Re: MF Discussion Topic for September 2004

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Sun Sep 12 2004 - 14:54:47 BST

  • Next message: David Buchanan: "RE: MF Discussion Topic for September 2004"

    Dear all,

    Sam wrote 11 Sept.:
    'It is my belief that language, properly understood, is the equivalent at
    the social level of DNA at the biological level.' and
    'the idea that the fourth level is about "the manipulation of symbols" comes
    crashing down ... What is a symbol if not a "clear and distinct idea"? And
    how can it be manipulated in the way that Pirsig wants (eg in higher
    mathematics) if there is no social lebensformen within which the rules
    governing that manipulation can make sense? Once more, I think Pirsig's
    conception of the fourth level has more holes than a piece of fermented milk
    from a mountainous canton in central Europe.....'

    There doesn't simply 'is' a social level of which we can determine THE
    equivalent of DNA at the biological level. Different versions of the MoQ can
    define the social level differently and the basic, 'machine language' type,
    pattern of value of the social level differs accordingly. The way Pirsig
    defined the social level (if he did clearly define it, which I doubt) isn't
    really relevant. We can and should develop our unerstanding of (what is the
    most useful version for us of) the MoQ beyond what he wrote.

    If language should be 'properly understood' to be the basic building block
    of the social level, I would suggest to define it in a way that doesn't
    presuppose that 'language' always implies manipulating symbols. More
    primitive language may just derive from showing specific emotions (e.g. fear
    for a large predator) in a specific way (e.g. baring one's teeth or making a
    specific type of sound). It becomes (primitive) language when this becomes
    group behaviour and members of that group can 'read' emotions from other
    members from their expressions. The expressions do not symbolize anything
    yet; they just communicate emotions (whatever has positive or negative value
    for group survival).
    I can agree to some extent with calling language, thus understood, the
    equivalent at the social level of DNA at the biological level. I would
    prefer however to generalize: For me (in my version of the MoQ) the basic
    building block of the 3rd level is habitual behaviour (of which expressing
    emotions/perceived value in a specific way only an example). Individual
    habits (behaviour copied from one's own past) maintain one's social roles
    and collective habits maintain societies.

    With friendly greetings,


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