Re: MD Making sense of it (levels)

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Wed Feb 05 2003 - 22:19:52 GMT

  • Next message: David Buchanan: "RE: MD DQ people"

    Dear Platt,

    You wrote 30 Jan 2003 13:48:12 -0500:
    'IMO it isn't necessary for a pattern to last for a specific length of time
    in order to be defined as a stable pattern, especially at the intellectual
    level where, being the last to evolve, it is the most volatile. But those
    "sets of ideas" your refer to are precisely what I mean by a stable
    intellectual pattern independent of the approval of others. A review of your
    posts over time will reveal a very stable set of ideas that could be easily
    described as Wim's intellectual pattern, just as a review of my posts would
    show the same. In fact, hasn't this site proven just how difficult it is to
    change anyone's personal, largely unspoken pattern of intellectual values?'

    It IS necessary for a pattern (repetitive experience) to last for SOME time
    in order to be RECOGNIZED as a pattern. This time it not specific. It
    depends on the sensitivity of the one experiencing the pattern.
    We CAN interpret specific, individual 'things' to be patterns of value.
    - The bike which I happen to see in my shed every time I go and get it there
    to go shopping (until it is stolen), can be interpreted as a pattern of
    - The morning mood of my wife, which I experience most mornings as rather
    unpleasant replies if I say too much to her, can too.
    - The idea that I may start a 'message to America' project, which re-appears
    at irregular intervals in my head and which (until very recently) I never
    told anybody about, too.
    Doing so is not consistent with calling patterns of value more volatile when
    they belong to a higher level. The shortest living recognizable 'things'
    typically belong to the inorganic level: some of the elementary particles
    (e.g. the 'pion' with a lifetime of 26 nanoseconds, which is a member of the
    'meson' family of elementary particles of which all other members decay even
    Doing so doesn't bring us much advantages compared to Subject-Object
    Thinking. It is very hard to categorize this type of patterns of value.
    - Is a bike an inorganic pattern of value (being constructed of solid dead
    matter)? Or is it a biological pattern of value (providing a much more
    comfortable way of travelling than walking)? Or is it a social pattern of
    value (possession of -on average- 1,1 bike per head of the population being
    a cultural characteristic of the Dutch)? Or is it an intellectual pattern of
    value (a symbol saying 'I care about the environment', which I emphasize by
    two stickers on my foldable bike saying 'one car less')?
    - Is my wife's morning mood a biological or a social pattern of value?
    (Please tell me!!!)

    Despite Pirsig doing so in 'Lila', I propose to reserve the term 'pattern of
    value' for phenomena that are not linked to specific, individual 'things',
    but that -if we need to relate them to 'things' (because the words we need
    to describe them denote 'things')- have 'things' as elements.
    Words we use can of course often denote BOTH a 'thing' AND a phenomenon with
    other (smaller) things as elements. If we are discussing in the context of a
    MoQ discussion group we should sometimes explicitly state (if only for
    newcomers) that we refer to the last type of phenomenon and presume that
    others do so too, even if they don't do so explicitly. (IF we agree on my
    proposal, that is.)
    So if we speak about a 'glass of water', we refer to the pattern of value
    HOLDING ITS MOLECULES TOGETHER, not about a 'thing' that can quench my
    If we speak about a 'nation', we refer to the pattern of value HOLDING ITS
    CITIZENS TOGETHER (making them feel and behave like 'belonging'), not about
    a 'subject' that can choose to act in a specific way (like
    defending itself against 'biology') and not about an 'object' which we (from
    an 'intellectual' point of view) can change at will.

    Such 'patterns of value', repetitive experiences with 'things' as elements,
    are much easier to categorize. We can ask why these elements form and
    re-form or maintain this repetition. The mechanism explaining that
    repetition is different for each level.

    Back to the question whether an intellectual pattern of value, e.g. a 'set
    of ideas' (that are repeatedly expressed in some medium), requires
    'conscious motivation/justification of actions in a way that is
    acceptable to others', as I wrote.

    I agree that there are intellectual patterns of value whose existence is
    independent of the approval of others. An example is indeed ideas ('things')
    in my head which are never expressed to others and which nevertheless form
    and re-form combinations that -despite small differences over time- form a
    recognizable 'set of ideas' (the pattern).
    Another example is a set of symbols (a text) on a piece of paper
    that -depending on the circumstances of storage- can stay readable and
    understandable for centuries. The interpretation of the text can differ a
    bit over time and between different readers, but the pattern of symbolized
    meanings stays largely the same and exists independently from the readers.
    I already expressed this agreement 29 Jan 2003 23:35:59 +0100 when I wrote:
    'I don't exclude the possibility of sets of ideas that keep popping up in my
    [head] without being consciously associated with social interaction'

    I want to stress first (again) however, that these intellectual patterns of
    value that are independent of the approval of others are relatively
    You wrote 23 Jan 2003 08:52:28 -0500:
    'when you think about all that's going on in the world, 90 percent of it is
    "hidden" within the confines of each individual's brain. Human life is like
    an iceberg. Only a small portion of ideas people have are ever communicated
    to others.'
    I don't know if that 90% is correct (or how to measure it), but even if it
    is, the 10% that IS communicated obviously stands a much better chance of
    being copied (either or not in adapted form) by others and thus becoming a
    pattern of values on a larger scale, involving 'symbols created in the brain
    that stand for patterns of experience' of a group of people. It is these
    larger scale intellectual patterns of value (those in which the 'elements'
    are ideas shared by a relatively large group of people) that can 'offer
    freedom to the next lower level', to social patterns of value, and 'help a
    society find food, detect danger and defeat enemies'. An intellectual
    pattern of value may start with an individual, but it only becomes an
    important (and in a sense 'meaningful') pattern of value, when it is shared
    by a group. They will only reach this status of being shared by a group when
    they are acceptable to others.

    But you are right, intellectual patterns of value that are unacceptable to
    others DO exist and thus must be covered by my description of them to be
    acceptable to you. (-;
    So let's see if intellectual patterns of value that are 'independent of the
    approval of others' really can't be covered by my description that they are
    'being maintained/latched by conscious motivation/justification of actions
    in a way that is acceptable to others'.

    I think there are two reasons why they CAN be covered by that description:
    1) The description doesn't require that every intellectual pattern of value
    has an 'individual' latch on (is separately maintained by) its practical
    value for motivating/justifying actions (against what social patterns of
    value require). The whole point of 'going off on purposes of its own' to the
    extent that they get more sophisticated ('Lila' chapter 12) means that their
    practical value becomes less and less important. It is only their last
    defense when they are threatened.
    The description therefore doesn't require either that every intellectual
    pattern of value is individually accepted by others as valid
    motivation/justification for actions.
    2) The description doesn't state that a pattern of value itself (that which
    'holds ideas/symbols together') should be acceptable to others as
    motivation/justification for actions (when it is threatened and needs its
    'latch'), but only that THE WAY IN WHICH it motivates/justifies actions is

    The description DOES require that an intellectual pattern of value (the way
    in which repetitive experience is generated, its 'maintenance mechanism' or
    'latch') would be unthinkable if -in a less sophisticated phase of its
    development- it would not have a role in motivating/justifying actions.
    A set of ideas in my head which is never expressed to others is maintained
    by my 'internal chattering', which is needed to generate in some situations
    motivations/justifications for my actions. It doesn't require social
    interaction, but it DOES require inner simulation of social interaction.
    This 'hidden part of what's going on in the world' (the insides of our
    brains) could only come into being (historically and when growing) because
    of social interaction and because of its contribution to success in this
    social interaction.
    A text on paper that is stored for centuries without being read only stays
    an intellectual pattern of value as long as the language in which it is
    written is being used. The way in which the text stands for experience of
    people, its system of codifying (in other words: its language), should still
    be acceptable/understandable to at least some people. Otherwise it is just
    decoration (like Arab script is to me).

    You also wrote:
    'even if you and I and Pirsig all agree that conservatism isn't a social
    pattern of value (thereby establishing an intellectual value pattern with
    "others"), David's pattern is still viable and valid as far as he is
    concerned. As soon as you adopt the premise that "others" determine stable
    intellectual patterns, you open yourself up to the "Emperor's New Clothes"

    I hope to have made clear that 'intellectual patterns of value are
    determined by "others"' is not what I meant with 'intellectual patterns of
    value are maintained/latched by conscious motivation/justification of
    actions in a way that is acceptable to others'.

    With friendly greetings,


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