Re: MD Structuralism in Pirsig

From: Scott R (
Date: Tue May 20 2003 - 03:42:10 BST

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    > Matt said:
    > "I do think about what is good. But here's the different between me and
    Plato and Pirsig at his worst. When I think about what is good, I'm
    thinking about things that have the adjective good attached to them. What
    Plato thought was that by meditating on the Good, as a thing-in-itself, we
    would be able to be more moral. That's what led to metaphysics. The
    pragmatist tradition throws that project away. I think Pirsig thinks
    roughly the same thing, that by meditating on Quality, we will become better
    quality people. That's how I read the end of Lila, when he says that "Good
    is a noun." As I see it, that's a Platonic mistake."

    Scott may be beating a dead horse, but says:

    In particular, you say: "That's what led to metaphysics." I think you're
    wrong about that.

    The Rortyan view of Platonic metaphysics is that it is a case of 2500 years
    of futile speculation, but another view is that it is 2500 years of truth
    falling on deaf ears. There is debate about whether Plato was himself a
    mystic, but say he was, or in any case look at the metaphysicians who
    definitely were, like Plotinus, or Eckhart. Then one can say that the
    appearance/reality distinction was not some proposition about a hidden
    reality, but a statement of claimed fact of the hidden reality. In Pirsig's
    case, it arose from his peyote experience and from his (apparent) madness,
    and his Zen studies.

    But clearly, Rorty can't accept this, since he is a materialist. To put it
    another way, it is not a case that the appearance/reality distinction serves
    no purpose, but that a materialist has to see it as false, as being

    There is also the criticism that it (metaphysics) is a conversation-stopper.
    It seems to me that it is the Rorty's of the world who are trying to stop
    the philosophical conversation, and again for dogmatic reasons. It is
    Rorty's belief in materialism that leads him to put down Platonic
    philosophy, not a historical summing up. Of course, for him, metaphysics
    cannot do any good, because he believes there is nothing to be metaphysical
    about. But 2500 years of mystics, some of them metaphysicians, should tell
    him he might be wrong. (How to interpret quantum mechanics might also get
    him questioning.)

    No doubt I am begging the question by believing the mystics to be what they
    claim, though I think the amount of data available gives me some
    justification for doing so. In any case, what I am trying to say here, then,
    is that in your criticism of Pirsig's metaphysical tendencies, you are being
    just as dogmatic, just as, if not more, dependent on a particular belief in
    How Things Really Are -- in particular, They Are such as to lead one to
    discount mystics. Have you let yourself be open to writings of contemporary,
    philosophically literate mystics, or do you assume it is a waste of time to
    read them? (Examples: Bernadette Roberts, Sri Aurobindo, John Wren-Lewis,
    and of course my fave, Franklin Merrell-Wolff.)

    - Scott

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