Re: MD The Eudaimonic MoQ

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Sun May 18 2003 - 16:27:13 BST

  • Next message: David Buchanan: "RE: MD The mythology of science"

    Dear Sam,

    Part 2 of my reply to your essay
    ( as copied to
    the list (by me) in 4 parts 9 Apr 2003 22:33:54 +0200, 9 Apr 2003 22:34:14
    +0200, 10 Apr 2003 22:13:44 +0200 and 10 Apr 2003 22:13:57 +0200.


    1) According to you 'The definition of the intellect used by Pirsig is too
    narrow to function as a description of a fourth static level.'
    I don't see why. 'The collection and manipulation of symbols, created in the
    brain, that stand for patterns of experience' refers for me equally to
    observing, reasoning, empathy and revelation (see also my 26 Nov 2002
    22:44:43 +0100 post). Both observing and revelation create symbolic
    representations of patterns of experience; both reasoning and empathy change
    these representations. Or as I explained 3/6 22:53 +0200: Sensation,
    emotion and intuition all have an essential role at the 4th level, in the
    creation of patterns of symbols that are experienced as representations of
    other patterns of experience.

    2) You write: 'Describing the fourth level as "intellectual" implies that
    much of specifically human quality is classified as social, which is
    significantly counter-intuitive.'
    This is only true if you interpret 'intellectual' as referring only to 'the
    field of logic or scientific thinking' (as you do some sentences later), But
    Pirsig's definition is much broader than that. Creating and passing on myths
    for instance (illogical, unscientific stories) are also forms of collecting
    and manipulating symbols ... etc..

    3) You write: 'If human rights are seen as the arena of conflict between the
    third and fourth levels of the
    MoQ then it is incoherent to make the flourishing of intellectual values the
    definition of a fourth level.'
    Conflict over human rights is only an arena of conflict between
    'intellectual justification of existing social patterns and ....
    [intellectual opposition of] the existing social patterns'. It's one of the
    conflict arena's inside the intellectual level. Human rights (or rights and
    obligations and ..., together making up ethics) or their 'flourishing' do
    not define the fourth level (i.e. the distinction between 3rd and 4th
    level), but only the highest level of DQ it can latch. It says something
    about what intellectual evolution aims for rather than what it starts with.
    See also my 3 Mar 2002 00:00:36 +0100 post and the rest of the discussion
    with Marco back then.

    4) You write: 'There is an explanatory gap in the standard account - what is
    the "choosing unit" of the fourth level, the equivalent of the cell or the
    social unit? Whatever the determinant values are for the fourth level, there
    must be something on which those values operate, which responds to that
    This makes most clear that the way you write about 'values' presupposes
    subject-object thinking. If values operate on something, there must be
    something (a valuing subject) besides the values. If value/Quality is all
    there is (as the MoQ claims), asking for a 'choosing unit' is just a
    confusing and unnecessary question. Any 'choosing unit' in a MoQ context is
    not 'operated on' and does not respond to Quality, but embodies values. You
    might say that 'choosing units' 'incarnate' DQ into sq, but only if you
    recognize that they already 'consist of', 'participate in' and/or 'depend
    on' static patterns of value.

    5) You argue that:
    'The DQ innovation and static latch which enabled the social level to come
    into being was the development of human language, and human language is par
    excellence an example of symbol manipulation.'
    and that therefore the standard account of the MoQ cannot clearly
    distinguish between the 3rd and the 4th level.
    For me this only proves that the development of symbolic language cannot
    have been the first static latch of the 3rd level (in an MoQ that needs 4
    discrete levels).
    How are you 'trying to keep to Pirsig's views' (as you write 15 May 2003
    12:50:55 +0100) if you state that symbolic language was the first static
    latch of the 3rd level? I don't remember Pirsig stating anything like that
    in 'Lila'. I don't think either that 'Pirsig is quite categoric in denying
    ... that the rudiments of the social level can exist apart from humanity'.
    Not any more at least. In annotation 45 of 'Lila's Child' (or a bit later in
    the final version) he wrote:
    'A social pattern which would be unaware of the next higher level would be
    found among prehistoric people and the higher primates when they exhibit
    social learning that is not genetically hard-wired but yet is not symbolic.'

    So, while for you 'the essence of the fourth level is the existence of an
    autonomous individual', for me autonomous individuals are only a result of
    4th level patterns of values, not their essence. Conscious motivation of
    actions offers freedom from (autonomy vis--vis) unthinking patterns of
    behavior. Conscious motivation of actions is enabled by the existence of
    systems of ideas from which motives can be derived and to which they can
    refer. The autonomy of individuals depends on the autonomy of the
    intellectual level from the social level.

    I may expand on this in a next e-mail, when I address the chapter 'A
    CHOOSING UNIT' from your essay.

    With friendly greetings,


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