RE: MD Absolutes and Generalities

From: Platt Holden (
Date: Sat Feb 01 2003 - 16:56:24 GMT

  • Next message: Erin N.: "RE: MD Absolutes and Generalities"

    Hi Jonathan:

    > PLATT
    > You seem to suggest that "fundamentalism" is on its face a bad thing.
    > Science, of course, follows its own brand of fundamentalism, defined as
    > widely held and solidly adhered to belief system.
    > JONATHAN replies
    > I think I had better make clear that by fundamentalism I mean solid and
    > UNQUESTIONING adherence to a particular belief. By this definition, science
    > (as I understand it) follows the Socratic tradition of questioning
    > everything, the antithesis of fundamentalism.

    I doubt if science questions its belief in the experimental method or in
    measurement, mathematics and peer review. That's what I meant by
    science's fundamentalism.

    > PLATT
    > Question: Do you
    > consider the following quotes from Pirsig to represent "fundamentalism" in
    > a negative sense?
    > "But what's not so obvious is that, given a value-centered Metaphysics of
    > Quality, it is absolutely, scientifically moral for a doctor to prefer the
    > patient." (13)
    > JONATHAN replies
    > Look again at your quote and you will see that it is not absolute at
    > all. It is explicitly relative to a specific context, which is why
    > Pirsig throws in "GIVEN a value-centered Metaphysics". To be more
    > precise, he should have said "given Pirsig's MoQ". If the statement was
    > absolute, there would be no need to reference the context.

    In a Gestalt sense, everything is relative to a context. This is the
    figure/ground split or metaphysical "first cut" as opposed to first cuts of
    subject/object or Dynamic/static Quality. Given the Gestalt split, it's
    contexts all the way down. Everything is relative and anything goes
    because there's no place to stop to establish meaning or truth.
    Deconstruction gets deconstructed gets deconstructed, ad infinitum.
    I'd be interested to know if and where you draw the line.

    > PLATT (quoting Pirsig)
    > "We must understand that when a society undermines intellectual
    > freedom for its own purposes it is absolutely morally bad, but when it
    > represses biological freedom for its own purposes it is absolutely morally
    > good. These moral bads and goods are not just "customs." They are as real
    > as rocks and trees." (24)
    > "A culture that supports the dominance of social values over biological
    > values is an absolutely superior culture to one that does not, and a
    > culture that supports the dominance of intellectual values over social
    > values is absolutely superior to one that does not." (24)
    > JONATHAN replies
    > This is not consistent with the way Pirsig explains the levels, with a
    > lower level being essentially "blind" to the level above. Is it immoral for
    > a plague of locusts to wipe out the cultivated crops of a village? IMO,
    > such a claim is meaningless. The only valid question is how the village
    > reacts to the locusts, not the other way round.

    You've assumed a context whereby moral values only apply to humans.
    The MoQ posits that moral values apply to everything. It's immoral for a
    plague of locusts to wipe out the crops of a village which is a social
    pattern that has moral supremacy over a biological pattern of locusts.
    Whether a level is blind or not to the level above is irrelevant to the
    morality of a situation because in the MoQ the ability to choose is not
    moral requirement. Moral questions are valid in all circumstances.

    > PLATT
    > IMO the MoQ dissolves the [art vs. science vs. religion] conflicts by
    > encompassing them in the
    > embrace of absolute Quality. Both are forms of this absolute Quality, the
    > logical positivist side being represented by static Quality and the mystic
    > side by Dynamic Quality. [snip] SQ patterns may not be absolute in the
    > positivist sense, but allowing for DQ is not the reason why. Static
    > patterns "can't by themselves perceive or adjust to Dynamic Quality. Only a
    > living being can do that." (13)
    > I think you are going to have a hard time convincing anyone that an
    > entity can contain a "dynamic" unpredictable element and also be
    > absolute in the sense you indicate ("true for all people at all times, now
    > and forever" - Lila ch. 13). You certainly couldn't call it absolute in a
    > scientific sense.

    What is absolute in a scientific sense?

    > Furthermore, if you take the statement "Only a living
    > being can do that" literally, the MoQ completely falls apart. We may argue
    > about how many levels of pattern go into a "living being", but according to
    > Pirsig, ALL those patterns are SQ. The statement that static patterns can't
    > adjust to DQ is completely untenable - surely every pattern, responds to
    > DQ, including quarks, electrons, rocks, dice and roulette wheels, cells,
    > organisms and societies.

    Surely every pattern doesn't respond. Rocks, dice and roulette wheels
    have no capacity whatsoever to respond to DQ. Quarks, electrons, cells
    did have the capacity at one time to respond in new ways, but are now
    locked into static response patterns and can't create anything. DQ is
    the creative force. Only organisms can respond, especially the higher
    forms like humans.
    > PLATT (re: suggestion to use the word GENERALLY in place of ABSOLUTELY) I'm
    > not convinced that your definition of "generally" avoids relativism,
    > also known as "situational ethics." Generally it was OK in Communist
    > Russia to murder dissidents.
    > I don't believe you CAN avoid relativism. EVERY ethical decision is
    > situational.

    I know. That's your belief, contexts all the way down. No place to take a
    stand and say, "This is so."

    > I strongly believe that in the context of Communist Russia, it was WRONG to
    > murder dissidents and Stalin's campaign of purges was immoral. Furthermore,
    > I would be hard pressed to find an example where killing of dissidents
    > might be admissible (though Pirsig himself says that a society might use
    > extreme means to ensure its survival).

    Of course I agree it's wrong to murder dissidents. But why? Could it be
    that it's immoral for society to kill a source of ideas as Pirsig says?
    Whatever your answer, it appears you've made an ethical decision that's
    not "situational" or relative, i.e. one that's absolute based on principle.
    > PLATT
    > Secondly, the MoQ provides a SPECIFIC framework
    > for solving particular problems. Because it is specific, Pirsig doesn't
    > hesitate to use "absolute" when the framework calls for it.
    > JONATHAN replies
    > NO! The MoQ provides a GENERAL framework. It is only made specific in
    > application.

    To set up a moral hierarchy of physical, biological, social and intellectual
    is a specific framework in my book. A theory, a metaphysics, can be
    and usually is very specific. We're obviously using the terms general
    and specific in different contexts. :-)
    > Furthermore, while I GENERALLY accept much of RMP's approach, he makes far
    > too many mistakes (see examples above) for us to take Lila as the ABSOLUTE
    > last word in metaphysics. I am ABSOLUTELY with ERIN on this;-).

    What you call Pirsig's mistakes I call your misinterpretations. But, I
    absolutely could be wrong. :-)


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