Re: MD Primary Reality

Date: Fri May 13 2005 - 20:37:07 BST

  • Next message: Platt Holden: "MD A Man of Values"

    Hello Anthony--

    In response to my opening remarks of 5/9, you said:

    > This is all fair comment. However, it is pretty clear to me from your
    > of May 9th that you haven't read ZMM, LILA or my PhD thesis properly. I
    > would guess that you've read the first halves of these texts and skimmed
    > read - if at all - their remaining pages. Anyway, in the following are
    > replies before I return to my buggy and the golf course.

    As I don't want to keep you from the fairway, this won't be an extended
    critique of your thesis or the Pirsig books that I read them some time ago
    and are not fresh in my mind. I'll also admit that I didn't "study" these
    texts to pass a course in Pirsigism or to acquire a new lexicon for
    categorizing all experience. My interest was mainly in seeing how
    effectively a philospher with an esthetic basis for reality could explain
    this concept to his public.

    The religious inference came up in the dictionary definition of cults and
    cultist movements. I've observed a uniform aversion to the association of
    MoQ with religion by its followers, even by people like Sam who seems to
    have divided his allegiance between a personal theistic belief system and
    Pirsig's atheistic philosophy.

    > Firstly, as I've stated before, your system of Essentialism has far more
    > religious connotations than the MOQ. The MOQ is an expansion of "rational
    > thought" rather than a religion and the term "cult" only applies to the
    > latter. If the MOQ is a cult - as defined above - then that also makes
    > quantum physics and, in fact, any specialised academic area a cult.

    I see no virtue in excusing the fact that Essentialism encompasses the
    spiritualiy of religious belief. Philosophy is not simply an intellectual
    exercise; the more it can accomodate an individual's belief system, the more
    likely it is that it will provide insight and meaning to his or her life
    experience. My philosophy is not a religion by any standard; however,
    unlike Mr. Pirsig, I do not presume (or insist) that my readers are
    atheists. Instead, I see philosophy as a way of clarifying our beliefs.

    > There is nothing "supernatural" in the MOQ and
    > neither is it formalized in a social organization so to use another of
    > Pirsig's phrases you are talking "claptrap" (at least, in this regard). I
    > think you're getting hung up on what critics wish the MOQ was (probably
    > something like your Essentialism) rather than what it is.

    By "formalized in a social organization", I assume you're referring to
    religious sects. I find it interesting that "supernatural" has fallen into
    contempt in our enlightened era. The term has become a synonym for the
    Unknown -- anything that can't be explained by physical laws. That's
    unfortunate because, by refusing to acknowledge the supernatural, you
    exclude the possibility of a transcendent reality, a primary source, or an
    imminent value. I've read enough of Pirsig to realize that the major appeal
    of Dynamic Quality is the suggestion of its transcendental or "mystical"
    nature. The fact that its author denies this seems contradictory and

    > I think if you read Chapters 17 and 22 of LILA carefully, you will realize
    > that Pirsig is advocating a combination of using free markets (in the
    > realm) with socialism's emphasis on economic intellectual control and
    > (Buddhist) sense of fairness. In other words, he is suggesting that you
    > need to tread a balance between opening the door (economically) to Dynamic
    > Quality and avoiding the worst excesses of degeneracy that most so-called
    > forms of capitalism presently cause i.e. "getting maximum freedom for the
    > emergence of Dynamic Quality while prohibiting degeneracy from destroying
    > the evolutionary gains of the past." (LILA, Chapter 17)

    While Pirsig appears to be advocating a kind of collectivist society, he is
    ambiguous on his support of a particular ideology. Please note that I don't
    criticise some degree of fudging here; after all, it's not a philosopher's
    place to take political sides. But it doesn't prevent his followers from
    doing it for him. (It's part of the cultist fad, I expect.) But, for what
    it's worth, I'll use the RPM quotation Platt has cited before that
    demonstrates at least equal support for the capitalist side:

    "A free market is a Dynamic institution. What people buy and what
     people sell, in other words what people value, can never be contained
     by any intellectual formula. What makes the marketplace work is
     Dynamic Quality. The market is always changing and the direction
     of that change can never be predetermined. The Metaphysics of
     Quality says the free market makes everybody richer by preventing
     static economic patterns from setting in and stagnating economic
     growth. That is the reason the major capitalist economies of the world
     have done so much better since World War II than the major socialist
     economies. It is not that Victorian social economic patterns are more
     moral than socialist intellectual economic patterns. Quite the opposite.
     They are less moral as static patterns go."

    > Ant comments:
    > Maybe not but I think Pirsig would agree that his MOQ system has higher
    > quality than right-wing political ideology. For instance, note the
    > following:
    > "The conservatives who keep trumpeting about the virtues of free
    > are normally just supporting their own self-interest. They are just doing
    > the usual cover-up for the rich in their age-old exploitation of the poor.
    > Some of them seem to sense there is also something mysteriously virtuous
    > a free enterprise system and you can see them struggling to put it into
    > words but they don't have the metaphysical
    > vocabulary for it any more than the socialists do. The Metaphysics of
    > Quality provides the vocabulary." (LILA, Chapter 17)

    Ham said:
    > ...nor does the "mystical" nature of Quality as the empirical reality
    > that the MOQ is "Buddhist oriented".
    Ant comments:
    > Please note the
    > following quotes by Pirsig from my PhD (references apply to the system
    > in its bibliography):
    > "'The Absolute' means the same as 'Dynamic Quality' and the 'nothingness'
    > Buddhism, but it's a poor term because of its connotations. To me it
    > connotes something cold, dead, empty of content and rigid. The term,
    > 'Dynamic Quality,' has opposite connotations. It suggests warmth, life,
    > fullness and flexibility." (Pirsig, 2002h, p.272)
    > '"Unpatterned" might work as well except that "unpatterned" suggests that
    > there is nothing there and all is quiet. There is nothing in the sense of
    > no "thing", that is, "no object", and the Buddhists use nothingness in
    > way, but the term Dynamic is more in keeping within the quotation, "Within
    > nothingness there is a great working", from the Zen master, Katagiri
    > (Pirsig, 1997d)

    I'm not a student of mysticism, but I think the "nothingness" of Buddhism
    has been misinterpreted. In Buddhistic teachings, "specificity" as it
    applies to man and his nature are impermanent and illusory, and the practice
    of "enlightenment" aims at attaining a perspective of the "oneness" of
    reality by eliminating the distraction of "thingness" -- in other words, by
    reducing the existential world to nothingness.

    Ham continued:
    > No philosophy by itself can "increase beauty in the world". At best, it
    > aim at promoting keener esthetic sensibility among its followers. But the
    > appreciation of beauty and the fostering of more congenial
    > personal/political relationships is an attitudinal function on the part of
    > individuals and their dealings with nature and society.

    Ant comments:
    > You seem to be suggesting in the above paragraph that beauty is simply a
    > value judgement. Conversely, what I would suggest is that beauty is
    > something real but that people sometimes have disagreements about where it
    > is manifested and to what degree. Moreover, to be logically consistent
    > couldn't agree with me (as you state you do) that "this essential
    > 'substance' (of beauty and other values) was creating the universe a long
    > time before there were any human beings around to measure them and divide
    > them into subjects and objects (or good and bad)." To use Pirsig's
    > terminology, you're shifting - without explanation - from an SOM
    > to an MOQ one.

    Beauty is a primary human sensation that is, secondarily, intellectualized
    (rationalized) as a value. It is an SOM perspective, there's no getting
    around this fact.
    Ant had stated:
    > I think your assertion here just gets Essentialism off the hook of being a
    > cult system and on to the lower quality hook of being evidence of your
    > insanity. ...
    > If, as you state, Essentialism has attracted no adherents to date (after
    > being publicly accessible on the Internet for at least a year), it
    > seems a folly on your part. As such, possibly you should consider
    > consulting a local psychiatrist for advice? Moreover, unless I wanted to
    > committed, I wouldn't start with the phrase: "Nothing short of a
    > psycho-philosophical revelation will awaken our nihilistic society to the
    > cosmic significance of Freedom" (as you say in the first paragraph of your
    > website).

    Yes, I am disappointed in the lack of response. I needn't remind you of Mr.
    Pirsig's problems with the "insanity" issue, and am surprised you would
    raise it with me. But the issue has two sides, doesn't it? How am I to
    know whether the failure is "folly" on my part or the lack of perspection on
    the part of my readers? Maybe they're just incapable of a
    psycho-philosophical revelation. Anyway, I'm fortunate that I don't depend
    on philosophy as a source of livelihood.

    Ant comments:
    > But the participants on this Forum don't just support the "Quality theory"
    > do they, Ham? There is Matt Kundert and Scott Roberts, for starters.
    > I think you have a spectrum of opinion all the way from them to Platt and
    > myself - and you can see for yourself in the Epilogue of my PhD that I
    > disagree with Pirsig on a number of issues and that Platt has difficulty
    > reconciling himself with the liberal political views underlying much of
    > Pirsig's work. And, then there's also your good self!

    Despite the questions and confusion, I still see them all marching in
    lockstep to the basic premise of an esthetic reality. I'll skip the
    remainder of your message which was specific to your thesis so you can get
    back to the golf course.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond at such length.


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