Re: MD Making sense of it (levels)

From: Platt Holden (
Date: Fri Feb 07 2003 - 15:17:27 GMT

  • Next message: Trivik Bhavneni: "Re: MD Making sense of it (levels)"

    Dear Wim (with a friendly dig a Matt at the end)

    Thanks for a most in-depth and reasoned response to my query
    regarding your interpretation of the intellectual level. I can see now that
    we are not so far apart as I first thought. What follows is more in the
    way of nitpicks than any fundamental disagreement.

    > 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 value. -
    > 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 faster). 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 having 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!!!)

    A bike, like all man-made artifacts, is an intellectual pattern of value.
    Only man's artistic productions escape the intellectual level which is
    why the best intellectual artifacts (thoughts frozen as objects in
    inorganic, biological or social form, or in combination) also reflect the
    beauty of higher level art. (The U.S. Declaration of Independence being
    an example.)

    As for your wife's morning moods, it would be extremely rude of me to
    even hazard a guess. :-)

    > 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.)

    Sorry, I'm lost. All parts (elements) are also wholes (things) made up of
    other parts. I can't imagine a thing that isn't also an element of another
    thing. And whether you identify something as a thing or an element,
    they are both phenomena. We may be running into a language barrier

    > 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 thirst. 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.

    I wouldn't want to restrict patterns of values to only that which binds
    parts into wholes, although that's an important type of pattern. But there
    are many other value patterns, like the one that gets you off a hot stove
    in a hurry. Incidentally, those who study the mystery of consciousness
    often refer to the "binding problem," i.e., how the brain manages to
    make "sense" of all the constant sensory inputs. Never occurred to
    them I guess that "values" could be the force that straightens it all out.

    > 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.

    Oh, oh. Whenever I see "mechanism" I see the probing finger of science
    entering the picture. Science searches for mechanisms to explain
    things. Philosophy searches for harmony.

    > 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'

    Good. We agree that intellectual patterns are not necessarily
    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
    > unimportant. 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.

    I consider many of my ideas both "meaningful" and "important" even
    though I have never shared them with anyone, nor am I likely to. Thank
    goodness the bulk of my ideas remain private. :-)

    > 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).

    On this we fully agree. The social level undergirds the intellectual. The
    intellectual level could not exist without society, any more than you and
    I could be here without it.
    > 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"
    > objection.'
    > 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'.

    You have, and I thank you for your time and trouble. I'm glad you are not
    completely in accord with the Rorty and his fellow travelers in the
    "literary culture." :-)


    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archive -
    MD Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_discuss follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Feb 07 2003 - 15:19:59 GMT