MF Who needs intellect?

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Jun 11 2000 - 23:14:01 BST

Focs: For those who haven't heard it from me already, I think Mark Butler is
really on to something with his June 5 "Bloom" post. Its not an exact match,
but its easy to see that Bloom's cognitive, affective and psychomotor
domains roughly correspond with the intellectual, social and biological
What EXACTLY is the intellectual level? One of the reasons I like this
"psychological" approch to our question is because it helps to dispel the
view of the intellectual level as anything that's "mental". Bloom's
PSYCHOmotor domain, for example, is "mental" insofar as physical
coordination requires a brain, nervous system and sense organs. But these
abilities are nearly as old as life itself. Its biological. Brains are
"components" in all three of the top levels, but only one of them is
intellectual. In other words, we can't assume that anything going through
our "minds" is intellectual. Victorians and Fascists had pleanty of
"thoughts", but they were anti-intellectual as Pirsig describes it. There
are important distinctions to be made, and I think Mark has helped shed
light on the question of the month.

That's why I always groan and complain when I smell Solipsism. It washes
away all those distinctions and blurs all the levels into different
categories of intellect. But intellectual static quality is just one of four
kinds of static quality. If it weren't different than the others in some
real sense, why would Pirsig even have a name for it, right? Or describe the
struggle between levels in terms of war, politics and History? That's why we
want to define it, right? Because we're talking about the world of static
patterns and its all about what's going on in the here and now, in the
living world. Don't you think his "metaphysics of the universe" extends to
the stars and beyond? Anyway...

As mentioned before, I think we can be sure that were dealing with
intellectual values only to the extent that we're sure they TRANSCEND social
values. Take hunting, for example. Ask yourself this question. Is hunting
possible without intellect? You bet it is. Is hunting possible without
social values? Probably not. There are predatory behaviors that require
little more than "psychomotor" skills, such as a praying mantis or a school
of piranas, but the kind of hunting where individuals plan and execute some
co-ordinated effort as with a pack of wolves or whales is probably more like
Bloom's "affective" domain. We've been doing that for many tens of thousands
of years and that's all we need to go fishing. It doesn't take a rocket
scientist to hook a catfish, you know?

Is science possible without intellectual values? Absolutely NOT. How about
metaphysics and philosophical discussion? Can they really exist without
intellectual values? No way. Nope. Not gonna happen. Again, the pressure is
on every poster to not only try to define intellectual level values, but to
also demonstrate them. Every philosopher NEEDS intellectual values.
Otherwise, you can't rightly call her a philosopher, eh? You know.

Is Theology intellectual? Couldn't help but notice that the question came up
several times. And this is where is gets a little more complicated. One
can't simply ask if theology is possible without intellectual values as with
hunting or science. One can be a priest, or a believer, or a person of faith
without intellectual values, but can a person earn a Ph.D. in theology
without intellectual values? Probably not, unless its earned at an
unaccredited psuedo-University like Bob Jones or something like that. Mere
faith is social, but Theology is intellectual, if you do it right. I dare
say the MOQ has some theological aspects to it and they are nearly beyond
intellect, but that's a different topic.

It depends, you know. It seems like lots of things are like that. Economics
CAN BE intellectual, if you do it right. (A good friend is just about to get
his Ph.D. in Economics and he's pretty "scientific" about it.) But then
there is commerce itself, which is social. One can imagine a market place
full of goods, traders and shoppers long before recorded history, before
there was such a thing as civilization or universities, before the
intellectual level had emerged.

What else is like that? What else CAN BE intellectual, even though it has
roots in the social level? Lots and lots of things. Almost everything
intellectual has roots in the social level, and I think it is part of the
definition. Pirsig says that Decartes would be more correct to say "French
culture exists, therefore I think, therefore I am.". And the notion that we
are "suspended in language" only compliments what he's saying about
Descartes. Culture and language are the social level roots that intellectual
values require. Intellectual values have to TRANSCEND social values, but
they also have to INCLUDE them. SOM doesn't see this and so its hard to talk
about, but this "culture-language" suspension is a big part of the MOQ's

And as a cherry on top of all that, I'd like to point out that the MOQ
INCLUDES and TRANSCENDS SOM in a similar way, except that they are both on
the intellectual level, like Algebra transcends and includes addition and
subtraction. That would just about be my definition, if pressed, but I
wonder if we can say exactly what intellectual values are all about in a
line or two. It seems that we can shape the concept with principles, axioms
and lots of real life examples. We can point to it when and where we see it
in some sense, but its too big and complex for a bite-sized label. No
respectable description could fit on a bumper sticker.

Historically speaking, Pirsig says the era of intellectual dominance began
in 1918, but then there is Hitler in the 40's and Rigel in the 80's. And so
there is some question about how intellectual our culture is now. I suppose
the New York Times best-seller list can tell you what most people are
reading. At least it can tell you something about the people who actually
read something besides cereal boxes and street signs. How intellectual is
American culture? Take a look at the list and tell me.

Of the top ten seller in the FICTION category, there are three children's
books. The only book that seems remotely intellectual is a novel by Toni
Morrison. That leaves six books. The ninth best seller is the story of a
teen-age runaway. Number eight is by John Grisham. Nuff said. Number six is
a story about a woman with ESP and a murdered husband. Five and four are
Harry Potter books. (for kids) The third is about the strangulation murder
of a supermodel. The second best tells of a former Nun who investigates
pregnant virgins. And the number one best-seller on the New York Times best
seller list is the 7th volume in a series about the Anti-Christ and the
rapture. The NYT list reflects NATIONAL book sales.

The NON-FICTION category is even worse. Two are about war heros. Two are
about sports heros and their cancer. One is about a politician with cancer.
There's an expose' by a New York chef. One by Shirley MacLaine. Nuff said.
One about a shipwreck. And two pseudo-intellectual political rants that
complain about the decadence of our culture.

"Writing is easy. Just sit down at the keyboard and open a vein." ??


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