Re: MD Self

From: Sam Norton (
Date: Fri Dec 03 2004 - 09:37:32 GMT

  • Next message: Sam Norton: "Re: MD New Level of Thinking"

    Hi Chin, and DMB,

    My two pennies on this.

    I'm happy with Pirsig's description of the Self as a stable pattern of values. I would want to break
    that description down in the following way:

    - we have patterns of value which are biological in character - our physical characteristics, but
    also some appetites and physical processes (eg hunger, sexual desire, respiration, heartbeat,
    physiognomy etc);
    - we have patterns of value which are social in nature - primarily our language, our customary
    habits (how to shake hands or rub noses etc), but also some socially intepreted biological patterns,
    eg those relating to dominance (bowing before the queen, not meeting the eyes of a superior). I
    interpret the 'ego' as being that set of patterns which are social in character and concerned with
    the preservation of social level values, most especially status within the group;
    - we have patterns of value which are of a higher level. These are commonly called 'intellectual',
    but as you've probably gathered by now I don't think that is an adequate description of them. But
    these are patterns which are developed in order to control the social level and are not bound by
    them. I would interpret these as analogous to what the Christian tradition calls the soul, or what
    Aristotle calls the Anima - they are what animate and guide us as unique individuals, and they are
    the most important elements of our whole 'person' (which is the composite of all these levels and

    So, for example, when Christ says 'what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his
    own soul', I would translate that into MoQese as 'what Quality is there in amassing social level
    patterns if it means that the fourth level patterns are destroyed'? Or, what's the point in
    maximising your self when you lose contact with the Self? (I would interpret little self and big
    self as a 3rd/4th level transition)

    The main division I see between my views and Pirsig's is that (I think) Pirsig sees the 'self' as a
    social level pattern, whereas I see the social level pattern as the ego, which can more or less
    effectively be transcended (but is an essential component of conquering the biological level - you
    could say that criminals often have too weak an ego, and are therefore delinquent socially, rather
    than being arrogant etc). Moreover, Pirsig's description of the 'qualities' of the fourth level I
    see as inadequate and narrow; I would want to talk about a wider and richer understanding along the
    lines of the Aristotelean concept of eudaimonia. I've talked about that a lot though.

    My difference with DMB:

    dmb said in the People and Value thread:
    I'm trying hard to play nice, but I have to point out how disappointing it
    is to address this point once again. Any way, for starters, we have a logic
    problem. The self rejected by Buddhism is the Ayn Randian, SOM self, which
    is different from the self as Pirsig sees it. Let us not forget that the MOQ
    agrees with Buddhism in rejecting this "isolated ego" conception of the
    self. And AS I'VE ALRREADY POINTED OUT SEVERAL TIMES, you seem to be taking
    the word "illusion" to mean hallucinatory or entirely unreal. But this is
    actually just a rejection of the little self, AS THE CENTRAL REALITY. That's
    the illusion, see?

    I'm not convinced that the self rejected by Buddhism IS the Ayn Randian one. I think that a more or
    less charitable understanding of Ayn Rand's view would identify her conception as fourth level, just
    one which undermines the third level on which that fourth level construction depends. So it is
    flawed, but not completely lacking in merit. I'm not an expert on Buddhism - nor is Pirsig it would
    seem - but I've not come across anything that makes me think Buddhism is doing more than rejecting
    the third level 'self'. But I could easily be wrong on that.

    Hope that's of interest.


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: <>
    To: <>
    Sent: Wednesday, November 24, 2004 10:44 PM
    Subject: MD Self

    > The discussion of 'Self' is an interesting one, and since the MOQ (in my
    > belief) is tied to blending Western and Eastern thought, I thought it might be a
    > good idea to think about 'Self' and why there would be differences of opinion
    > as to whether 'Self' is or is not.
    > In Western thought, we might define 'Self' as essence of being. 'I' is
    > pertaining to this 'Self' as it describes what we are talking about. Maybe Eastern
    > thought is looking as 'Self' as defined the same. They may be asking 'What
    > is 'True Self'? Restated, the question might be "What is the 'True' essence of
    > being?"
    > My question would be can we come to an understanding of 'Self' that would
    > satisfy both Western Aristotelian slicing-n-dicing of the concept, and the
    > Eastern concept that may be more Platonic?
    > I could be wrong, but I would think this 'Self' could be a barrier to the
    > bridge between Western and Eastern philosophy.
    > What you think?
    > Chin

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