RE: MD Absolutes and Generalities

From: Platt Holden (
Date: Sat Feb 01 2003 - 21:03:53 GMT

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    Hi Erin:
    > in his own words how you should take the MOQ,
    > now don't try and argue Pirsig misinterpreted Pirsig ;-)

    > PIRSIG:
    > Unlike SOM the MOQ does not insist on a single exclusive truth.
    > If subjects and objects are held to be the ultimate
    > reality then we're permitted only one construction of things, that
    > which corresponds to the "objective" world and all other cosntructions are
    > unreal. But if Quality or excellence is seen as the ultimate reality then it
    > becomes possible for more than one set of truths to exist. Then one
    > doesn't seek the absolute "Truth". One seeks instead the highlest quality
    > intelelctual explanaton of things with the knowledge that if the past is
    > any guide to thefuture this explanation MUST BE TAKEN PROVISIONALLY; AS
    > USEFUL UNTIL SOMETHING BETTER COMES ALONG.(emphasis mine to help Platt not
    > skip over that horrid p word)

    Thanks for the reminder. Obviously you missed what I wrote to Jonathan
    on January 28:

    "Having said all this in defense of Pirsig's use of "absolute," I'm well
    aware that he also treats "truth" as a personal, relative matter, like
    "paintings in an art gallery." (13) Also, he praises science for it's
    "provisional" stance, willing to change it's positions in the light of new
    evidence. Frankly, it sometimes appears to me that Pirsig reverses the
    normal roles, making scientific truths relative and moral truths
    evolutionarily deterministic."

    If truth is always personal and relative, why does Pirsig use the word
    "absolute" in a moral context? Do you think he made a mistake?
    Consider the following from Chap. 9: (Emphasis added so you won't
    miss the absolutes.)

    Dynamic Quality is the pre-intellectual cutting edge of realty, the source
    of ALL things, COMPLETELY simple and ALWAYS new. It was the
    moral force that had motivated the brujo in Zuni. It contains NO pattern
    of fixed rewards and punishments. Its ONLY perceived good is freedom
    and its ONLY perceived evil is static quality itself-any pattern of one-
    sided FIXED values that tries to contain and kill the ongoing free force of
    life. Static quality, the moral force of the priests, emerges in the wake of
    Dynamic Quality. It is old and complex. It ALWAYS contains a
    component of memory. Good is conformity to an established pattern of
    FIXED values and value objects.(9)

    Mistake, mistake, mistake? Rhetorical exaggerations? Maybe. But I
    doubt it. Pirsig is saying it's possible for more than one set of truths
    (absolutes) to exist. The MoQ represents one of those sets. Science
    represents another.

    In any event, I had to smile at your implication that it would be
    absolutely wrong to argue that Pirsig misinterpreted Pirsig. Or is that a
    "provisional" judgment on your part? :-)


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