From: David Buchanan (DBuchanan@ClassicalRadio.org)
Date: Sun Apr 18 2004 - 23:03:38 BST
dmb tried to re-focus on the topic:
The last thing I had in mind was a narrow, hair-splitting debate about the
use of terms. I hope we can get at something with more soul and substance.
..Instead, look at the central terms of the question; metaphysics and the
mystical reality. That's what I'm asking about. ...Mystical reality and
metaphyisics are contradictory terms, but they are at the core of the MOQ
because it is essentially a metaphysics of mystical reality...
Well, I raised the conceptual point because it seemed to me that if Pirsig's
understanding of Quality/DQ/SQ was - shall we say - loosely worded, then
that would have a significant bearing on what you want to talk about. ...I
also think that it underlies much of the confusion that consistently defeats
attempts to gain clarity about the different levels and the way that
religion relates to the MoQ. So all in all, I make no apology for raising
conceptual questions. If we can't gain further clarity about what we're
talking about then there's not much point in having this discussion at all.
I can see how those three terms are related to the elected topic. I can even
see how confusion about those terms could hinder a discussion of the topic.
But please, Sam. You may have questions about Pirsig's "loosely worded"
terms, but the elected topic is aimed at distinquising metaphysics from the
mystical reality, not Quality from DQ. And here you seem to be openly
admiting that you have an entire agenda in mind; Sorting out Q fro DQ, the
confusion about the levels, confusion about the MOQ's view of religion. It's
just too much baggage. To focus is the name of the game here, no? It seems
that the elected topic is all but swallowed up in all this. If I were the
moderator I would have rejected it for irrelevance - or at least asked for a
re-write that show its relevance. Sure, I'm a bit angry. But don't get
wrong. This is nearly as much fun as discussing the actual topic.
The understanding that I object to came to the fore again in your post. You
said: "The true nature of reality is undivided. That's the pre-intellectual
cutting edge of experience." As I understand the MoQ there are three
elements: Quality, Dynamic Quality and Static Quality. Quality is (the
mystical) reality. Dynamic Quality is the pre-intellectual cutting edge of
Static Quality is the pattern of value that dynamic quality leaves in its
You're saying that the undivided reality is different from the
pre-intellectual cutting edge. I see. I think that's not what Pirsig is
saying at all. The static/Dynamic split produces two elements, not three.
Not only is there the problem of confusing Pirsig's one-word metaphysic with
all that comes after chapter nine as we have already discussed, there is
also the simple point that undivided and pre-intellectual mean essentially
the same thing in this context. Both refer to the mystical reality that
exist prior to our linguistic and intellectual divisions. Since intellect
divides, pre-intellectual is undivided, see? And the static/Dynamic split is
one such division of that undivided reality. These divisions are static
descriptions and not the undivided reality itself, of course, but within
this static intellectual description the term "DQ" refers the undivided
reality, to that which is prior to and beyond definition.
So in terms of how we can understand and explain our experience what we have
are: our static patterns; our 'dim apprehensions of things too obscure for
its existing language' which is DQ; and we also have all those things which
we don't have any comprehension or intimation of whatsoever - the totally
unknown and unknowable.
We have a dim apprehension of DQ, but Quality is totally unkown and
unknowable? Hmmm. I'll try to be generous about this. In terms of
experience, there is a wide spectrum of ways in which DQ seems to intrude
into our everyday static lives. There are hot stoves and new songs. There is
evolutionary growth and the moments when new scientific theories are born.
There is the dharmakaya light and beginners luck. And then there is the
full-blown mystical experience, where the divided reality is not just
re-newed or refreshed, but where it falls away entire to reveal the
undivided reality. It certainly doesn't require a third ontological category
to explain this spectrum of experience. We may simply think of it as a
matter of degree. Or even better perhaps, that the apparent intrusion of
Dymanic Quality into our everyday static lives betrays the illusion of
dividness and serves to lead us toward its dissolution. In any case, the
point is just that there is no real difference between dim apprehensions and
the mystical reality, except as a matter of degree as exhibited in
particular particular manifestation. Here's Pirsig just five pages after the
"dim apprehension" quote...
"Their (American Indian) term MANITO is often used interchangably with "God"
by whites who usually thnk all religion is theistic and by Indians
themselves who don't make a big deal out of any verbal distinctions. But as
David Mandelbaum noted in his book THE PLAINS CREE, 'The term MANITO
primarily refered to the Supreme Being but also had many other usages. It
was applied to manifestations of skill, fortune, blessing, luck, to any
wonderous occurance. It connoted any phenomenon that transcended the run of
everday experience.' In other words, 'Dynamic Quality'. With the
identificaton of static and Dynamic Quality as the fundamental divisison of
the world, Phaedrus felt that some kind of goal had been reached. This first
division of the MOQ now covered the spectrum of experience from primitve
mysticism to quantum mechanics." 120
Refered to the Supreme being, but also had many other usages. So many usages
that Pirsig's version of the term, Dynamic Quality, covers "the spectrum of
experience from primitive mysticism to quantum mechanics". See? The stuff is
just everywhere. That's why we call it the ground of being.
Quality is bigger than DQ. But DQ is the interface between any particular
set of static patterns and Quality itself. It's like saying a person is the
skin - because the skin is what you touch, what you relate to. But there's
more to a person than the skin - to argue otherwise is superficial.
DQ is the interface? WHAT is like saying a person is the skin? How is this
related to the elected topic? I honestly have no idea what you mean.
I think the heart of what I am trying to argue is that DQ is a relative term
not an absolute term. Whether a particular pattern is DQ or not depends upon
its relationship with the SQ surrounding it. When Socrates was teaching his
students he was teaching them to realise something that he already knew -
that didn't make it any less dynamic *for them*, ie for the static patterns
that were interacting with Socrates' static patterns.
WHO said DQ was absolute term? WHAT is an absolute term? How can any static
pattern be DQ? A Dynamic pattern? That defies the MOQ's most basic
distinction. DQ is Dynamic precisely because it is not patterned. But I know
what mean, you're talking about the apparent intrusions I've mentioned, and
are only suggesting that some people hear that new song before the others.
(And where's our elected topic?)
So when you say: "The true nature of reality is undivided. That's the
pre-intellectual cutting edge of experience" I think you are eliding the
distinction between Quality (the true nature of reality as undivided) and
Dynamic Quality (the pre-intellectual cutting edge **which we experience**)
because the latter is relative to the static patterns it is based in.
As I've tried to explain, and show with Pirsig's own words, it is not that I
have omitted a distinction, but that you have invented one. I'm bit stunned
by it, actually. Its so perfectly clear to me. Two terms are rendered by a
metaphyician who divides reality in half, not three terms. The
static/Dynamic split does not leave the undivided reality off in some corner
where it can remain undivided as a third term. Doing metaphysics doesn't
allow that. No. It is the undivided reality that has been so divided. As
degenerate and contradictory (and fun) as it admittedly is, that's what
mystical metaphysicians do.
Sorry if this isn't going where you want it to go, but I think this is the
essence of the debate - and if we can sort this out, then I think many of
our other disagreements will fall away.
I hoped we'd begin by agreeing to discuss the elected topic. Even though
I still consider this line of discussion to be a distracting indulgence on
your part, there is enough of a connection that we are, at least, hovering
around the issues. Metaphysical descriptions of the mystical reality have
been discussed here. I have to admit its fun too. But its also true that I
have posted quite a number of relevant Pirsig quotes, most as a response to
your assertions, that have been ignored almost entirely. When this is added
to your "three terms" impediment and the other items on your agenda, I can
only wonder if you're trying to perpetrate some kind of conversational
we please agree that the static/Dynamic split renders two kinds of quality
and move on?
Thanks in advance for your co-operation, instead of your co-optation.
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