MD Structuralism in Pirsig

Date: Wed May 14 2003 - 00:19:19 BST

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    I have a few thoughts, nothing like an argument.

    I was reading Clifford Geertz's hilarious essay, "Anti Anti-Relativism," when he helped connect some dots for me (Geertz is now my favorite academic comedian, in front of Fish and then Rorty). Geertz is an anthropologist and his essay is an attempt to grapple with relativism, particularly in the field of anthropology. Pirsig had the same entrance point into the argument, so in retrospect it wasn't too surprising that I find some familiar names in the essay: Boas, Benedict, Kroeber, and Kluckhohn.

    The line that created my insight was this: "The notion that it was Boas, Benedict, and Melville Herskovits, with a European assist from Westermarck, who infected our field with the relativist virus, and Kroeber, Kluckhohn, and Redfield, with a similar assist from Levi-Strauss, who have labored to rid us of it, is but another of the myths that bedevil this whole discussion."

    Pirsig calls in the names Kroeber and Kluckhohn to lead into his attack on Boas. The name that sends chills down my spine is Levi-Strauss. Levi-Strauss is the great structuralist. I doubt its an accident that Pirsig finds himself aligned with the two Ks. Pirsig's entire metaphysics is a big ole' systematic structure. What this insight tells someone like me is that this is another avenue with which to voice my displeasure with Lila. Two of my favorite French names are Derrida and Foucault. They stand for a thread of philosophy that is overall favorable to pragmatism. The movement they are often associated with is post-structuralism.

    So, this is just one more way (though obviously and clearly quite underdeveloped at this point) for a pragmatist like myself to note my displeasure. Pirsig would seem to fall on the structuralist side at times in Lila, whereas all my favorite parts in Pirsig are the times when he falls on the post-structuralist side.


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