Re: MD On Faith

From: Steve Peterson (
Date: Fri Oct 29 2004 - 19:09:41 BST

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    Hi Platt,

    > P:
    >>> Pirsig describes faith as "a willingness to believe in falsehoods."
    >>> He also says that it's "possible for more than one set of truths to
    >>> exist."
    >>> So how does he distinguish a truth from a falsehood?
    > S:
    >> Individuals make this judgment on the basis of Quality. When someone
    >> believes something that they think has low intellectual quality it is
    >> immoral.
    > Yes. In the MOQ, intellectual quality takes moral precedence over other
    > forms of belief, such as that rendered by revelation, meditation, and
    > contemplation of beauty. The question arises: "What gives intellect
    > this
    > exalted position?" The usual answer is its "utility," but we have seen
    > that pragmatism isn't always the panacea it's cracked up to be. Pirsig
    > admits as much.

    I don't know that the MOQ says intellectual quality takes precedence
    over revelation, meditation, and contemplation of beauty. It says that
    intellectual quality takes moral precedence over social quality and
    biological quality because the intellectual level evolved later not
    because of utility. Intellectual statements are then judged based on
    intellectual quality rather than on who said it or what institution
    supports it. By invoking forms of belief that are supported by
    revelation, meditation, and contemplation of beauty you are pointing
    toward experiences that transcend all the static levels and are
    therefore more moral. However, I don't think it makes sense to say
    that a belief could possibly have such support since all beliefs are
    intellectual patterns of varying degree of quality. For someone to
    claim support for a belief from "above" would be to try to to reduce
    the dynamic to the intellectual level which would be immoral.

    But I don't even think that revelation, meditation, and contemplation
    of beauty are generally what people are talking about anyway when they
    talk about having faith. They usually are supporting a view because
    God/the Bible says so or because their priest says so. Judging
    intellectual value based of the social position of the guy who says it
    (the priest) or the institution that backs it (the Church) over
    intellectual justification (thinking) is immoral. Saying something is
    so because God says so is immoral because doing so would be trying to
    contain a higher level (God) in a lower level (intellect).

    > P:
    >>> If, as he said, one should choose truth on the basis of its quality,
    >>> like
    >>> choosing paintings in a gallery, then truth becomes a matter of
    >>> personal
    >>> belief. And so, logically, do falsehoods.
    >>> Perhaps someone will explain this apparent contradiction. Why is
    >>> faith in
    >>> what's true any different than faith in what's false?.
    > S:
    >> I think Pirsig's definition makes some sense. In discussing religion
    >> with
    >> a Biblical literalist and after I've pointed out contradictions and
    >> other
    >> logical impossibilities, the "believer" will often acknowledge the low
    >> intellectual value of interpreting the Bible as literally true. When
    >> backed against a wall a "believer" will say something like, "it SEEMS
    >> like
    >> a contradiction, but one just has to have faith." In other words, the
    >> "believer" is demonstrating "a willingness to believe in falsehoods"
    >> and
    >> sees faith as doing just that.
    Platt replied:
    > If "falsehoods" are always going to be determined on the basis of
    > faith in
    > intellect (logical empiricism as championed by science), then of course
    > it's relatively easy to back a "believer" against a wall. It's a self-
    > fulfilling prophecy: "Since your belief violates scientific
    > principles, it
    > must be false." But suppose you believe, as many do, that there are
    > other
    > means to determining truth from falsehood.?

    According to the MOQ, true and false are words for higher and lower
    intellectual quality. Determining truth from falsehood is done by each
    individual on the basis of Quality. There are no other means to
    determining truth from falsehood or at least they all boil down to

    People will have differing views of what has intellectual quality
    because of their different experiences. What I'm talking about is the
    "believer" who, like me, experiences the low intellectual quality of
    statements like "the Bible is literally true" and chooses to believe
    them anyway and calls it "faith."

    > P:
    >>> If one's belief in a personal God is intellectually
    >>> appealing, I see no reason to claim such belief is false given
    >>> Pirsig's
    >>> "paintings you like" standard of truth.
    >> I agree, but "believers" often think of "faith" as what it takes to
    >> believe that which is not intellectually appealing. That is what
    >> Pirsig is calling immoral.
    > Yes, I agree. There's no doubt that Pirsig considers those who don't
    > abide
    > by scientific principles of inquiry as being immoral dummkopfs.

    You're agreeing but I think may be missing my point. You said that "If
    one's belief in a personal God is intellectually appealing, I see no
    reason to claim such belief is false." I agree since "intellectually
    appealing " is an MOQ definition of "true." I don't agree that Pirsig
    necessarily "considers those who don't abide by scientific principles
    of inquiry as being immoral dummkopfs."

    What's immoral is to admit that a position is irrational (low
    intellectual quality), but then to assert it as true anyway (high
    intellectual quality). It's basically a lie.

    > He
    > summarily rejects supernatural explanations for how the world works.

    Like Pirsig, I also experience such intellectual patterns as low
    quality ones. I bet you do, too.

    > On
    > the other hand, he invokes an unknown "aesthetic continuum" as "real."
    > And, he attributes creation of the objective world to a mysterious
    > force
    > he calls Dynamic Quality--hardly something verifiable using scientific
    > methods.

    I don't think Pirsig champions scientific methods as the "be all and
    end all." In fact he spent a lot of ZAMM and Lila criticizing the
    "view from nowhere" that science presupposes.

    It's been a while. It's good to converse with you.


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