Re: MD "Is there anything out there?")

Date: Thu Dec 30 2004 - 07:36:37 GMT

  • Next message: Phaedrus Wolff: "Re: MD Is the MoQ still in the Kantosphere?"

    Hi Paul, and welcome back!

    I've been hanging in here, quietly awaiting your Pirsig exposition which has
    now apparently been preempted by your collaboration on Anthony McWatt's PhD
    thesis. Since that appears to be available only as purchased hard copy, I'm
    somewhat confused as to precisely what new insight is available and where it
    may be found.

    In the meantime, you've made some points concerning the MoQ epistemology
    which, to me, is the core of Pirsig's metaphysics. This is the critical
    area which deserves clear, non-equivocal definition. May I inject some
    comments and questions toward that end? Starting with your 12/20 reply to
    Mark's question, for example:

    MSH said:
    > [Yes,] this comment has always troubled me. "The world has no existence
    > whatsoever outside the human imagination." Is Pirsig an Idealist or an
    > empiricist or what? I can see how the laws of nature and logic might be
    > said to exist in our imaginations, but everything? Is this just some
    > poetic enthusiasm from way back, near the beginning of ZMM, to support
    > the ol' ghosts around the campfire setting? What do y'all think he
    > means? Is there something OUT THERE, or not?
    > Paul:
    > I think the first thing is that the MOQ proposes that the distinction
    > between "out there" and "in here" is not a fundamental unquestionable
    > reality but is also a result of the human imagination, as is the notion
    > of "existence" itself. I think Pirsig sees "existence" in the western
    > sense as coming in with the Greeks.

    I'm in complete agreement with the premise that, in the metaphysical sense
    at least, "out there" and "in here" are irrelevant qualifications. However,
    I think we have to be careful how we define the cause of this polar
    phenomenon. Isn't it "rationality" rather than "imagination" which
    constructs physical reality externally to the self? Also, I'm not sure what
    you mean by "the distinction between 'out there' and 'in here' is not a
    fundamental unquestionable reality." Are you saying that the distinction
    itself is not unquestionable, or do you mean to suggest that such a divided
    reality is questionable? Could you kindly clarify that assertion for me?

    As for the etymology of "existence", I think it is clear that the concept of
    "being" or "beingness" is universal, even if the Greeks are to be credited
    for introducing "existence" to the dialectics of Western philosophy. Now I
    have a problem with "being" as the primary source, as you probably know.
    Whatever has being is a specific finite entity; that is, a "being" is
    differentiated from non-being or "nothingness", as well as from any other
    being. Thus, if reality is equated with all of being, it logically excludes
    consciousness, unless one regards consciousness as some special form of
    being (which may well be the 'pure empiricist' concept). I have the same
    problem with your positing of 'sense data' as the a priori source.

    > However, in answer to your question, the MOQ calls itself pure
    > empiricism and starts with the premise that the "something that is
    > there" is sense data but refers to the source of this sense data, prior
    > to any intellectual differentiation, as Dynamic Quality.

    Data of any kind are specific, like any kind of being. As your statement
    implies, the "something that is there" cannot be sense data but "refers to
    the source of this sense data, prior to differentiation". I see nothing
    illogical about calling the source Dynamic Quality, so long as it is
    non-differentiated. (It is for this reason that I still prefer to use
    Essence to connote the primary, non-differentiated source and Value, the
    conditional or "experiential" source.)

    > Pirsig constructs a metaphysics which has to make
    > propositional statements about experience and sense data. In this
    > respect, Pirsig recently had this to say about the relationship between
    > sense data and value in the MOQ:

    > "...propositionally speaking, experience is sense data but the sense
    > data has already been preselected by quality.

    I don't understand what this means. If Quality is a "selector" of
    specifics, it is an agent and not the Source of experience.

    > The MOQ says that which
    > is not valued either positively or negatively is not distinguished from
    > anything else. Therefore sense data that is devoid of value does not
    > exist." [Pirsig to McWatt, 2004]

    I agree with this analysis. It is a bold assertion for a modern
    philosopher, and a huge step for Idealism!

    > We are trained to think of
    > this sense data as coming from objects but the whole idea of objects is
    > arrived at from primitive value judgments of the sort newborn infants
    > have before they have any idea of such a thing as an object and long
    > before they have an idea of such a thing as mind. The MOQ says it is the
    > unnamable source of these valuations that comes first, not mind or
    > matter. It calls this unnamable source "Dynamic Quality" for purposes of
    > intellectual reference, but carefully avoids defining it." [Pirsig to
    > McWatt, 1999]

    Why must the primary source be "unnamable" (especially given the fact that
    you've named it DQ)? Why isn't Value itself the experiential source? Is
    not Value the object of one's "valuation"?

    > Basically, the MOQ says that the "external world" is often the highest
    > quality pattern of intellectual knowledge we have to handle and explain
    > sense data but it remains no more than an extremely good hypothesis.
    > Furthermore, seeing as the external world is *deduced from* sense
    > experience it seems incorrect to presume that it is the *source of* the
    > sense experience. I find that this statement from Pirsig is a neat
    > summary of his position.

    Considering that there is no "out there" or "in here", is there a
    distinction to be made between sense-data and sense-experience? Also,
    inasmuch as all experience is differentiated, how can either data or
    sensation(s) qualifiy as the undifferentiated Source? I'm sorry, Paul, but
    I find Pirsig's statement a neat evasion of the metaphysical question.

    Perhaps your response can alleviate some of my disappointment.

    Happy New Year,

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