Re: MD New Level of Thinking

From: Scott Roberts (
Date: Fri Dec 03 2004 - 17:39:30 GMT

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    > I don't know if you subscribe to the MF group, but a little while back we
    had an interesting
    > discussion on the relationship between Quality, DQ and SQ. I was arguing
    that Quality was prior to
    > the split between DQ and SQ; others, including DMB, argued that SQ
    derived from DQ. I don't think
    > that latter view is coherent, but I am not convinced that DMB is wrong in
    his interpretation of
    > Pirsig. Which seems to be what you're saying here as well:
    > > My impression is that Pirsig thinks of both "pure experience" and "the
    > > leading edge of experience" as DQ. If I'm wrong on this, let me know
    > > he distinguishes them.
    > >
    > > My view, which differs from the MOQ, is that DQ is never independent of
    > > Rather, DQ and SQ always exist only insofar as they oppose each other as
    > > they constitute each other, that is, they follow the form of
    > > identities. And so I reject the concept of "pure experience". All
    > > experience is always a DQ/SQ opposition, which is best exemplified by
    > > experience of intellect.

    Yes. I consider "pure experience", which seems to be the same as "pure DQ"
    to be metaphysical fictions on Pirsig's part, deriving not from experience
    but from a limited understanding of mysticism. See below. By the way, I
    don't consider Quality to be "prior" to DQ/SQ, but to be in contradictory
    identity to them. Thus, there is a double contradictory identity: between
    DQ and SQ, and between both and Quality.

    > Just to make sure I understand you correctly, the logic of contradictory
    identity is to say that one
    > thing cannot exist without its opposite, so, for example, you cannot
    understand 'light' without the
    > equal and opposite notion of 'darkness', is that right? (What is the name
    for the Taoist black and
    > white symbol, where the one merges into the other?) If you are saying
    that DQ and SQ are formed in
    > relationship in that way, and that the whole is 'Quality' then I would be
    in agreement with you.

    I just know it as the Yin/Yang symbol.

    What needs to be added to your description of the logic of contradictory
    identity is that there are different kinds of opposites. "Hot" and "cold"
    do not constitute a contradictory identity, as they are just points on a
    scale. "Light" and "darkness" come closer, as light defines and contradicts
    darkness, but in fact one could imagine a completely dark existence, so it
    doesn't quite make it either (though in an esoteric sense, where Light is
    more than visual light, this might be different). The LCI kicks in when one
    cannot think one side of the pole without it turning into the other.
    Franklin Merrell-Wolff put it this way:

    "While in the State [of High Indifference, as he called it -- also see
    below], I was particularly impressed with the fact that the logical
    principle of contradiction had no relevancy. It would not be correct to say
    that this principle was violated, but rather, that it had no application.
    For to isolate any phase of the State was to be immediately aware of the
    opposite phase as the necessary complementary part of the first. Thus the
    attempt of self-conscious thought to isolate anything resulted in the
    immediate initiation of a sort of flow in the very essence of consciousness
    itself, so that the nascent isolation was transformed into its opposite as
    co-partner in a timeless reality....It seemed to be the real underlying
    fact of all consciousness of all creatures." [Experience and Philosophy, p.

    Now I am no mystic like Merrell-Wolff, but I have found the only way to
    think about the self to be as he relates. The self's sense of continuity is
    created by its sense of change, and vice versa. Note that there is a third
    player in this, namely that "sense", i.e., awareness, or consciousness. The
    really interesting thing about this is that the LCI is not just a
    description of consciousness (or, mutatis mutandis, Quality), but more, it
    *is* consciousness, or thinking, or perception. So the standard view of the
    relation between mystical Truth and thought needs to be rethought. Pirsig
    seems to have bought into the usual account whereby mystical Truth is
    beyond thought, and thought just leads one away from that Truth. Insofar as
    thought is seen as something that describes reality and attempts to do so
    in fixed words, this is no doubt the case. But when one turns that around,
    and sees thought *as* reality, and that reality is created through
    contradictory identity (which among other things makes everything thinkable
    contingent), then one can see thought as a path.

    I think this ties into what you have been saying to Wim, that theology is,
    or at least can be, a spiritual, indeed a mystical, practice. Here's
    Barfield on Coleridge [What Coleridge Thought, p. 36 -- I consider
    Coleridge's concept of polarity to be the same as Nishida's contradictory
    identity. Internal quotes are Coleridge]:

    "Polarity is dynamic, not abstract. It is not "a mere balance or
    compromise", but "a living and generative interpenetration." Where logical
    opposites are contradictory, polar opposites are generative of each other
    -- and together generative of new product. Polar opposites exist by virtue
    of each other *as well as* at the expense of each other; "each is that
    which it is called, relatively, by predominance of the one character or
    quality, not by the absolute exclusion of the other." Moreover each quality
    or character is *in* the other. We can and must distinguish, but there is
    no possibility of *dividing* them.

    "But when one has said all this, how much has one succeeded in conveying?
    How much use are definitions of the undefinable? The point is, has the
    imagination grasped it? For nothing else can do so ["imagination" is here
    referring to Coleridge's specific use of the term, as opposed to "fancy" --
    SR]. At this point the reader must be called on, not to think about
    imagination, but to use it. Indeed we shall see that the apprehension of
    polarity is itself *the basic act of imagination*."

    A last note on the "pure DQ" business. I don't mean, by rejecting it as a
    metaphysical concept, that there aren't many reports of mystical experience
    that might be described in this way. Indeed, Merrell-Wolff first had such
    an experience, and thought that that was "It". But a month later, he had
    another experience, totally unexpected (which he first called a state of
    High Indifference, later, Consciousness-without-an-object), in which he
    realized that in the first experience there remained a subtle dualism:
    nirvana as opposed to samsara, or a pure DQ experience as opposed to DQ/SQ.
    He later read about Buddhism's dictum that nirvana *is* samsara, and
    realized that he had been somewhat misled by the "pure DQ" types of
    mystical exposition.

    - Scott

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