind of vague,
amorphous soup of sentiments known as "human rights." You were also
supposed to be "reasonable." What these terms really meant was never
spelled out in any way that Phaedrus had ever heard. You were just
supposed to cheer for them.
"He knew now that the reason nobody ever spelled them out was
nobody ever could. In a subject-object understanding of the world these
terms have no meaning. There is no such thing as "human rights."
There is no such thing as moral reasonableness. There are subjects
and objects and nothing else.
"This soup of sentiments about logically nonexistent entities can be
straightened out by the Metaphysics of Quality. It says that what is
meant by "human rights" is usually the moral code of intellect-vs. -
society, the moral right of intellect to be free of social control. Freedom
of speech; freedom of assembly, of travel; trial by jury; habeas corpus;
government by consent-these "human rights" are all intellect-vs.-society
issues. According to the Metaphysics of Quality these "human rights"
have not just a sentimental basis, but a rational, metaphysical basis.
They are essential to the evolution of a higher level of life from a lower
level of life. They are for real."

As for the postmodern idea that rights and morality of other cultures
past and present are relative and beyond criticism, Pirsig vigorously
objects. Again in Chap. 24 he writes:

"A subject-object metaphysics lumps biological man and cultural man
together as aspects of a single molecular unit It goes on to reason that
because it is immoral to speak against a people because of their
genetic characteristics it is therefore also immoral to speak against a
people because of their cultural characteristics. The anthropological
doctrine of cultural relativism reinforces this. It says you cannot judge
one culture in terms of the values of another. Science says there is no
morality outside of cultural morality, therefore any moral censorship of
minority patterns of crime in this city is itself immoral. That is the
"By contrast the Metaphysics of Quality, also going back to square
one, says that man is composed of static levels of patterns of evolution
with a capability of response to Dynamic Quality. It says that biological
patterns and cultural patterns are often grouped together, but to say that
a cultural pattern is an integral part of a biological person is like saying
the Lotus 1-2-3 program is an integral part of an IBM computer. Not so.
Cultures are not the source of all morals, only a limited set of morals.
Cultures can be graded and judged morally according to their
contribution to the evolution of life."

In fact, Matt, isn't it true (-: that Rorty would never accept Pirsig's major
thesis that the world is a moral order? Isn't it true that postmodernists
share the conviction that all morality is local, historical and socially

I look forward to further enlightenment regarding the Rortyian view of the


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