Re: MF Discussion Topic for May 2005 - individual worth

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Thu May 12 2005 - 16:53:17 BST

  • Next message: Mark Steven Heyman: "Re: MF Discussion Topic for May 2005 - individual worth"

    Rick and all focusers:

    Valence said: ............................This is not to suggest that the
    narrator's pragmatism and Phaedrus's metaphysics can be reconciled, rather,
    it's to suggest that both carry on, in tension with each other, within the
    reawakened Phaedrus. This may be evidenced by the fact that the same
    tension carries on, as Matt has continuously pointed out, within the pages
    of his next book. No longer half-pragmatist zombie and half-metaphysician
    ghost, he's reintegrated, having regained possession of all of his faculties
    and thoughts... even the thoughts that conflict with other thoughts.
    Reading it this way, we may view the MoQ as the reawakened Phaedrus trying
    to design a metaphysics that can comfortably accommodate his pragmatic
    instincts as well (whether this attempt was a success is, I suppose, up to
    each of us to decide for ourselves). This tension might also explain (at
    least partially) the variation in the treatment of Socrates; the
    metaphysician in Phaedrus wants to lionize Socrates for dying for the truth,
    but the pragmatist in Phaedrus wants to remind us that truth is what is good
    in the way of our own beliefs.

    dmb says:
    Yes, he is re-integrated. I think that's right. But I think its a case of
    over-interpreting things to contrue this as an integration of pragmatism and
    metaphysics. I mean, it strikes me as an imported element that too narrowly
    describes what Pirsig is doing and in terms Pirsig that does not employ.

    "Plato is the essential Buddha-seeker who appears again and again in each
    generation, moving onward and upward toward the 'one'. Aristotle is the
    eternal motorcycle mechanic who prefers the 'many'. I myself am pretty much
    Aristotelian in this sense, prefering to find the Buddha in the quality of
    the facts around me, but Phaedrus was clearly a Platonist by temperment and
    when the classes shifted to Plato he was greatly relieved. His Quality and
    Plato's Good were so similar that if it hadn't been for some notes..." ZAMM

    dmb continues:
    Here we can see a tension between two kinds of Buddha-seekers, between the
    Platonic Phaedrus and the Aristotelian narrator. And these two are
    integrated in LILA by the MOQ inclusion of both DQ and sq, both the "one"
    and the "many". To construe this as a tension between pragmatism and
    metaphysics is to leave out the mystical, the Buddha-seeking and reduces
    Pirsig's distinction to a smaller battle, one he's not even fighting. I
    think this is a mis-interpretation that leaves DQ out of the picture and
    thereby misses the point.

    Rick also said:
    The answer I'm getting at is that is that there is no answer. I suggest we
    read LILA as a portrait of a philosophically conflicted free-thinker trying
    to get his beliefs to hang together. Those of us that want the individual
    worth themes of ZMM to carry over will (as Matt might say) cheer on Phaedrus
    when talks like a pragmatist and just stare at the ground innocently
    whistling when he starts cozying up to Socrates, and we'll just correct the
    MoQ accordingly (like your own Eudiamonic project, or Matt's Pragmatic MoQ).

    dmb says:
    Stare at the ground when he doesn't talk like a Pragmatist? Why would you
    wanna do that? And correct the MOQ accordingly? I just don't get that. I
    mean, anyone is free to reject philosophical mysticism in favor of a certain
    brand of Pragmatism, but what I don't get is the urge to remove the
    mysticism from the MOQ and otherwise pretend that pragmatism can't reside
    within the MOQ's philosophical mysticism. I think that when Philosophical
    mysticism is properly understood and pragmatism is NOT taken to extremes,
    the insights of post-modernism fit quite nicely and there is no tension
    between them within the MOQ. Like I said, I think the battle between
    metaphysics and pragmatism has been imported into these debates and Pirig
    simply isn't playing that game.

    Rick said to Sam:
    Pirsig talks about the relationship of arete with the MoQ starting on page
    433 in my edition of LILA (he carries it back to the Sanskrit Rta - 'the
    cosmic order of things'). However, even after rereading the material, I'm
    not sure I have anything to add to the discussion of individual worth. See
    what you think.

    dmb says:
    Right. I spoke to this issue in yesterday's post. Harmony with the cosmic
    order. It seems worth pointing out what Pirsig said, that the idea of a
    cosmic order is not new. Its the oldest idea known to man. Once upon a time,
    it was best expressed in social level static forms and now we have notions
    like E=mc2. Once this order was controlled by the gods, but now it is
    expressed in intellectual terms, which are more true so much as more
    Dynamic. And its not even the particular forms which are important so much
    as the harmony behind them, the Quality that produced them. So it seems to
    me that individual human excellence consists not in one's ability to conform
    with any particular set of static patterns, any particular tradition,
    because they all more or less express that underlying Quality, but rather in
    one's ability to see through the forms, to see the point and purpose behind
    them. And then to "ride" them.

    I often return to the motorcycle analogy when confronted with the critics
    who would like to alter or delete parts of the MOQ. (Or, in Matt's case,
    most of the parts.) Let me be clear about this. I'm not saying that the MOQ
    is perfect, complete and beyond criticism. I'm not trying to protect any
    dogmas or doctrines from heresy. I'm just saying that taking the mysticism
    out of philosophical mysticism is like taking the motor out of a cycle. Its
    fine you you prefer peddle power, but why wreck a perfectly good machine
    just because you don't look good in leather? Its ok if Buddhism and
    mysticism just ain't you thing, but why try to remove it from the MOQ? Why
    stick around only to reject every major plank? Isn't it true that a
    pragmatist of this sort is simply at the wrong party? It seems to me that
    this urge to alter the MOQ so profoundly is based either based upon a
    misinterpretation or its deliberately intended to be offensive, like a black
    heckler at a KKK meeting. Either the guy doesn't get what's going on or he's
    actively looking for big trouble. Either way, I think its unwise.

    But of course the difference is not as stark as that analogy would suggest.
    The MOQ accepts the postmodern view that we utterly depend on language for
    the ability to think, that truth is provisional, that our beliefs are
    context dependent. But it does not go to the extremes. It doesn't limit us
    to language, a social level form. It doesn't deny the existence of
    intellectual truth or suggests that its merely a matter of arbitrary
    convention, it only recognizes the impermanence of truth as a series of
    evolutionary steps. And it does NOT insist that usefulness is the measure of
    all things. You see, one of the things that prevents the MOQ from asserting
    that our linguistic patterns are just a matter of utility and convienience
    is the idea of a cosmic order. This puts an entirely different spin on the
    nature of these inherited patterns. Rather than being arbitrary and
    conventional, these patterns are seen as a reflection of that order. This
    idea is especially vivid when we look at mythology because it is so
    conspicuously NOT an intellectual invention. In myths we can see how rich
    and profound the social level is, the level that has so very much to do with
    how and what we think. Myths are like dreams. We don't create them so much
    as they create us. And there we find the oldest idea known to man. Pirsig is
    expressing it intellectually in his MOQ, but this is really only a
    recognition of what we've (humanity)always believed. So when I see
    nihilistic postmodern pragmatist trying to remove the parts of the MOQ that
    speak to this I just wanna pull my hair out. And that makes me less than an
    excellent individual. Sigh.


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