Re: MD Is the MoQ still in the Kantosphere?

From: Sam Norton (
Date: Mon Dec 27 2004 - 11:32:59 GMT

  • Next message: Sam Norton: "Re: MD Is the MoQ still in the Kantosphere?"

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for some positive feedback. A brief response on something specific:

    > I also see similarities between Schleiermacher and Pirsig, though I
    > think S (or is it you) likes to play up the "felt"part of the
    > mystical experience, perhaps laying the ground work your (his) ideas
    > of the value of emotions. As far as I know, RMP doesn't refer to his
    > pre-intellectual awareness as a feeling, and I imagine, that for him
    > "sensation" is a better word, since it avoids the ambiguity of sense
    > data versus emotion.
    > ...I'd say that pre-intellectual awareness is a mystical
    > experience, not an emotional one.

    Let's not get too hung up on the word 'felt', and let's certainly not get side-tracked into a
    discussion about emotion - there'll be plenty of time for that, DV. Let's stick with 'sensation' -
    that's certainly what I think is problematic, and it is Kantian etc. Let me give you a quote from
    Nicholas Lash, one of the theologians I like, who has written quite widely on this topic, and
    particularly on William James and mysticism. My comments are in square brackets.

    "However hostile to Cartesian dualism [SOM] we suppose ourselves to be, it is not possible to escape
    its clutches while continuing to treat the distinction between mind and matter as empirical, as
    being (that is to say) a distinction between two different kinds of 'thing' or substance...[in my
    earlier book] I took William James as my conversation partner precisely because I respected his
    influence, originality and power. If James, of all people, could be shown to be still mesmerised by
    the Cartesian spell, then the power of that bewitchment's grip would have been dramatically
    displayed. I was, moreover, well aware of the fact that I was taking issue with what is probably
    still the most widespread account in our culture of what is meant by 'person' and 'experience', by
    'religion' and by 'God'; an account subscribed to by both the friends of religion and its foes. It
    therefore seemed to me important (on, if you like, something like Popperian grounds) to challenge
    this account, not in its casual and slipshod versions [those which DMB relies on ;-)], but in the
    strongest, most persuasive version that I knew... Whether or not I made my case, where James'
    residual Cartesianism is concerned, is up to other people to decide. But, if I did, the chances are
    that those who still endorse more or less Jamesian accounts of what is meant by 'consciousness' and
    by 'experience', by 'religion' and its 'objects', are still operating within Cartesian parameters
    [this is what I accuse DMB - and now Pirsig - of doing]...... Although Oxford may be among the last
    places to discover this [that's a joke, Lash was a Cambridge professor], the philosophical,
    psychological, sociological and now... biological criticisms of empiricist construals of the grammar
    of 'experience' are, by now, cumulatively so devastating as to require, at the very least, from
    those who wish to keep such usages alive, *arguments* and not mere expressions of preference.
    Finally, as I put it [in my earlier book] if there is now 'very little to be said in favour of, and
    a great deal to be said against, retaining a contracted account of experience *in general* [ie the
    inheritance from SOM], then there is even less to be said in favour of retaining a contracted
    account of *religious* experience."

    Nicholas Lash, "The beginning and end of 'religion'", 1996. (Religion being in inverted commas
    because it is a concept invented by Schleiermacher - it is precisely the SOMish abstraction from the
    different faiths, to come up with some 'essence' of faith which can then be called 'religion'). His
    earlier book was 'Easter in Ordinary', which is where he takes apart James' metaphysical

    In other words, when we use the word 'experience' we tend to still use it in a SOMish way. My
    suspicion - growing stronger all the time - is that Pirsig doesn't escape this problem, and the
    metaphysical apparatus that he set up in Lila is still conditioned by the Cartesian/Kantian
    framework. But I'll spell all that out in longer form. This was just a taster :-)


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