Re: MD Access to Quality

From: Michael Hamilton (
Date: Thu May 19 2005 - 12:54:07 BST

  • Next message: Mark Steven Heyman: "Re: MD Access to Quality"

    Hello to all of you,

    Platt, having read your response, it seems that we basically agree on
    pragmatism. You emphasised the dangers of James' 'incomplete' pragmatism,
    while I emphasised the good points that were built on and refined by Pirsig.
    I'll replace "gross distortion" with "oversimplification". That's cleared up
    now. Considering what I'm about to say, this example of disagreement arising
    from positive versus negative oversimplification is a good one to bear in

    Mark, thanks for supplying some revealing background on the current
    discussion. I find it significant that Chomsky is not merely a point of
    recent disagreement, he's been there from the very beginning. Considering
    the political views of both of you, this was nothing less than a disaster as
    far as productive debate is concerned: Chomsky has been the subject of
    conflicting positive and negative caricatures by liberals and conservatives
    respectively. Needless to say, all such caricatures are oversimplifications.
    So it seems to me that the continuing antagonism of your discussion is yet
    another victim of the mutual "liberal"/"conservative" prejudice. As this
    prejudice is a pervasive value between two opposing *social* groups, it's no
    surprise that it has clouded your evauluations of each others' ideas
    (intellectual patterns clouded by the social patterns on which they are
    founded). In other words, you immediately focus on the bad quality you
    perceive in each others' writings, and this hi-jacks any potential finding
    of intellectual common ground. If it wasn't for Platt's display of
    impeccable understanding of the MOQ, I would view his posts with similar
    suspicion (there, I've given away my political orientation!)

    Back to pragmatism: the words that are bandied around, not least by Pirsig,
    such as "practicality", are full of ambiguity. My summary of MOQ pragmatism
    was rather vague, too:
    "The MOQ says that the good to which truth is subordinate is intellectual
    and Dynamic usefulness, not social usefulness."

    I need to illustrate this. Nazi ideology placed the Volksgemeinschaft
    ("people's community", i.e. social value) as the highest moral objective.
    Therefore, the practicality to which they subordinated truth was pure social
    value. Hence their discouragement of intellectual development, and instead
    their indoctrination of children with the "correct" (i.e. socially
    conformist) beliefs. This is a clear example of intellectual value (truth)
    being shackled to social value. It is this kind of practicality that the
    social/intellectual division of the MOQ disqualifies from pragmatism.

    The best illustration of what Pirsig means by "Dynamic usefulness" is his
    example of polar co-ordinates versus, erm, the other kind (my memory fails
    me here). Neither one is "true", but they both provide ways of dividing the
    Quality reality. In different situations, these alternative ways of dividing
    Quality have differing levels of usefulness. And the difference between
    these situations will always be the Dynamic Quality circumstances. So,
    intellectual value (truth) should be judged not by social practicality, but
    by Dynamic practicality.

    This is how science works. We call something "true" until Dynamic Quality
    throws up conflicting evidence. Then our intellectual values must change to
    provide a more useful map of the Quality reality. The MOQ's distinction
    between inorganic patterns of value and the intellectual patterns that act
    as a "guide" or "map" of these inorganic patterns, is a great help in
    understanding this.

    I'm a bit pressed for time so that's all I can manage. Thanks to all of you
    for your welcoming attitudes :)


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