From: Elizaphanian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu May 15 2003 - 12:50:55 BST
Thanks for this initial batch of responses to my essay; I look forward to the sequels. The essay
will be put up on the MoQ site in the near future, which is good, as the link you provided is now
out of date. It should be:
although I will take it down when it gets posted on the MoQ site itself.
Before going in to your comments, I would say that my thinking is still (and perhaps always will be)
a 'work in progress'. I was toying with the idea that I should update the essay in response to your
and other's comments, but I think that would be pedantic and flowing from ego. Best to let it stand
as a record of a particular moment, and my changes of view can be discussed here. So:
: Just for the record (I think discussing 'the standard MoQ' is less fruitful
: than discussing what you and I think the MoQ should be):
I think it helps to have a place to start from; but as the MoQ becomes familiar, I agree it is more
interesting to discuss individual perspectives.
: 1) You write: 'The inorganic level is shaped by the laws of physics. These
: laws are a codification of the value choices made by atoms and molecules.'
: I would write: 'The inorganic level can be described by the laws of physics.
: These laws codify the values inherent in the patterned behavior of
: elementary particles, atoms, molecules or whatever else we suppose to be the
: constituent elements of physical reality.'
: I would likewise rewrite your consequent descriptions of laws at the other
I agree with you that 'described by' is significantly better than 'shaped by'.
: 2) I wouldn't include in the standard account the idea that only humans
: experience social (and intellectual) quality.
Pirsig himself makes that argument (in LC), that's why I included it. I'm not sure that I agree with
it, but I think it fair to include it in a 'standard' account.
: 3) I wouldn't write that 'The social level is the "subjective customs of
: groups of people".' I would delete at least 'subjective' from such a
: definition/description. That would make the definition of a term in the MoQ
: dependent on Subject Object Metaphysics. For me individual customs/habits
: (unthinking behavior not yet being part of a pattern among more people) that
: CAN be copied by others are also part of the social level.
Partial agreement. Yes to dropping 'subjective'; no to dropping 'groups'. I would say that
individual actions are the 'germs' of level 4. Where they are copied they are level 3 - and are
therefore 'customs of groups of people'.
: 4) I don't consider 'language' (without further explanation) to be THE first
: static latch of the social level. 'Language' can describe anything from
: DNA-encoded, instinctual 'social' behavior of animals (and even plants!)
: that communicates information between individuals of a species up to
: communication employing abstract symbols.
I disagree with this; I think the customary sense of 'language' is specific enough to humanity to be
intelligible, and the full explanation of why would not be appropriate in the eudaimonic essay. It
may not be THE static latch, but I do see it as centrally important - necessary but not sufficient,
: Any sustained way of copying unthinking/habitual behavior can latch that
: behavior (form a social pattern of value that holds together a
: group/society). The first way of doing so can well have been nonverbal, even
: if it was probably accompanied by a developmental leap in the development of
: language from DNA-encoded communication behavior to 'socially encoded'
: communication behavior.
Again, this is the 'standard' account, so I was trying to keep to Pirsig's views. I am sympathetic
to the idea that the rudiments of the social level can exist apart from humanity, but Pirsig is
quite categoric in denying that.
: 5) The values that are exemplified by celebrities are not necessarily the
: values that are inherent in social patterns of value. E.g. the values that
: are exemplified by a famous sportsman more often than not are quite absent
: the patterns of behavior of his supporters... The stability of the social
: pattern of value that holds together that group of supporters, their
: 'customs' if you want, has no obvious relation to the value of the
: 'celebrated' behavior of the 'celebrity'.
I think that my views on this subject would benefit from greater clarity, as I have the suspicion
that we are talking past each other. I would say that the famous sportsman embodies something which
is valued by the society, and the fame/wealth/power flow to him as a result of that (almost a
tautological truth, I would say). That the sportsman and his supporters do not share the particular
attributes I don't see as relevant.
: 6) You write: 'The DQ innovation and static latch which enabled the
: intellectual level to come into being has not been satisfactorily
: determined.' and immediately after that: 'The intellectual level is shaped
: by the notion of "truth"'.
: Couldn't that 'notion of truth' be a satisfactory first intellectual latch
: for the standard account of the MoQ?
I agree that there is an inconsistency here. The first element is my own interpretation, so should
be dropped from a 'standard' description - I am simply unaware of what would be put in its place, ie
what Pirsig would say in answer to the question "What is the DQ innovation and static latch which
enabled the intellectual level to come into being?" Which I see as a problem for the standard
account (or for my reading skills - I may have missed his answer). Pirsig did say something along
the lines of 'the intellectual level is shaped by truth/laws of logic' though. (In LC I think).
: In chapter 30 of 'Lila' Pirsig quite
: clearly suggests that the start of the intellectual level could have been
: the first religious truths that were derived from religious rituals some
: 50.000 or 100.000 years ago (as we discussed before). That notion can be
: redescribed as a notion of a distinction between experience and (more or
: less 'true') explanations for that experience. These explanations were (I
: think) first sought in animated things, wills different from one's own will,
: wills that could be communicated with, placated, participated in,
: surrendered to etc.. The idea of an objective reality as explanation of
: subjective experience (implying subject-object thinking) was a second phase
: of intellectual evolution that may have started with Socrates or Sophocles.
: As Marco suggested 15 Mar 2002 23:41:15 +0100 the start of the intellectual
: level may simply have been the question 'Why?' (implying the idea that there
: should be an answer, an explanation).
: 7) About the intellectual level I would write: 'The intellectual level can
: be described by intellectual "laws" like the laws of logic. These laws
: codify the values inherent in the patterns of ideas used by people to
: motivate their actions.'
That's OK. I would expand from logic to include the wider eudaimonic values though, eg the 'rules'
of art, poetry, rhetoric etc.
: I see no need for the concepts of 'guardians of the
: intellectual level' or 'contest between social and intellectual patterns of
Pirsig's concepts, so legitimate to refer to them I think.
: There can be a contest however between 'intellectual justification
: of existing social patterns and .... [intellectual opposition of] the
: existing social patterns' as Pirsig suggested in an annotation in 'Lila's
: Child' (nr. 45 or somewhat later).
: I don't see (or agree with) the problems you see with the standard account.
: I will address them in a next e-mail.
I look forward to reading them. Thanks for the feedback.
"A good objection helps one forward, a shallow objection, even if it is valid, is wearisome."
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