RE: MD A bit of reasoning

From: Scott Roberts (
Date: Tue Oct 05 2004 - 07:29:22 BST

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    > dmb replies:
    > I don't see any significant difference between the definition I provided and
    > Peirce's meaning. If it seems like I ignored the second definition its only
    > because it looks essentially like the first. I mean, what's the difference
    > between "restricted to humans" and "just subjective"? What's the difference
    > between the position that universals are "restricted to humans" and a
    > position "that denies all objectivity, whether actual or potential, to
    > universals", as Weisheipl puts it? I think nominalism is nominalism and
    > Pirsig has rejected it explicitly.

    [Scott:] Pirsig rejects the "just subjective" since he regards ideas as
    being as real as rocks and trees. But he accepts that ideas are "restricted
    to humans", that universals (which are ideas) are only third and fourth
    level SQ. So if he rejects nominalism according to one definition, but
    accepts it according to another, the two definitions must be different, no?
    > dmb says:
    > I don't think there is a whole lot of genuine intellectual creativity going
    > on in my posts or anyone else's. Mostly its just moving furniture around.
    > Let us not confuse everyday mental operations with strokes of genius, with
    > the actual production of NEW patterns, new ideas. I think Pirsig provides
    > good examples in Ponciare and himself. The peyote ceremony opened his mind
    > in a way that allowed genuinely fresh insights and then there is the more
    > sober thrill of hitting upon the idea of a static/Dynamic split. The
    > latching that occured afterward was, by necessity, conducted in the normal
    > static intellectual world. The ability to communicate a new idea depends
    > upon his ability to shape and manage a mountain of static patterns. This is
    > hard work and even if the body is motionless we know from experience that
    > there is actually lots of action going on when we are thinking, when we are
    > skillfully manipulating abstaract symbols. It can be as absorbing and
    > consuming and thrilling, but that doesn't mean it is Dynamic. (I've found
    > myself "in a groove" while writing a few times, but usually its more like a
    > chore.) Motion and action are good metaphors for DQ, but trains follow
    > schedules, you know? The processes of nature, such as thinking itself, are
    > static patterns too. It could be that I am overestimating the rarity of
    > genuinely creative thinking, but the point remains the same. Thinking, most
    > of the time, is a static process. It has to be. That's what holds ideas and
    > the world together.

    [Scott:] Ok. But now how do you explain the hot stove example? If DQ is
    only the introduction of new SQ, then jumping off a hot stove is not DQ at
    all. There is nothing new in the body reflex to retract from painful heat.
    But he uses that example to explicate DQ. (This is something that I've been
    confused about for some time.)

    > Scott said:
    > .......................What I am saying is that I think this way (Pirsig's)
    > of using 'intellect' is a bad way to use it, as it is unempirical, since it
    > ignores the dynamic inherent in our creative thinking. And because it
    > suggests a limited interpretation of mysticism (see below).
    > dmb says:
    > How do you figure he ignores creativity in intellect?

    [Scott:] By calling intellect *static* quality. The creativity comes from
    DQ which is (according to the MOQ) *not* intellect.

    [DMB:] > He makes a distinction
    > between static and dynamic, but also explains that these are the stable and
    > creative aspects of one reality and how they utter rely on each other. And
    > then there are all the examples of creative intellect, one of which created
    > a system that fully expects better ideas to come along in the future as they
    > have in the past. And he says "the most moral" thing we can do is open up a
    > space for creativity, that we are free to the extent that we follow DQ and
    > that the whole shebang is an evolutionary system. I sincerely wonder how
    > anyone could read LILA and still have the idea that Pirsig "ignores the
    > dynamic inherent in our creative thinking." I mean, saying one is different
    > from the other is not the same as rejecting one over the other or anything
    > like that.

    [Scott:] Why doesn't he just say that the most moral thing we can do is to
    be creative? Why phrase it as "open up a space for creativity"? Surely that
    latter phraseology is to make the point that what is new comes from DQ and
    not from intellect.

    > Scott said:
    > ............................................... Now Pirsig does hold
    > (and of course I agree with him) that in nature (the inorganic and
    > biological levels) there is value. So what I am saying is that if there is
    > value, then there are particulars and general principles, and an awareness
    > of them. That is, there is Peirce's triad. That is intellect. So at all
    > levels there is intellect. ...What this means is that Pirsig and I are using
    > 'intellect' in different ways, and I am arguing that my way is better than
    > Pirsig's. So it is beside the point for you to keep quoting Pirsig in his
    > use of the term, as a way to rebut what I am saying.
    > dmb replies:
    > Hmmm. We're talking about Pirsig's MOQ on a site dedicated to talking about
    > Pirsig's MOQ, but its "beside the point" to quote Pirisg in refuting charges
    > against his MOQ? Dude, you're bummin' me out. If I trying to make the case
    > that Pirsig is NOT saying what you suggest he's saying, what could be better
    > than to show you what he HAS said on the matter?

    [Scott:] Where has he said that the intellect is creative? All I've seen is
    that he says that intellect is a level of SQ, and that what is creative
    (DQ) is pre-intellectual.

    [DMB:] How could that possibly be
    > "beside the point"? In any case, I can't see how Peirce's triad follows from
    > the idea that there is value in nature. And, mel pointed out, you have
    > redefined value in a way that puts it back in the realm of subjectivity.

    [Scott:] I said that value is between the three points of the triad, much
    like Pirsig saying that value is between the subject and object. How does
    that put value in the realm of the subjective?

    > Scott said:
    > ...........This argument of mine is all about how I think that Pirsig is
    > misusing the word 'intellect'. ...I also maintain that if one has ethical
    > activity one necessarily has intellectual activity. ...
    > I am using 'ideas' in the way pre-SOM philosophers did, and in the way
    > Goethe, Coleridge, Peirce, and other non-nominalists do. It is only
    > nominalists, in both definitions of the term, who use 'ideas' as something
    > that only occurs in humans.
    > dmb replies:
    > I'll take back the charge that you're being intellectually dishonest, by
    > which I meant a certain disregard for the rules of discourse and such and
    > not that you're lying or whatever. In any case, I take it back. However I'm
    > gonna stick with the charge that you're proposal is confusing and
    > destructive. You're in a Pirsig forum and you're using one of Pirsig's key
    > terms to refer to a completely different idea. Even if you were 100% correct
    > about the idea itself, the mislabeling is misleading and confusing. And I
    > think lots of this is predicated on a translation problem too, such as the
    > case with Plotinus, which I'll try to re-visit later. But the short version
    > is simply that guys like Plato and Plotinus may have used terms like "idea"
    > and "intellect", but they were not talking about 4th level static qualtiy or
    > the skilled manipulation of static patterns. They used those words to refer
    > to different ideas, and when we compare ideas rather the particular labels
    > they used things begin to clear up quickly....

    [Scott:] My whole point is that the Intellect that directs evolution is the
    same thing as human intellect, though the latter is in a very impure and
    limited state. It *is* a very different view of intellect from Pirsig's. So
    when you say that I shouldn't advance my point because it is misleading and
    confusing, it is tantamount to sayng that one must not disagree with
    Pirsig. If you want to prohibit disagreements with the MOQ, take it up with

    My view is also a lot closer (though not the same) to Plotinus' and Plato's
    than Pirsig's. You want to think that Pirsig and Plotinus are both fellow
    travellers in the Perennial Philosophy, and to make your case you end up
    throwing out Plotinus' vocabulary.. That is absurd.

    > Scott quoted Plotinus again:
    > .................................."In a certain sense, no doubt, all lives
    > are thoughts -- but qualified as thought vegetative, thought sensitive, and
    > thought psychic. What, then, makes them thoughts? The fact that they are
    > Reason-Principles. Every life is some form of thought, but of a dwindling
    > clearness like the degrees of life itself. The first and clearest Life and
    > the first Intelligence are one Being. The First Life, then is an
    > Intellection and the next form of Life is the next Intellection and the
    > last form of Life is the last form of Intellection. Thus every Life is of
    > this order; it is an Intellection." [Enneads III.8.8, translation by
    > Stephen McKenna]
    > dmb says:
    > This is a great example of the translation problem I'm talking about.
    > using this quote to refute Pirsig's use of the word intellect, but what I
    > see here is a confirmation of Pirsig's levels.

    [Scott:] I am not using this quote to refute Pirsig's use of the word
    intellect, but to demonstrate how different Pirsig and Plotinus are in
    their conception of intellect. Certainly they both spoke in terms of
    levels. But let's not ignore the difference that Plotinus thought in a
    top-down fashion, while Pirsig thought in a bottom-up one. My view of human
    intellect being a limited form of Intellect is roughly Plotinian. Pirsig's
    view of intellect is not. That you can brush aside this difference is

     He's saying that every life
    > is a form of thought, but qualified as "vegetative, sensitive and psychic",
    > "but of a dwindling clearness". If you look past the terms and see instead
    > the idea he's painting with them, I think you'll see that he's talking about
    > levels of consciousness. It seems that "intellection" means something like
    > "perception". He saying there are levels of perception, not that intellect
    > as Pirsig describes it exist on every level.

    He says "thought", and that what makes them thought is the
    "Reason-Principle" (Logos). Your substitution of "consciousness" or
    "perception" is to bolster a case that is impossible from the get-go, and
    is about as blatant a misinterpretation to fit a preconception as I can
    imagine. For Plotinus Intellect comes first (after the One). The material
    is derived (in stages) from the mental, and being so derived, continues to
    be, however dimly, a form of thought. For Pirsig the mental is derived (in
    stages) from the material.

    > ...As another example of how to translate these things, Plotinus uses
    > the idea of "dwindling clearness" to describe the relations between levels.
    > But we have a concept of time that is opposite from the ancient's in some
    > ways. They saw the past in front of them and imagined the world began in a
    > golden age and had been running down, so to speak. But we think of ourselves
    > as facing the future and belief in evolution and progress and all sorts of
    > forward motion metaphors. Knowing that, Plotinus' "dwindling clearness" can
    > be translated into "increasing clarity". The only real difference is that
    > our spacial metaphors have changed direction, but the idea remains; reality
    > can be divided into degrees of consciousness or awareness. And again, this
    > idea of a hierarchy of levels is part of the perrennial philosophy, which
    > Pirsig shares with Plotinus and others.

    [Scott:] "dwindling clearness" and "increasing clarity" are more different
    than a switch in metaphors. The former implies that the higher levels are
    ontologically prior to the lower. The latter the reverse. These are
    radically different metaphysical positions.

    > Scott said:
    > I agree with him (Pirsig) that Quality drives evolution. ...I am *also*
    > saying that value implies intellect, so one can also say that intellect
    > drives evolution. They would not be opposing statements *except* that Pirsig
    > has chosen to define intellect in an unnecessarily limited way. And note
    > that by jumping on this, you have again managed to ignore my reasoning for
    > why SQ are universals.
    > dmb says:
    > If it seem like I've been ignoring your "reasoning" for why SQ are
    > universals, its only because I was trying to be polite. ;-) But seriously,
    > think about what you've written. SQ are universals. As I understand the MOQ,
    > all the known universe is made of static patterns of quality, so if "sq are
    > universals", then all the known universe "are universals". I know you deny
    > SAYING it, but doesn't this imply that there are NO particulars? I think
    > you're confused on this point, very tangled up in fact, and I honestly don't
    > know where to begin. I guess I've been trying to cut through that Gordian
    > knot rather than try to untie it. Instead let me back up to the first part
    > of that paragraph...

    [Scott:] What if the MOQ is wrong in saying that "all the known universe is
    made of static patterns of quality"? In my view, all the known universe
    consists of particulars symbolizing, or manifesting, their corresponding
    static patterns of quality.

    > Value implies intellect? Intellect drives evolution because Quality and
    > intellect are the same, provided intellect is defined much broader than
    > Pirsig does? Well, it wouldn't work to say that the evolution of the cosmos
    > is driven by the skilled manipulation of abstract symbols, that's for sure.
    > But why do we want to expand that definition beyond all recognition, when we
    > already have a term for that which drives evolution. We'd have two terms for
    > the same thing and would loose a good label for the fouth level of static
    > pattterns.

    [Scott:] Because the term the MOQ has (DQ) is inadequate if, as I hold,
    value implies intellect (and vice versa).

     This is what I mean when I say your proposal is confusing and
    > destructive. And I would also point out that value doesn't necessarily imply
    > intellect in any meaningful sense of the word. Can we really talk about the
    > intellect of subatomic particles or earthworms and still find it useful in
    > discussing Hitler's anti-intellectualism? Can we talk about vegetative
    > intellection in terms of FDR's New Deal and the current state of cultural
    > evolution? Not without tons of confusion and constant clumsy qualifiers.

    [Scott:] We have no trouble using value or quality or morality in saying
    that atoms value (or have value) and that fascism is a low-quality social
    order. What's the difference with intellect?

    Of course, the view I am putting forth is a radical challenge to common
    sense (which is SOM), and if taken up will require a lot of rethinking
    about everything. But that's what philosophy is about, as Pirsig notes.
    (Hmm, I keep saying "my view" or the equivalent, so I should repeat that
    these views are not original with me, but are my take on the views of
    Goethe, Coleridge, Steiner, Barfield, Kuhlewind, Merrell-Wolff, Peirce, and

    [DMB:] > I'd like to add that Value does imply some kind of perception and
    > some expression of preference in response, but you seem to have imagined
    > that this perception and choice is seperate from the patterns themselves.
    > I'm not sure what you're doing with Peirce's triad and all that, but I'm
    > pretty sure his semiotics have nothing to do with Pirsig levels or his
    > epistemology. In any case, you seem to be using it to invent a little
    > intellectual judge who inspects patterns at each level.

    [Scott:] The judge is called DQ, until intellect appeared in humans, when
    it is also called human intellect. There is no more separation from the
    patterns themselves, than DQ is separate from SQ.

    [DMB:] > I don't get it at
    > all, but I think we can agree that there is some kind of awareness all the
    > way up and down, from the inorganic to the intellectual level. I think
    > Pirsig is already saying what you're saying. I just think that refering to
    > the various levels of awareness as intellectual is WAY too confusing, given
    > the name of Pirsig's fourth level. Why not call it consciousness rather than
    > intellect? Or how about awaressness? Then you don't get monsterous terms
    > like organic intellect, social intellect and intellectual intellect. Doesn't
    > biological awareness sound better? And in a context where "intellect" is on
    > the top ten list of key terms, isn't it much more clear to say it that way?

    [Scott:] 'Consciousness' or 'awareness' are insufficient. There also has to
    be the consciousness of better and worse, and for that one needs patterns,
    i.e., universals, and memory, so that comparisons (judgments) can be made.

    > dmb finally concludes:
    > Intellect is our road to transcendence? Again, I think you have a serious
    > problem when it comes reading these guys. The quotes you provided, like the
    > Plotinus quote dissected above, contain the word "intellect" but you fail to
    > see that they are talking about something else entirely and are confused by
    > it. I don't see how they support your case at all. And your interpretation
    > seems quite shocking to me as it defies one of the most central and
    > universally shared beliefs among mystics....That the ultimate reality is
    > beyond language, intellectually unknowable, that it is pre-intellectual,
    > prior to ANY concepts, etc. And this is why intellect is NOT the road to
    > transcendence. This is why Quality and intellect are NOT synonymous.
    > "Some of the most honored philosophers in history have been mystics:
    > Plotinus, Swedenborg, Loyola, Shankaracharya and many others. They share a
    > common belief that the fundamental nature of reality is outside of language;
    > that language splits things up into parts while the true nature of reality
    > is undivided. Zen, which is a mystic relgion, argues that the illusion of
    > dividedness can be overcome by meditation." LILA, page 63

    [Scott:] If you are speaking to those who think that one can describe
    mystical experience, or that normal human intellect can understand mystical
    reality, then the thing to say to them is that these matters are beyond
    language and intellect. However, this all presupposes that language and
    intellect are all about describing and understanding something. This is a
    SOM view of language and intellect, which has unfortunately been carried
    over into the MOQ. One imagines a non-semiotic, non-intellect world, in
    which language and intellect came into existence in humans so we could
    understood and speak about that world. This is treating language and
    intellect as subject and that which it descibes and thinks about as object.
    If one is stuck with this view, then all one can say is that the mystical
    is beyond language and intellect.

    But now consider dropping this view, and considering instead the idea of
    language and intellect as that which creates worlds (as in a limited way we
    do in art, and if you get into it, in science as well -- Pirsig was getting
    into this in his discussion of the gravity ghost in ZAMM). So suppose that
    it is not just we who do this, but that this is how the universe operates.
    Then it makes sense to talk about intellect as a road to transcendence. Not
    by attempting to understand other things, but by training and developing it
    as an end in itself.

    Which is also why Pirsig's choice of 'empiricism' as his way of doing
    metaphysics is a problem. Empiricism is a SOM methodology (made popular by
    Locke, mainly). It assumed that intellect was for "thinking about what the
    senses provide" (Lila, Ch. 8), and that "reason is dependent on the senses"
    (Copleston Annotations). This is straight SOM. It's useful as a description
    for how the physical sciences work, but they are only good for gathering
    knowledge of the inorganic realm. Beyond that, our senses provide nothing.
    (They can tell us about the inorganic that occurs in the biological, but
    not about the biological itself. And of course nothing at all of the social
    and intellectual).

    - Scott

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