Re: MD Where does quality reside?

From: Mark Steven Heyman (
Date: Mon Nov 01 2004 - 16:39:30 GMT

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    On 1 Nov 2004 at 9:41, Platt Holden wrote:
    > msh says:
    > As soon as you say that Quality has preferences, (if you mean it
    > literally, not poetically), you've already personified Quality.

    DM says:
    > Well only if you think of all agency in terms of persons.
    > Pirsig makes us ask questions like do electrons prefer certain
    > states in atoms? I suspect this makes you uncomfortable. If there
    > no agency in the emergence of static patterns for you then are you
    > not just a mechanist? Without prefererence there is no quality I
    > would suggest.

    msh says:
    As I've said elsewhere, many times, I have no problem at all in
    saying that electrons choose to behave in a certain way, no more than
    saying that rocks choose to slide down an incline, or that the moon
    chooses to revolve around the earth. All of these are attempts to
    describe experience, and none of them is less valid than saying that
    gravity or weak or strong nuclear forces are involved.

    My idea is that there are plenty of preferences, but that Quality
    itself does not have preferences. Our apprehension of Quality is
    what allows us sacks of SQ patterns to make good or bad choices and
    evolve, or not. Think of the Standard Meter laid out in Paris (is it
    still there? I guess we now use wave lengths and atomic clocks to
    invoke the standard). Anyway, that iron bar doesn't go around
    measuring things for us, we measure things with IT.

    If it is only an analogy, like saying the Sun "gives" life, then
    there is zero reason for the MOQ.

    msh says:
    Not sure I follow this. There is no reason for any metaphysics,
    except in the sense that we might PREFER one or another because we
    find it VALUABLE in describing our experience of the world around us.

    scott continued:
    One might as well be a materialist and say that quality just means
    that at some point in evolution, some entities developed that like
    some things better than others.

    msh chuckles:
    Well DavidM calls me a mechanic (determinist?), and you say I'm a
    materialist; since I don't see myself as a good match for either
    label, I MUST be on to something. To me, it's undeniable that
    Quality exists. I just think it's badly confused to say that Quality
    has preferences or makes choices. Just as I don't understand what
    you mean when you say we need to think of Quality as a verb not a
    noun. I think the idea of a nounless verb is unintelligible. But
    maybe this is due to my arrested intellectual evolution.

    scott continued:
    Unless there is real perceiving and preferring ...

    msh says:
    Since I don't deny that there is plenty of perceiving and preferring,
    only that Quality itself doesn't perceive or prefer, I don't need to
    respond to the rest of your post.

    platt said:
    Exactly. If Pirsig had meant the terms in question to be poetic he
    would have written a poem. Everyday prose, which Pirsig is thankfully
    partial to, constantly uses metaphorical expressions to promote


    In saying Quality has preferences, Pirsig isn't being "poetic,"
    (meaning writing just for emotional effect), but instead is
    describing reality according to his empirically-based intellectual
    philosophy. This is made clear in many passages from Lila but perhaps
    none more so than the following:

    msh says:
    Metaphor is poetry. If your understanding of poetry is that it is
    "writing just for emotional effect", and that it must be broken up
    into short lines that rhyme, then your understanding of poetry is
    next to non-existent.

    As for the Lila passage you offer, thanks. I agree completely with
    the ideas presented there. Notice he nowhere says that Quality
    itself PREFERS or CHOOSES. Instead, he suggests that we sacks of SQ
    value patterns make choices in RESPONSE to quality.

    Best to all,
    Mark Steven Heyman (msh)

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