From: Matt Kundert (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri Feb 25 2005 - 00:20:36 GMT
For what its worth,
I wrote what follows a couple of days ago and I was leery about some of the
terminology I was using, in that it doesn’t immediately bring to mind the
way Pirsig might describe things. But yesterday the moderator
serendipitously sent in a review article that matches up with some of the
language and issues I’ll make reference to (and the people I take seriously
in the area, specifically Solomon, Rorty and Nussbaum), so this might make
for some kind of initial map of how what the academics are talking about
might relate to how Pirsig talks about emotions (the review article, by the
way, is a very good overview in my opinion).
My opinion on the matter of emotions is pretty much that of Amélie Oksenberg
Rorty’s (if you’re wondering, only indirectly related to Dick):
“the physicalist and the intentionalist accounts of anomalous emotions
[roughly the two different camps that the article refers to as the
physiologists and the cognitivists, respectively] are perfectly compatible
and perhaps even complementary, physicalistically oriented theories
explaining why a person is in that state, intentionalistically oriented
theories explaining why the emotion has that intentional object. They
appear to be at odds only when both theories get reductionally ambitious:
when … each tries to explain all phenomena at all levels. Certainly if the
intentional accounts deny that a person’s hormonal state ever enters into
the explanation, and if the physicalist account denies that intentionality
is ever required to explain or identify the emotional states, the two
approaches will clash in an unilluminating struggle whose sterility will be
masked by the parties goading each other into dazzling displays of
ingenuity.” (from "Explaining Emotions" in Explaining Emotions, ed. Amelie
I haven’t done the research to render an understanding of what Pirsig
identifies emotion as or whatever, but the gist of the above is that
If Pirsig identifies emotion at the biological level, it won’t work because
it’s too reductionistic.
The other option, it would seem, would be the social level, but I’m not sure
if that’s what Pirsig means based on the few examples he gives of social
level phenomena, the _office_ of the priest, the _office_ of the presidency.
My prima facie understanding of the social level has been that its
phenomena are social _structures_, rather than something that would refer to
individual persons. But I’m not sure.
But, say we do find that Pirsig identifies emotion at the social level. I’m
not sure that would work based on his “doctrine of discreteness,” i.e. what
leads him to say that the levels are discrete and (almost) independent of
each other. Say we identify “biological” with “physical” and “social” with
“intentional” from above; what Rorty is saying is that our emotions can be
described by two different vocabularies, and that we need both vocabularies
in our explanations to do our emotions justice. But with Pirsig’s
conceptual apparatus, particularly the doctrine of discreteness, I think he
forces us to say that such-and-such a phenomenon (emotions, ideas, cells) is
the _exclusive_ property of whatever level, i.e. he’s still too
reductionistic. I’m not sure that Pirsig allows us the vocable flexibility
we need to explain our emotions.
But perhaps he does. Perhaps we can say that our hormones are biological
and our intentional objects are social and that we can draw upon both of
those kinds of explanations for a full explanation of emotions.
Just some thoughts,
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