Date: Tue May 18 2004 - 21:29:52 BST
Mark, Sam, Rick and all MFers:
The idea of levels in Pirsig's thinking goes back to ZAMM, at least.
Mark had asked:
Is there textual support for this?
Yes, I think there is "textual support." I don't think that I'm trying to
intergrate the idea of levels into the MOQ because they are already there.
Mark 18-5-04: Hello dmb, you answer the topic question, "What is a level" by
telling us, "there are levels in the MOQ." This is anodyne.
dmb: I suspect its part of the "oldest idea known to man".
Quality is the oldest idea known to man.
You suspect levels are part of the oldest idea known to man.
Therefore, you suspect levels are part of Quality.
I feel you may be confusing 'level' with 'differentiation' here dmb?
I feel you are also confusing 'value differentiation' with 'rational
differentiation'. Value differentiation's are found in all Human cultures, Rational
differentiation's are not.
'Level' and 'Hierarchy' are Rational differentiation's and therefore cannot
be part of the oldest idea known to man, just as evolutionary theory and
Quantum physics are not part of the oldest idea known to man. (We may still wish to
argue that evolution and Quantum physics were at work in early Human history
Value differentiation's predate rationality: All theory is born from
intuition of the undivided.
This is why i asked if there were textual support for, "The idea of levels in
Pirsig's thinking goes back to ZAMM, at least" because the Way or Tao
eliminates differentiation. That is to say, enlightenment is a view point or 'highest
level' (mountain simile) from which it is understood all differentiation's
Mark 12-5-04: Quality is the oldest idea known to man. Levels are
intellectual postulations and as such may be termed intellectual Quality. Of
intellectual Quality is part of evolution theory.
Mark 12-5-04: The MOQ unites the theory of evolution with Quality. ZMM is
concerned with Quality. Lila is concerned with the MOQ.
Mark 18-5-04: dmb, you totally pass over evidence which explains the
1. The Way (tat tvam asi) and the MoQ's account of the Way (coherence).
2. Hierarchy as rational art.
tat tvam asi is coherence in the MOQ.
tat tvam asi is value quietness in ZMM.
Coherence links the MOQ with ZMM in this way.
Mark 12-5-04: This is the Way - the Tao. Remember the butcher's knife in The
edge of Chaos? The Tao is equated with Quality in ZMM. Lila unites Quality
with evolution theory.
Mark 12-5-04: The highest level is the viewpoint of the Buddha - the Dynamic
view point - enlightenment. Here there are no differentiation's, because it
recognised that all (value) differentiation's are imposed. Evolution theory
is a product of differentiated thought. The MOQ unites differentiated thought
with Dynamic Quality.
Mark 18-5-04: dmb, you choose to ignore all this and pass immediately on to
Sam's contribution. What i have said is relevant, because it is important to
show that you are not only reading the MOQ back into ZMM, but you are also
mistaken in assuming that levels are part of the Tao or Quality.
Mark 12-5-04: I feel your suspicions are perhaps the result of a misguided
interpretation of the 'looking backwards' project. All hierarchies are
impositions. But, some hierarchies are better than others. And what
determines which are better? Quality. Hierarchies are Intellectual Quality.
Mark 12-5-04: You are talking about Quality, not differentiated reality.
I'm just pointing out that Pirsig didn't do anything very novel or invent
them out of thin air. And so I honestly don't see why the idea "would be a
Mark 18-5-04: dmb, If we understand levels and hierarchy to be value
differentiation's, then it is anodyne of anyone to suggest that a particular
individual invented differentiation's. All differentiation is value - they are there.
But the character of how differentiation's are made changes with evolution.
Your example of value quietness is applicable to the MOQ and ZMM because
value quietness is coherence - harmony - excellence.
Coherence unites all differentiation's whether they be rational, emotional,
or Inorganic in harmony. As Human experience, experience of coherence precedes
rational thought, and is found in rational thought today. The Way. The source
of all Quality differentiation's.
So, if you were to suggest that coherence is part of the oldest idea known to
man, i would agree with you, because experience of coherence may be
encouraged through starvation techniques, hallucinogens, self induced ecstatic states,
These experiences, described in static narratives, are the source of soul
The point was simply to show a similarity between ideas, a
continuity in Pirsig's thinking with respect to levels,
Mark 18-5-04: In ZMM this is tat tvam asi. The aim is to realise here that
what you perceive and what you are the same:
"This inner peace of mind occurs on three levels of understanding. Physical
quietness seems the easiest to achieve, although there are levels and levels
of this too, as attested by the ability of Hindu mystics to live buried
alive for many days. Mental quietness, in which one has no wandering
thoughts at all, seems more difficult, but can be achieved. But value
quietness, in which one has no wandering desires at all but simply performs
the acts of his life without desire, that seems the hardest."
but I also happen to know from Wilber and others, that the same basic idea is found in
virtually every thought system throughout the world, except our own.
Mark 18-5-04: dmb, 'systems' are logically structured patterns of thought,
i.e. rational. Any structures found in culture before the advent of the rational
are analogues of Quality and likely to be social in nature; parents, tribal
leaders, Anthropomorphised Gods, or rhetorical descriptions of tat tvam asi -
unity, mystic, in other words, of the coherent.
High coherence or value quietness is found everywhere, even in our own
experience. This is the true nature of all Gods and spiritual realms. There is very
clear and deep blue sparkling water between the MOQ and Wilbur.
When you say,
"The point was simply to show a similarity between ideas, a continuity in
Pirsig's thinking with respect to levels, but I also happen to know from Wilber
and others, that the same basic idea is found in virtually every thought system
throughout the world, except our own"
- are you seriously suggesting that 'our own' history displays no evidence of
social pecking order analogised in Theistic narrative; presence to DQ;
Surely some mistake dmb?
Quality determines all differentiation's. The MOQ explains what these are in
terms of evolution.
BUT, if you need
to see this stated in Lila to accept it, I found one without even looking.
Mark 18-5-04: dmb, then i imagine 'it' found you? Always the best way!
It doesn't make a very fancy case, but since this is such a reasonable and
harmless assertion, I hope that a simple one'll be enough.
Mark 18-5-04: dmb, It is incorrect to suggest that, "the same basic idea is
found in virtually every thought system throughout the world, except our own"
because value differentiation's determine all patterned experience, everywhere,
not just levels or hierarchy.
Value differentiation is about better and better still, in other words,
increasing coherence, which leads to an absence of differentiation's!
At the beginning of chapter 12 Pirsig says, "This classification of patterns is NOT VERY
ORIGINAL, but the MOQ allows and assertion about them that is unusual. It
says they are not continuous. They are discrete." (My emphasis) Which brings
us to Sam's comments...
Mark 18-5-04: dmb, i believe you have made a number of mistakes, and you
urgently need to consider the following:
1. All differentiation's are value differentiation's, even rational
2. Therefore, it is incorrect of you to suggest that 'our own thought system'
does not contain that which others do.
3. Rationality is a Western Intellectual, pragmatic methodology.
4. Therefore, it is 'our own thought system' which is lacking in other
thought systems, and not the other way around as 'Wilbur and others' suggest.
5. Rational method, as intellectual art, is compatible with The Way.
6. The MOQ combines The Way/Tao/Quality and Evolution.
I should like you to address these points fully in your next post if you
please? Thank you.
dmb quotes Sam:
........, although Pirsig says that the levels are discrete, they are not
_absolutely_ discrete, in other words, there are ways in which they relate
to each other. "They all operate at the same time and in ways that are
ALMOST independent of each other." (ch 12, my emphasis). The way that they
relate is through a 'machine language interface' (from his analogy with
computers), "the biological patterns of life and the molecular patterns of
organic chemistry have a 'machine language' interface called DNA." (ch 12
I think you've missed the point of Pirsig's computer analogy. He uses it to
explain his "unusual" assertion; that the level are "discrete", "not
continuous" and "have nothing whatsoever to do with each other". Immediately
following this unusual assertion, he says "This observation is impossible in
a substance-dominated metaphysics where everything has to be an extension of
matter." and then moves directly to the analogy, telling us explicitly that
it is intended to illustrate each level's independence. "An excellent
analogy to the independence of the levels, Phaedrus thought, is the relation
of hardware to software in a computer." This is where the "Machine Language
Instruction Repertoire" comes into the picture. More below...
Mark 18-5-04: I agree. I had to laugh at this point because Sam is here
taking a literal reading of Pirsig. But Sam knows that a literal reading of the
Bible is easier to avoid!
dmb quotes Sam:
Fifthly, at least if we go from the DNA example, there seems scope for
suggesting that there is a particular pattern, (closely related to the
static latch which is the 'machine language interface'), which is the
primary 'vehicle' for the operation of DQ at each level, ie the 'migration
of static patterns toward Dynamic Quality'.
There is a particular pattern related to the MLIR which is the primary
vehicle for DQ? This is very unclear, but I get the impression that you're
saying that this "interface" is a third entity that sits between one level
and the next, like a gasket, a washer or some kind of lubricant. This would
be a fiction that is defied by Pirsig's explanation of the MLIR. And even if
my impression is not correct, I think its safe to say that it wouldn't hurt
to seek some clarity by taking a closer look at what he says about the
"Machine Language Instruction Repertoire"...
Mark 18-5-04: Sam's conclusions are the result of a literal reading of an
analogy. Fewer words, less hassle.
"The two sets are independent. Except for a memory map and a tiny isthmus of
information called the 'MLIR' - a list so small you could write it on a
single page - the electronic circuits and the programs existing in the same
computer at the same time have nothing whatsoever to do with each other."
Here we can see the passage where he first introduces the MLIR. And if he'd
said nothing else, I can see how this "tiny isthmus of information" COULD
seem like an exception to the idea that "the two sets are independent", how
it MIGHT seem like there is a third thing that acts as a connector between
levels, but Pirsig has more to say about it. He says,..
"These Machine Language instructions were the final achievement toward which
all the circuits aimed. They were the end performance of a whole symphony of
switching operations. When he got into programming he found that this
symphony of electronic circuits was considered to be a mere single not in a
whole other symphony that had no resemblance to the first one. ..The Machine
Language Instruction Repertoire, which had been the entire design goal, was
now the lowest element of the lowest level programming language."
I think this idea really gets at the relationship between levels. The very
pinnacle of achivement on one level becomes the first baby step of the next.
Mark 18-4-05: Now it is dmb's turn to begin a literal reading of his own
I feel you need to do this in order to align holons with MOQ levels. However,
this does not work at all well.
If we examine what 'the very pinnacle of achievement' means anywhere,
anytime, in MOQ terms, we realise it means SQ-SQ tension or coherence. Excellence.
Excellence is, by definition, the best.
A symphony is coherent if its performance is excellent. If its performance is
not excellent, it is less coherent. The design goal of, 'all the circuits' is
to produce a coherent relationship between components, i.e. excellence. At
this point, and only at this point, may DQ initiate new patterns of behaviour.
(The Buddha nature is just as at home in electronic circuitry remember?)
To suggest that a whole symphony playing excellently may become a single note
is misleading. The whole symphony achieves an exceptional state. It is this
state, not the whole symphony, which is relevant, because the whole symphony
may be either excellent or rubbish.
This, I think, is what Pirsig is saying about the relationship between the
most complex inorganic molecules and the most basic life forms.
Mark 18-5-04: The most basic life forms replicate with little evolution. Some
of the oldest viruses have hardly changed in Billions of years. They do not
make a note out of complex organic molecules if you look at it this way;
viruses are very dull entities.
That which moves beyond replication and toward evolution is DQ. For DQ to
work there must be exceptional SQ-SQ tension.
it's easy to imagine that the very first social level patterns were just
beyond the most advanced kind of biological instincts
Mark 18-5-04: I do not find this easy to imagine at all unless i take into
account coherence in biological entities. I can imagine a state between
organisms which is valued in some sense? This state may have been so finely balanced
as to allow DQ to establish new patterns of behaviour. But what they actually
were is a difficult question to tackle.
or that the most advanced social level values evolve enough to become the most basic of
Mark 18-5-04: dmb, you are in very grave danger of denying the discrete
nature of levels in preference for an extension continuum. The only way we can
avoid arguing that a level is not an extension of a previous level is to see that
each new level is initiated by DQ. Without this realisation, it may be claimed
that a new level includes an old level, which it does not.
Lila's child annotation 31: "...a starting point which begins with something
else is logically not a starting point."
This is where coherence provides insight, because coherence is a state of
patterning which appears to lose structure while retaining structure.
(Analogously - The thin isthmus which both is, and is not.)
I think we see this in Pirsig's assertion that myths,
rituals and cosmology stories "may be the connecting link between the social
and intellectual levels of evolution". "From these" he says "the first
intellectual truths could have been derived." (end of chapter 30)
Mark 18-5-04: I feel an enquiry into how narratives may have become very
coherent may shed some light here? Ritual is repetitious, and as any drummer will
tell you, there is a fantastic feeling produced when you are 'on' the beat. I
don't just mean keeping time, i mean being really on it. It's ecstatic.
And just in case anyone is still tempted to conclude that there is a pattern or
patterns on the interface that is an exception to the rule of independence,
he says even more.
Mark 18-5-04: Coherence is and is not a pattern, this is the intriguing
aspect of coherence. "How can a pattern be and not be a pattern," you ask?
Coherence is exceptional relationships between patterns; exceptional tension.
I find it much easier to imagine how, at this point, differentiation moves
towards Unity in a combined and mutual process which accommodates DQ:
Event stream --------> Coherence <-------- Goal of Evolution
"Although both the circuit designer and the programmer knew the meaning of
the instruction, 'Load Accumulator', the meaning that each knew was entirely
different from the other's. Their only relationship was that of analogy.
Mark 18-5-04: Coherence is better than analogy because coherence is a
concrete enquiry into the character of real empirical relationships:
"The underlying design of Triad's analog blocks is not complex. Each tile
contains two operational transconductance amplifiers, an output driver amp, a
configurable bias current generator, one each configurable resistor and capacitor
array, an array of transmission gates and a small area of configurable logic.
From this palette can be assembled a wide range of devices from simple
amplifiers and active filters to sigma-delta converters. Both continuous-time and
switched-capacitor circuits are supported. The first chip, the MSSA-1, will
combine 12 such tiles with about 27,000 gates of ViASIC-type logic cells. The chip
is being fabricated at Austriamicrosystems AG in an analog-oriented two-poly,
four-metal 0.35-micron process. This is far from state of the art for digital
ASICs, of course, but it is, as Wrappe put it, "the sweet spot for excellent
analog performance and reasonable digital density."
...Even in this narrow isthmus between these two sets of static patterns
called 'hardware' and 'software' there was still no interchange of meaning.
The same machine language instruction was a completely different entity
within two different sets of patterns."
Mark 18-5-04: Moving away from this excellent Lila analogy and into the
relationship between evolutionary related levels, i feel we can see that coherence
provides what this analogy is indicating: "a completely different entity
within two different sets of patterns."
Event stream --------> Coherence <-------- Goal of Evolution
What is termed an 'entity' here in analogy, is actually coherence in the MOQ?
So the Machine Language Instruction Repertoire is described is "a tiny
isthmus of information". From one level it looks a great symphony, the
entire design goal, the height of achievement. But to the next level it
looks like a single note and serves as a basic building block. It's not a
third thing that sits between levels nor even an entity that functions
equally in both.
Mark 18-5-04: I applaud your rhetorical efforts to diffuse the
software/hardware analogy of it's 'third entity' content dmb, but your building block
analogy simply reinstates the 'extension' model of levels. As you know, levels are
If one symphony becomes a note, we are simply changing level scale, not level
In order to explain a new level function we need a basis which has nothing to
do with the old level; DQ. DQ is involved with the old level in a far less
coherent repertoire of patterns than as the basis of a new level.
Much od what you say makes great sense to me - i can see you are trying hard
and i support you. However, the only way i can see of progressing is to
abandon analogy and discuss concrete examples of SQ-SQ tension or coherence.
Coherence appears to be empirically verifiable and real.
The analogy serves to illustrate that there is "no interchange of meaning" even within that tiny isthmus.
The point is to show that the levels are like oil and water, that one is NOT an extension
of the other, that they are "not continuous",
Mark 18-5-04: But your analogies, 'first baby step of the other' and
'symphony becomes a note' generates problems here dmb, because you identify a
beginning point which is part of the old level. That reintroduces reductionism, which
is not on. You want your cake and you want to eat it also.
I feel this may be because you wish to include structure as part of the
oldest idea known to man? But this has been dismissed above as a confusion between
general value differentiation's and particular rational differentiation's.
that "the two have nothing whatsoever
to do with each other",
that the levels are not only "independent" but even
"in oppostion" to each other.
Mark 18-5-04: The hardware/software analogy says nothing about morality or
opposition of levels. This analogy illustrates the discrete nature of levels,
not opposition. You conjure opposition out of thin air without explanation.
In order to provide a moral progression and an account of opposing levels i
feel we have to understand clearly that the basis of a new level is DQ. Because
there is no relationship between DQ as the start of a new level and the old
level, we may accommodate opposition as a vast increase in freedom. The
opposition between levels is all about freedom isn't it?
All the best,
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