From: david buchanan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun Oct 23 2005 - 02:36:56 BST
So are you saying that a mystical experience cannot be described in terms of
firing neurons _at all_? If that's the case, how do you get around my
objection that you're insisting on a particular description?
I get around your objection by pointing out that the neurological
description is logically impossible, given the definition of the
pre-intellectual experience. I'm not insisting on a particular description.
I'm simply pointing out that Pirsig's description of the experience, as one
which preceeds subjects and objects and gives rise to them, is wholly
inconsistent with a physiological description of a subject. I'm saying that
your brain-states description expresses the wrong idea. I'm NOT saying its
metaphysically incorrect and naturally I'm disputing the value of medical
science. I'm just saying that your description constitutes a logical error.
You're trying to explain the DQ/SQ distinction by way of analogy, but the
series of analogies set up are not only different from each other (creating
a bewildering array of uses for DQ), they try and get you to accept
seperable, specifically philosophical theses from common sense distinctions,
like "gut reactions" and "further reflections." Taking the hot stove again,
I think Ian played out the description of DQ and SQ fairly right according
to the standard view you're elaborating on. There's your initial reaction
to the stove, and then there's your further reflections about the initial
experience. What I don't see is how this is (should be) tied in with the
other things that go under the heading of DQ, like as ultimate reality. It
seems like a mistake to me.
I understand that lots of posters think of DQ in terms of biologicial
reflexes, gut reactions and other commonsensical notions. As explained
above, I think that is incorrect. I think that is essentially a
materialistic SOM view that defies the definition of the pre-intellectual
experience. Near the end of chapter five, Pirsig gives "the reasons for
hammering on this so hard". Its because...
..."we have a culturally inherited blindspot here. Our culture teaches us to
think it is the hot stove that directly causes the oaths. It teaches that
the low values are a property of the person utttering the oaths. Not so.
..It is the primary empircial reality from which such things as stoves and
heat and oaths and self are later intellectually constructed. Once this
primary relationship is cleared up an awful lot of mysteries get solved. The
reason values seem so woolly-headed to empiricists is that empiricists keep
trying to assing them to subjects or objects. You can't do it. You get all
mixed up because values don't belong to either group. They are a separate
category all their own. What the MOQ would to is take this separate
category, Quality, and show how it contains within itself both subjects and
Let me also say a few things about the "bewildering array of uses for DQ". I
think this will help to bring the DQ/sq distinction back into focus
properly. Remember you already asked why we need this distinction and in
reply I basically asserted the the main purpose was to put philosophical
mysticism on the table for discussion? Recall that I'd asserted that the
main purpose was to include a whole range of human experience that has
traditionally been excluded? At the end of chapter nine, Pirsig talks about
a "bewildering array" of uses for Manito among the Indians. And in the same
breath talks about the DQ/sq split as an achievement for its ability to
cover it all...
"Their (American Indian) term MANITO is often used interchangeabley with
"God" by whites who usually think all religion is theistic and by Indians
themselves who don't make a big deal out of any verbal distinctions. But as
David Mandelbaum noted in his book THE PLAINS CREE, 'The term MANITO
primarily referred to the Supreme Being but also had many other usages. It
was applied to manifestations of skill, fortune, blessing, luck, to any
wonderous occurrence. It connoted any phenomenon that transcended the run of
everyday experience.' In other words, 'Dynamic Quality.' With the
identification of static and Dynamic Quality as the fundamental division of
the world, Phaedrus felt that some kind of goal had been reached. This first
division of the MOQ now covered the spectrum of experience from primitive
mysticism to quantum mechanics."
...What we need is some sense of why the problems Pirsig is setting out to
dissolve are problems and what these problems are. And when some of these
problems are traditional philosophical problems (not all of them are), I
think the only way to be able to get a good sense of whether Pirsig's
solution is successful or not is to have a good sense of the history of that
problem, of why Pirsig picks it up as a problem from the history of
philosophy. Everytime you tell me that this or that distinction doesn't fall
into this or that agreed upon bad distinction, I start to wonder _why_,
then, do we need the distinction you're selling? If I can use the gut
reaction/further reflection distinction just as easily as the pre-/post-
distinction in that situation, what other situations is the pre-/post-
distinction helping me in?
Let me address the last question first. I think I already explained why gut
reactions are a very bad way to describe the pre-intellectual experience. It
confuses biological quality with DQ. It re-inserts the subject, the self and
sensory experience back into the picture. It defies the MOQ's revolution
against SOM. And I hope the quote that equates DQ with MANITO shows the many
situations where the proper distinction is supposed to apply. And this leads
directly to your questions concerning the history of philosophical
I think you keep trying to get me (and Pirsig) to take sides in the
historical conversations that you(and Rorty) are most interested in. I think
you want to read all these issues as if I (and Pirsig) were
philosoph-awful-falafel-ologists like yourself. Not so. Pirsig traces
philosophical history back to it very beginings and asserts that Quality was
lost long ago and has been suffering from this error ever since. Plato's
blunder was to turn DQ into a static and fixed thing rather than a category
of experience. He tried to turn it into an intellectual object rather than
an existential reality, not unlike yourself. That's where the cultural
blindspot comes from, Plato's epic blunder. That's the problem to solve.
Pirsig's DQ/sq distinction is supposed to be a solution that problem. And if
he's right, that solution will unravel a whole series of problems for people
and politics, technology and philosophy, science and religion. He's
attacking the problem in the underlying structure, if you will. By going
back to the very beginning, he's going after some of the most basic
assumptions of the Western worldview. That's why his distinctions don't
translate very well into the conversations you like to think about, because
they all entail some permutation of the subject/object split. But its more
than just that. My aversion to philosophobottleology is that it puts all the
emphasis on the form rather than the content. It's purely formal and
factually empty. Its talk about talk rather than talk about life. You know?
There's a very different orientation and purpose. Think about Phaedrus'
complaint about Chicago's philosophy program in ZAMM, where he describes the
sensation in terms of walking into the middle of a heated argument. Or there
was Pirsig's amusement at the astonishing variety of historical philsophers
that reviewers saw in his work. Not to mention the quotes from LILA.
I bumped into a phrase that seems to characterize the difference; "not a
mere intellectual alignment, but a truly existential transformation". It was
used by Ken Inada to describe "the right view expounded by the Buddha", but
it works here too.. I think you've got to listen to Pirsig on his own terms
rather than pretend he's interesting the argument he walked into. As if he
were intentionally aligning the MOQ with this or that neo-postsomethingism.
I think he's not just offering a philosophical solution, he trying to get at
the attitude and peace of mind or people engaged in engine repair. He's
trying to get a the good life in terms of transformative experiences, in
terms of discovering one's dharma, one's big self. Its about excellence,
creativity and freedom as an existential state, not abstract concepts. How
does he put it? Metaphysics is good if it improves life, otherwise forget
it" or something like that. That's why we get central images like riding a
motorcycle and sailing a boat. "American Indians are exceptionally skilled
at holding ot the ever-changing center of things. That is the real reason
they speak and act without ornamentation. It violates their mystic unity.
This moving and acting and talking in accord with the Great Spirit and
almost nothing else has been the ancient center of their lives. Their term
MANITO is often used interchaneably with 'God' by whites who think all
religion is theistic..."
Thanks for your time.
FREE pop-up blocking with the new MSN Toolbar – get it now!
MOQ.ORG - http://www.moq.org
Aug '98 - Oct '02 - http://alt.venus.co.uk/hypermail/moq_discuss/
Nov '02 Onward - http://www.venus.co.uk/hypermail/moq_discuss/summary.html
MD Queries - email@example.com
To unsubscribe from moq_discuss follow the instructions at:
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Oct 23 2005 - 05:21:56 BST