From: David Buchanan (DBuchanan@ClassicalRadio.org)
Date: Sat May 08 2004 - 19:47:47 BST
The May discussion topic is: What is a level?
There are lots of places to start, but happened to open my copy of Lila and
found some juicy underlined passages at the beginning chapter 24. There
Pirsig is not only discussing levels, but also their relationship to one
another and how they translate SOM's terms. In an attempt to contradict the
SOM notion that science is unconcerned with values and is concerned only
with facts. This, he says, is a mistaken notion born of history. More
specifically, he describes this history as a struggle between two levels and
employs this description to make a case that science is actually unconcerned
with a particular kind of values...
"What the MOQ makes clear is that it is only SOCIAL values and morals,
particularly church values and morals, that science is unconcerned with.
There are important historic reasons for this:
The doctrine of scientific disconnection from social morals goes all the way
back to the ancient Greek belief that thought is independent of society, that
it stands alone, born without parents. Ancient Greeks such as Socrates and
Pythagoras paved the way for the fundamental principle behind science: that
truth stands independently of social opinion. It is to be determined by
direct observation and experiement, not by hearsay. Religious authority
always has attacked this principle as heresy. For its early believers, the
idea of a science independent of society was a very dangerous notion to
hold. People died for it.
The defenders who fought to protect science from church control argued that
science is not concerned with morals. Intellectuals would leave morals for
the church to decide. But what the larger intellectual structure of the MOQ
makes clear is that this political battle of science to free itself from
domimation by social moral codes was in fact a MORAL battle! It was the
battle of a higher, intellectual level of evolution to keep itself from
being devoured by a lower, social level of evolution."
We can see the birth of intellect in the Greek assertion of intellectual
independence and we can see that this has brought us all the way to the
present scientific world view. This long historical struggle is basically a
political battle and we can see in history that it has become increasingly
less risky for intellect to defy the church authorities or otherwise
contradict social level values.
"Once this political battle is resolved, the MOQ can then go back and re-ask
the queston, 'Just exactly HOW independent IS science, in FACT, from
society?' The answer it gives is, 'not at all'. A science in which social
patterns are of no account is as unreal and absurd as a society in which
biological patterns are of no account. It's an impossibility.
Our scientific description of nature is always culturally derived. Nature
tells us only what our culture predisposes us to hear. The SELECTION of
which inorganic patterns to observe and which to ignore is made on the basis
of social patterns of value, or when it is not, on the basis of biological
patterns of value.
The MOQ resolves the relationship between intellect and society, subject and
object, mind and matter, by embedding all of them in a larger system of
understanding. Objects are inorganic and biological values; subjects are
social and intellectual values. They are not two mysterious universes that
go floating around in some subject-object dream that allows them no real
contact with one another. They have a matter of fact evolutionary
relationship. That evolutionary relationship is also a moral one."
Even if you haven't read this chapter in a while, I think you can see that
Pirsig is about to lay out the moral codes and is otherwise explaining the
basic structure of his evolutionary morality. And within this "larger system
of understanding" each level is a separate and discrete stage of development
and yet each of these steps is dependent on the advances achieved by the
previous step. So a level is a stage, a step, a phase of evolution. And of
course this kind of evolutionary development is not limited to the
biological level, but includes all the known universe, from dirt to divinity
as Wilber would put it, including us.
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