RE: MD Making sense of it (levels)

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sat Feb 01 2003 - 23:03:18 GMT

  • Next message: Platt Holden: "RE: MD Absolutes and Generalities"

    Steve, Joao, Platt, Wim and all:

    Steve asked:
    I don't understand how the MOQ dissolves the mind-body problem. As I
    understand it, the mind-body problem is the question of how my willing my
    hands to type causes my hands to type. Is that right? Could you explain.

    To which Joao offered this:
    The mind and the body split in the XVII century. Descartes based his
    conception of nature on the division between the "res cogitans" "thinking
    thing" and the "res extensa", the "extense thing". (snip)

    DMB says:
    I think Joao is on to something here. On the last page of chapter 22 Pirsig
    says, "Everyone seemed to be guided by an "objective", "scientific" view of
    life that told each person that his essential self is his evolved material
    body. Ideas and societies are a component of brains, not the other way
    around." Here the author is talking about SOM and the mind/body problem
    emerges from its assumtions. This is what I meant by saying that SOM views
    mind as an epiphenomenon. SOM thinks it is product of brains, of biology.
    The mind/body problem then is one of trying to figure out how consciousness
    can emerge from or be a property of our material bodies. Pirsig gets starts
    to get at the solution early in chapter 24. "Our scientific descriptions of
    nature is always culturally derived. Nature tells us only what our culture
    predisposes us to hear." Here he is only saying that we can't think about
    anything in the scientific of intellectual sense without having culture and
    its language first. He's saying that thoughts don't come from bodies or
    brains, but from the social level. (Biology only supplies us with sensory
    data. Sights and smells and sounds are not the same as thoughts.) Now here
    is where Joao's point about Descrates comes into it. It on the same page as
    the line above and is immediately followed by the "embedding" quote I posted
    last time. Again, this is from chapter 24...

    Descartes' "I think therefore I am" was a historically shattering
    declaration of independence of the intellectual level of evolution the the
    social level of evolution, but would he have said it if he had been a 17th
    century Chinese philosopher? If he had been, would any in seventeenth
    century China have listened to him and called a brilliant thinker and
    recorded his name in history? If Descartes had said, "the 17th century
    French culture exists, therefore I think, therefore I am", he would have
    been correct.
    The MOQ resolves the relationship between intellect and society, subject and
    object, mind and matter, by embedding all of them in a larger system of
    understanding. ...

    DMB continues:
    Descartes arrived at his famous line by engaging is some pretty radical
    skepticism. He dreamed up a scenario wherein his own senses could not be
    trusted at all and were in fact the illusions forced upon him by an evil
    demon. This evil demon fooled the philosopher into believeing that there
    were things in the world to see and hear and smell, but he was actually just
    a disembodied brain kept in a jar, in the evil lab of the evil demon. T'was
    a very interesting thought experiment. Descartes came to the conclusion that
    we can never know for sure what is outside the mind, can never really even
    know if there is a world outside the mind, but that he could know for sure
    that he had a mind. He might be totally wrong in all his thoughts and
    beliefs about everything, but at least he knew that he could think. And
    since he has to have some kind of existence in order to think, he concluded
    " I think, therefore I am." (Or something like that. I'm trying to make a
    long story short here.) The intended effect of this conclusion is to give us
    some kind of certainty. We know consciousness exists for sure, but our
    bodies and the world are less reliable. We don't need to get into the many,
    many issues that this view raises, but what we see in it is a radical
    seperation between mind and body. This is the mind/body problem, or at least
    a very conspicuous feature of the problem. SOM does not offer a solution,
    but turns the problem upside down. Scientific objectivity says that bodies
    and brains are real, but consciousness is unreliable and untrustworthy. I
    know. It gets really confusing and outside of the MOQ this has never been
    resolved. Today's thinkers have abandon the issue and given the problem over
    to brain doctors and such. That approach mostly ends up with some kind of
    materialistic reductionism whereby things like philosophy and love are
    reduced to neurons and synapses and chemicals and other "stuff". Are you
    getting a feel for this mind/body problem yet? I hope so. In any case let's
    keep moving....

    Steve wrote:
    When you say, "This is why it seems very easy to understand the first two
    levels. SOM already saw that clearly enough," it sounds as though you think
    of the MOQ as an elaboration or extention of SOM.

    DMB says:
    An elaboration or extention of SOM? No. Quite the opposite. The MOQ cuts SOM
    down to size. The MOQ is a bigger thing that takes SOM within itself. It
    takes SOM out of the driver's seat and makes it just another piece of cargo,
    if you will. I only meant that the nature of rocks and trees is relatively
    simple and we don't tend to get into major disputes about them. I mean, the
    MOQ was designed to solve problems that appear only at the higher levels,
    such as the mind/body problem, the relationship between science and society,
    between religion and philosophy and the other third/fouth level

    Steve wrote:
    If the levels are discrete we should be able to identify the exact instant
    when the social level comes into existence. How would you recognize it?

    DMB says:
    Identify the exact moment? That would be quite a trick. No. I don't see how
    that would be possible without a time machine and some very fancy recording
    equipment. This is why we have to rely on things like contemorary
    observations of monkeys to see what we once were. Its about the best we can
    do and it only offers us a glimpse of what it might have been like half a
    million years ago.

    Steve wrote:
    Where do you see the social level emerging in the monkey dance example? Are
    the monkey's becoming social level entities or is the social quality
    emerging in the dance or somewhere else? This is in effect Pirsig's Zen
    Koan that runs throughout ZAMM: Is the Quality in the subject or in the

    DMB says:
    The monkey dance seems to be something more than sheer biology. There seems
    to be something like joy in it. It seems like the begining of ritual, the
    very begining of myth, of groups acting unison. Ever felt connected to a
    crowd at a rock concert? Its very powerful. It feels good, but watch out.
    This is the feeling that Hitler exploited at the Nueremburg rallies. If this
    assertion has anything to do with the Koan you mention, it is beyond my
    ability to see it. I'm just talking about chimps. But it seems to me that
    social level values are what make us human. They created us, whereas SOM
    thinks it is the other way around. SOM thinks humans invented society, but
    the MOQ says the oppostie. From chapter 17...

    "Biological man doesn't invent cities or sociieties any more than pigs and
    chickens invent the farmer that feeds them. ... When societies and cultures
    and cities are seen not as inventions of "man" but as higher organisms than
    biological man, the phenonema of war and genocide and all the other forms of
    human explotiation becomes more intelligible. "Mankind" has never been
    interested in getting itself killed. But the superorganism, the Giant, who
    is a pattern of values superimposed on top of biological human bodies,
    doesn't mind losing a few bodies to protect his greater interests."

    Steve wrote:
    Classifying entities into the four levels as you would like to do is an MOQ
    influenced SOM but still SOM. In effect you are just treating some things
    as objects that weren't previously thought of as objects. Still SOM.

    DMB says:
    I think you have fallen under the influence of some misconceptions, of
    mistaken notions voiced by particpants. Let me put this in the sim;eest of
    terms. Subject and objects are not the problem. SOM is not the same as
    merely recognizing such things, it is the metaphysical assertion that only
    objects are really real. Pirsig's MOQ posits a value-centered metaphysical
    assertion and insists that subjects are just as real as objects. He's also
    saying that subjects and objects are secondary, that reality preceeds such
    distinctions, that primary reality is neither physical or mental, but is
    something from which these distinctions are later derived. He's saying
    reality is something that happens before you have a chance to think about it
    or put things into categories or classes. But this is really a different
    topic. Sorting out the distinctions between levels is about handleing static
    reality, while the primary reality is Dynamic and can't be categorized at

    Wish I knew how to make this shorter. Whew! Thank you very, very much for
    your time,

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