From: Valence (email@example.com)
Date: Wed Jul 07 2004 - 00:58:17 BST
Hi Wim, DMB, Amilcar, Mark and all:
I've got too much from you guys to reply to all in one post, so here's a
start from me...
From LILA Chapter 24:
"The end of the twentieth century in America seems to be an intellectual,
social and economic rust-belt, a whole society that has given up on Dynamic
improvement and is slowly trying to slip back to Victorianism, the last
To be perfectly honest, I find this quote and much of the contextually
corresponding discussion of the Hippies to be slightly suspect. Earlier in
LILA, Pirsig had this to say...
PIRSIG (LILA p.256)
When you define morality scientifically as that which enhances evolution it
sounds as though you have really solved the problem of what morality is.
But then when you try to say specifically what is and what isn't evolution
and where evolution is going, you find you are right back in the soup again.
The problem is that you can't really say whether a specific change is
evolutionary at the time it occurs. It is only with a century or so of
hindsight that it appears evolutionary.
So if this is the case, then how can Pirsig, during the end of the 20th
century, so confidently dismiss the end of the 20th century in American
society as a rust-belt? His own observations point out that he'd have no
way of making this evaluation for a century or so. I'm not sure from what
source he could claim to draw immunity from this need for a developed
historical context against which to judge the evolutionary contribution of
the various social, intellectual and economic conditions of the end of the
20th century, but I think that when he's talking about the Hippie's and the
rust-belt, he's simply fallen into the soup again.
I'm not implying that we shouldn't try to evaluate the events of recent
history and plan for the future accordingly, I'm just saying that I don't
think those sort of evaluations should be claimed to be made on the basis of
contribution to evolution. As Amilcar said:
. . and just because people aren't reporting dynamism doesn't mean it
isn't happening. What if it just isn't on their radar?
That's damnest thing about dynamic improvements... they probably won't show
up on your radar until 100 years after they've run their course. It's
pretty simple, if we're going to judge something based on its contribution
to evolution, we have to wait for evolution to proceed long enough to see
whether a contribution was made or not. The rest is just more soup.
> By the way, Rick, why did you leave out the word 'arid' before 'economic
> rust-belt' in your quote?
eh? In my edition, the word before 'economic rust-belt' is "a-n-d". Does
it really say "a-r-i-d" in your edition?
> Pirsig's quote probably reflects his experience in a period in which
> conservatives/Republicans were in power. I'm no American and I don't fully
> know in what other ways American society may have been slipping back to
> Victorianism apart from what was reported about American government policy
> in the Dutch media in that period. It doesn't really seem likely that he
> meant liberal influences/state strengthening as the static ratchet-latch
> America was slipping back to.
I don't think Pirsig's quote is fully aimed at Republicans. Given the time
LILA was published (1991), and the fact the he addresses his comments to
"the end" of the 20th century, one may believe (as DMB does) that he's
referring to the social landscape of the Reagan-Bush I years (1981-1992).
He's not specific as to what he means by "the end" so I guess it's possible.
But I think he's including at least the administrations of Carter, Ford, and
Nixon as well. The passage is a comment on the fallout from the Hippie
movements that stretch back to the 60s, and he talks just a page earlier
about Hubert Humphrey and the 'intellectual' first half of the 20th century,
which all suggests that this something that is rooted at least as far back
as Humphrey's run for president (he was the democratic candidate in 1968).
However, I also don't think it's likely that he was saying that liberal
influences were the culprit. Just a page earlier he talks of the social
dilemma in which society couldn't liberalize because it would just get more
hippies and also couldn't call for more social restraint because then it
would just get more neo-Victorian conservatives. This, I believe, is what
he's lamenting. Not hippies or conservatives, but EXTREMISTS. Those with
ideological values so rigid and uncompromising that they prevent society as
a whole from making evaluations based on quality (like the monkey with his
hand stuck in the coconut). Through force or filibuster, the extremists can
always find a way to substitute their dogmas for fresh evaluations or to at
least preventing others from doing so.
> The quote is a summary of 6 preceding sentences: [snip]
As he's not citing any source for these assertions, they're kind of hard to
analyze. But again, this just sounds like more of the soup to me. I mean,
is he seriously suggesting that SAT scores are reliable index of the
influence of DQ on social evolution? Heck, most of the teachers I know
don't think it measures anything other than one's ability to take the SAT.
As for organized crime, it has been powerful and dangerous through plenty of
social periods that I'm sure Pirsig wouldn't describe as a rust-belt (ie.
ancient greeks had powerful organized criminals and pirates, and they ran
virtually unchecked in much of renaissance europe, etc, etc... examples far
too numerous to list). Moreover, Pirsig also points out that the most
dynamic places (like my own New York City) usually come along with a good
deal of degeneracy to compliment their dynamic natures, thus making it quite
puzzling why organized crime would be a sign of a lack dynamicism.
> So it doesn't refer to a struggle between social and intellectual patterns
> of value in which intellectual patterns of value are losing ground. Both
> social and intellectual quality have dropped!
I think this is the best reading. It's not a politically partisan comment
intended to glorify one set of political beliefs over another, rather, it's
a comment on the entirety of the subjective world (subjective here being
used as Pirsig's shorthand for social + intellectual). He's saying that
social and intellectual patterns are failing so we've fallen back onto the
use of force (though again, I think this is all just more soup).
> I don't think this analysis is countered by Rick's examples of 'important
> social events'....
> As argued in my 'economics of want and greed' (see link on www.moq.org):
> gradual substitution of 2nd type social patterns of value (based on
> enforcement) with 3rd type social patterns of value (based on economic
> dependence) and of 3rd type social patterns of value with 4th type social
> patterns of value (based on convincement).
But how would this substitution take place Wim? To me it sounds as though
you believe economics is the defining social force, whether or not this is
the case though, economies don't exist in a vacuum. Can you tell me for
sure that overwhelming influx of ordinary Americans into the stock market in
the late 90s, coupled with the increasingly open channels of world wide
communication through the internet isn't the beginning of such an
evolutionary progression? By Pirsig's (occasional) lights, we shouldn't be
able to say for sure until 2090 or so.
> 'what sort of intellectual, social and economic "advances" could have
> prevented the rusting?'
.. Trying to talk crime to death means directly substituting 4th
> social patterns of value for 1st type and (low quality) 2nd type social
> patterns of value (based on race, mafia-type omerta to protect fellow
> mafioso and criminals extorting from society a larger share of the pie
> without working for it). It skips essential intermediary steps: higher
> quality 2nd type social patterns of value (state enforced law) and 3rd
> social patterns of value (market discipline, having to work for your
> According to me it is primarily social patterns of value we are talking
> about, with laws, arguments, rights, declarations and such being
> intellectual patterns of value that support some social patterns of value
> against others. All social patterns of value try to control lower quality
> SOCIAL patterns of value. A policeman or a soldier and his gun is the
> instrument of conversation not between levels of static quality, but
> the 2nd type social pattern of value of state-enforced law and other
> patterns of value. It is moral when used to control lower quality social
> patterns of value and immoral when it is used to control higher quality
> social patterns of value (e.g. stifling freedom of enterprise and freedom
It sounds as though your making basically the same analysis Pirsig makes in
his policeman quote, only collapsing it entirely within the social level.
That being the case, I'm not entirely sure I see how this translates into an
answer to the question. It sounds more to me like you are describing what
you believe a "non-rusted" world would look like. But what I want to know
is what sort of practical, tangible things could have been done to
effectuate this ideal? Or is this all just another big bowl of soup?
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