Re: MD The Eudaimonic MoQ

From: Elizaphanian (
Date: Wed May 21 2003 - 12:41:12 BST

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    Hi Wim,

    Part 5.

    : I agree that the MoQ as presented in 'Lila' needed more clarity about how to
    : characterize the 4th level, especially how to distinguish it from the 3rd
    : level. Pirsig's definition in 'Lila's Child' of the 4th level as 'the
    : collection and manipulation of symbols, created in the brain, that stand for
    : patterns of experience' gives part of this needed clarity. I didn't find a
    : proper definition of the 3rd level yet, that could throw more light on the
    : distinction between this 'symbolic level' and the 3rd level that is 'not
    : genetically hard-wired but yet is not symbolic'. Your quote from annotation
    : 49 to the published version of 'Lila's Child', 'for purposes of precision in
    : the MoQ, social patterns should be defined as human and subjective', does
    : not appear yet in the version I have. It is useless to distinguish the 3rd
    : and 4th levels, because the 4th level is also human and subjective. (Leaving
    : alone that elsewhere Pirsig did leave open the possibility of non-human
    : social patterns of value and that it seems unwise to define a term in the
    : MoQ with a term derived from SoM, i.e. 'subjective'.)

    Agree with that. Although I think Pirsig was trying to distinguish level 3 from level 2, and not
    offering an exhaustive definition which would also distinguish 3 from 4.

    : As amended by me (with a distinction between 3rd and 4th level that can be
    : summarized as a distinction between patterns of unthinking behavior and
    : patterns of conscious motivation for action), the MoQ CAN sustain rigorous
    : intellectual scrutiny, I think.

    Fine - you agree that it is only when amended that it sustains rigorous scrutiny, therefore the
    'standard' MoQ doesn't.

    : Your definition of the 4th level differs from Pirsig's one.

    At least I've got my main point across then.... ;-)

    : Mine is
    : compatible with his. (Collection and manipulation of symbols for patterns of
    : experience can only be conscious. Action can only be motivated by referring
    : to symbolic representations of the experience resulting from that action.)
    .... <cut and paste>
    : So your version of the MoQ dissociates itself more from Pirsig's version
    : than mine and can lay less of a claim on the name 'MoQ' than mine. This
    : doesn't automatically imply that my version is better than yours of course.
    : Yours may still serve your purposes better than mine would.

    I like your definition of the third level (unconscious copying of behaviour patterns) but I don't
    like your definition of level 4. But we've discussed that. Yours does seem more compatible with
    Pirsig's, agreed. I think if we're going to discuss if something can be legitimately called a 'MoQ'
    or not - or a 'MoQ variant' or not - we need some criteria to apply in judging.

    : The relation between the 3rd and 4th level in your version of the MoQ is
    : not -as in Pirsig's version- one of discreteness in which (someone
    : participating only in) the lower level is 'unaware' of the higher one. My
    : 3rd and 4th levels ARE discrete and someone participating only in patterns
    : of unthinking behavior has no clue of a need for motives.
     .... <cut and paste>
    : I'll expand the second point:
    : If I understood you correctly, the 3rd level in your 'Eudaimonic MoQ' (still
    : defined as 'subjective customs of groups of people' as in your 'standard
    : account'?) compares to the 4th level as a shrub to a tree rather than as a
    : mother to a child. In other words: they are on a continuum, they are not
    : discrete. A person that identifies with one or more social roles (in a
    : 'society' or coherent set of group customs) only changes gradually in to 'a
    : fully functioning individual, ... a person in whom eudaimonia has taken
    : root'. Fully in your words: 'It is an emergent property; it is not
    : "either/or", it is a matter of more or less.'
    : To the extent that solving the inability of 'the standard account' to
    : distinguish between the 3rd and 4th level is a criterion for quality, your
    : version has less quality, because your criterion for that distinction is
    : only 'an emergent property; it is not "either/or", it is a matter of more or
    : less'.

    This is an interesting line of criticism, and I think it does show up a weakness in my presentation.
    However, I would dispute that the 'eudaimonic' MoQ does not use discrete levels - I think that it
    does, and perhaps the problem was some ambiguity in the language of the essay itself. So let me
    expand on this here, and see if these further thoughts help.

    Firstly, I'm happy to agree with Pirsig that from the beginning of history all human beings
    participate to some extent in level 4. Perhaps that might be better phrased as: the level 3 patterns
    that dominate have in turn been modified due to level 4 innovations or guidance.
    I think that humanoid level 3 patterns have been going for hundreds of thousands of years, although
    I'll let the evolutionary biologists guide that one. I mean effectively the existence of homo
    sapiens in the form that it exists today. I guess that there is a complex of biological innovation -
    language, cooperation, brain size, oppositional thumb etc - which allowed the human tribes to
    reproduce and migrate around the world away from Africa. (I wouldn't restrict level 3 to homo
    sapiens by the way). The invention of agriculture, for example, I think I would classify as a level
    3 DQ innovation, geared around moderating level 2 patterns in favour of the level 3 societies, ie it
    is the values of level 3 that led to its uptake.

    Level 4 has a recognisable history, although its origins are fairly obscure (Homer?), which we can
    see in some detail in classical Athens. I think level 4 development depends upon a great deal of
    level 3 complexity (ie economic health and social organisation). I think it also depends upon the
    existence of writing (which I see as an intra-level 3 DQ innovation, ie it began as something which
    helps level 3 in its own terms) and conflict between competing societies (so: trade to develop
    communication links). What I see as the discrete break is the development of the autonomous 'self',
    ie, by definition, the ability of a human personality to judge the level 3 patterns which have
    created that self - and choose against them. Whilst I think this was (perhaps) an always latent
    potentiality in the human species, I do see this as a discrete break. Moreover, I suspect it
    happened countless times before it was able to develop static latches to foster itself, eg rhetoric.
    I see the evolution of belief in an individual soul, which occurred throughout the mediterranean
    area from c.600 through to c. 200BC as a an index tracking the spread of level 4 static latches.

    Perhaps the clearest sign of the 'discreteness' of this transition is that it is one way. When a
    particular individual first recognises that the social level patterns which formed them are able to
    be assessed - that the scale of values which had always previously been prior to decision making and
    discernment now lie open to judgement themselves - that is when the level 4 pattern is able to
    develop. Yet that pattern can develop rapidly in benign contexts, which is what educational systems
    are (mostly). By now, a large part of our level 3 construction has been modified by level 4, which
    is why, in practice, we can talk about a person's development as a continuous process, and
    eudaimonia as an emergent property. But I think the discrete nature of the levels remains in the
    eudaimonic MoQ, and provides an improved guide for discerning differences between levels.

    : To the extent that coherence 'with the evidence and [your] own scale of
    : values' is a criterion I would need more information about what you consider
    : 'evidence' and about your 'scale of values' to judge.

    That was a biographical addition, simply to indicate that I didn't think my wider Christian
    understanding was isolated from this proposal.

    : It's a pity that you don't like the Kierkegaardian typology. I hoped it
    : might add some clarity to discuss how you would assess persons guided by
    : considerations of pleasure & pain, good & evil respectively divine guidance
    : (my understanding of his typology) in your 'scale of values' and to what
    : extent they participate in social and intellectual patterns of value
    : according to you. I'm yet sure whether I like it or not. I hoped you could
    : tell me more about it (in his words) to make sure. I definitely thought it
    : is an interesting typology, however, worthy of further pondering.

    I'm not an expert on Kierkegaard, which was part of my reluctance to engage with his typology. Also,
    'it all depends on what you mean by religious'. But, as you insist - I think K's conception of
    religious is pretty close to the 'autonomous individual', there is no 'higher authority', ie level 3
    social static latch, to which you can delegate the decision about God, the 'either/or'. Abraham is
    the type of faith because he rejects the level 3 criteria - and to accept the absurdity of God's
    command is to let go of your level 3 self - you have to decide for yourself, ie there is nothing
    between the level 4 person and DQ/Quality/God. I think his ethical stage is a straightforward
    description of level 3 dominance. The aesthetic doesn't really fit onto a MoQ framework - partly
    because, as I recall, his sense of aesthetic was somewhat decadent (ie he was critical of its
    potential decadence), whereas I would say that aesthetics, properly understood, is a response to
    Quality (ie DQ). I would see aesthetics as a core part of eudaimonia, so part of level 4 (I think K
    might see it as level 3 slipping back to level 2). But as I say I'm not an expert on Kierkegaard, so
    I stand open to correction. I'd be happy to pursue it in another thread if you wanted to.

    "If anyone proposes to believe, ie imagines himself to believe, because many good and upright people
    living here on the hill have believed, ie have said they believed... then he is a fool."
    (Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments)

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