DMB and Me (or, a Typology of the MD), Part I (A)

From: Matt Kundert (
Date: Wed May 18 2005 - 03:17:30 BST

  • Next message: Matt Kundert: "DMB and Me (or, a Typology of the MD), Part III (B)"

    Hey Mark, David (Anthony, Platt)

    This turned into a very, very long piece that tries to thread a lot of
    pieces together through what looks like a small whole. Or, to put it
    another way, in what should be a very specific reply to Mark, I'm going to
    talk about a lot of general things about Pirsig and the MD.

    People who've read my "Philosophologology," and more especially my two part
    post, "Pirsig Institutionalized," will recognize many of the themes in play.

    Mark said:
    Matt, I don't think your claim is stupid. David might, but it sounds like
    you and he have been battling it out for years, so I'll let you work on it
    for yourselves.

    That's certainly true about DMB and I. DMB thinks I've given up on replying
    to him (which is half true) and thinks that I just complain about being
    criticized. That's no more true than anything I might say or imply about
    DMB's comments (or anyone else's) being nothing more than "that's stupid"
    comments. Clearly, there's (a lot) more to it on both sides. However, when
    I make those kinds of remarks in my re-summations of my interlocuters
    arguments against me, I don't think I say them without any evidence. I
    glean the spin from the rhetorical mood I usually see these comments and
    arguments contextualized in: incredulity. Add in brusqueness-in-reply, and
    the effect isn't exactly pleasing to the person you're talking to, which is
    "I can't take your arguments seriously." The way many people have conversed
    here, I've noticed through time, it is if they are saying, "I can't
    _believe_ you would say something like that!" What is usually explicitly
    left out is, "How stupid!", but its difficult not to start snaking towards
    that next line. Most of the time the person isn't complaining about the
    other person's actual intelligence (_most_ of the time), but after a while
    such incredulity begins to blur the line, not to mention the difference
    between a person and their arguments is already very blurry.

    What I would like to do is describe, in what I think are fairly neutral
    terms, the disagreement between DMB and I and then situate our recent scrape
    in that context. (I say "neutral terms," despite usually being the first
    one to point out that "neutral terms" usually aren't to be found, because I
    think DMB would agree to this characterization. If he doesn't, and he deems
    it an appropriate time to comment and continue our polemical exchanges,
    he'll redescribe what he thinks is going on between us. So, this is from my
    point of view, but I think DMB'll agree.)

    As I've come to understand our exchanges, I think DMB and I have two
    different perceptions of the battle between us. I think DMB sees the fight
    as being between he and I, with DMB holding a "Pirsig stick" (to reduce all
    the various weapons we use down to one) and beating me with it and myself
    holding a "Rorty stick" and trying to beat him with that. The way I see the
    fight, DMB and I are both holding a single Pirsig stick, one on each side,
    and both sides are pointed. In the fight, we try and push the stick into
    the other guys belly. The end of the stick that's sticking into my belly is
    the "Platonist point" and the end of the stick in DMB's is the "pragmatist
    point." (I'm pretty sure DMB would want to redescribe the names of the
    points, but I think the names, currently, are irrelevant to the analogy I'm
    developing, as we'll see in a moment.)

    The kicker of this analogy, and why I think it might be the best way yet to
    describe our disagreements, is that there are actually _two_ different
    fights going on at pretty much all times. The analogy itself is
    two-dimensional, so it only appears that there's _one_ fight going on, just
    under two descriptions. What the surface of the analogy hides, but the full
    description of the analogy leaves implicit, is that DMB and I are also
    fighting over the description of our fight, the perception of what we are
    fighting with. DMB and I's fight is both philosophical, which is another
    way to say "over the soul of Pirsig," _and_ specifically over the correct
    interpretation of the texts. In the first, which is symbolized by our
    "fights," DMB thinks I'm a nihilist (which is why he, in his account of the
    fight, beats me with the "Pirsig stick," because he thinks Pirsig can keep
    nihilism at bay) and I think DMB's a Platonist (which is why, in my account,
    I'm sticking him with the "pragmatist point," because I think pragmatism
    dissolves Platonism). In the second, which is the struggle over perception
    or description, DMB thinks Pirsig's philosophy is a coherent whole (which is
    why he, in his account, is holding the only "Pirsig stick," and beating me
    with it, and I'm holding a "Rorty stick," because DMB, through my espousal
    of Rorty, takes Rorty to be a quintessential nihilist) and I think Pirsig's
    philosophy (basically) two incompatible parts (which is why, in my account,
    I'm poking him with the "pragmatist point," because when I want to beat back
    Platonism I use Pirsig's pragmatist passages, and DMB pokes me with the
    "Platonist point," because when he wants to beat back my nihilism, DMB uses
    Pirsig's Platonist passages).

    One might think, when looking at this description of the battle, that _my_
    perception is more faithful to the battle-on-two-fronts that I just
    described going on because you can see in my perception a struggle over
    Pirsig in addition to sticking each other philosophically, whereas in DMB's
    perception there is no fight over Pirsig, just the philosophical beatings.
    I, and others who may favor my side, certainly might be tempted to think
    this. But that's wrong, I think, because it makes the terms of the fight
    obviously mine. As I noted quickly in passing, DMB would balk at my
    perception's description of the "points" of the Pirsig stick. From DMB's
    point of view, being stuck with the "pragmatist point" of the Pirsig stick
    wouldn't hurt (because DMB's already pragmatist enough) and there is no
    "Platonist point" that he is using to stick me with. For DMB, if this
    generalized reading of the situation is correct, there is no residual
    Platonism in such pieces of Pirsig (that he likes and I don't) like the
    distinction between social and intellectual levels and the description of
    Dynamic Quality as "the ultimate reality." _And_, despite the fact that the
    "DMB's perception" leaves out any mention of a struggle over interpreting
    Pirsig, DMB obviously does acknowledge that we are both fighting over the
    correct interpretation of Pirsig. This is why I think using the full
    description of the two different, conflicting perceptions of an analogized
    fight between DMB and I may be a description of our conflict that DMB and I
    can agree on.


    Express yourself instantly with MSN Messenger! Download today - it's FREE!

    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archives:
    Aug '98 - Oct '02 -
    Nov '02 Onward -
    MD Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_discuss follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed May 18 2005 - 04:33:14 BST