Re: LS Last word

From: Jonathan Marder (
Date: Thu Sep 30 1999 - 18:03:12 BST


Hi Bo, DLT and Squad,

(also, refs Cntryforce, Struan)

> I will try to get this through at the eve of September the 30th, and
> perhaps beat you all in the "last word" race.
Sorry Bodvar, but you lose ...

> I see that you have adjusted your view and say that Strawson was
> right in calling Pirsig numbingly unclear, and that Popper is your
> man now.
I'm not sure that Bo is being quite fair here. He has jumped on anyone who
dares to criticize Pirsig, perhaps believing that Pirsig is HIS MAN, who can
do no wrong.
Bodvar, I'm not sure if you are one of those people who follows one hero
until disillusionment, and then jumps to a new hero. However, I don't think
it fair to depict DLT as that sort of person.

I believe that it is much healthier to adopt a critical attitude to both
Pirsig and his detractors and look for what is BEST among all the various
philosophers and philosophologists.
I personally regard Pirsig's work as imperfect, but generally GOOD!

> Many people have presented their favourite write/thinker as saying
> exactly what Pirsig does, but nowhere do I find the "Pirsigian
> opening"; the initial recognition of SOM.

IMHO Pirsig hasn't *invented* a new way of thinking. He has put his finger
on the way we *really* think, as distinct from the way we THINK we think
(which he calls SOM).

(Now reread that 3 times until it makes sense)

I think that much of what Bodvar writes leads to a confusion about the
difference between SOM and SO thought.
SO thought is a system of rationality which dominates our culture. According
to radical empiricism, SO thought *exists* - the world would be different
without it.
SOM is a metaphysics which regards as *real* only those "things" that can
explicitly be formulated in SO terms. This leads to a ridiculous situation
because SO thought cannot be used to establish the veracity of itself!!!

For two and a half thousand years, the SO thought has been honed as a fine
tool to analyze and process almost every aspect of human experience. Now the
philosophers of the modern age suddenly realize that SO thought can't
analyze itself!!!
One way to confront the problem is Pirsig's frontal attack on using SO
thought as a metaphysical starting point (i.e. SOM).
Some of Pirsig's detractors (e.g Strawson, our own Struan) would say that
Pirsig's SOM is a strawman, since SO thought was never really a metaphysics

This is more a semantic than a substantive disagreement.

What is much more serious is the resurgent view in this forum (and MD) that
SO thought itself must be replaced.
Anyone who wants a good illustration should check out the posting by on 29th September (MD forum).

Ironically, Bo himself has tried to save SO thought by placing it with
honour as the Intellectual Level of the MoQ.

What is critical here is not how well the various philosophers do in
trashing SO thought, but how well they can construct a metaphysics that can
contain it. Moreover, the "winner" should be the metaphysics which provides
the scale on which other systems can be assessed. If Pirsig's MoQ is really
good, it should help us to understand what makes GOOD ideas good and BAD
ideas bad. It should provide a good framework for discussing the work of
Popper, Charles Peirce, Schumacher, other philosophical works, and even

So what does MoQ really say about SO thought (as I understand it)?
SO is GOOD for fixing motorcycles, healing the sick, building roads and dams
etc. etc.
SO is BAD or even dangerous when it is pursued without regard to non-SO
concepts like intuition, emotion and ethics.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Jonathan -

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