RE: DMB and Me (or, a Typology of the MD), Part Post 'em Depressi on

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sat May 21 2005 - 04:13:51 BST

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    Matt, Mark and all:
    Matt said to Mark (IIIA):
      (A suspicion only furthered by your remark that "[Pirsig] and Lao Tzu had
    arrived at the same place via different routes. So, a person can believe in

    the Dao without having read Lao Tzu, just as a person can believe in
    Quality without having read Pirsig," which seems to create a Realm of Ideas,

    just sitting out there, with some ideas being exactly the same, just called
    by different names by us finite mortals. As per my own version of
    intellectual progress, this is wrong.)

    dmb says:
    This is one of those places where you've interpreted the matter in terms of
    pragamatism and Platonism. You think it looks like Platonism because
    recognizing the similarities between Taoism and the MOQ somehow rests upon
    "a Realm of Ideas just sitting out there". But I think this is a misreading.
    And not because you have a different version of intellectual progress. See,
    the thing is you and Pirsig and Sam are all attacking Modenity. Leaving
    theism aside for the sake of brevity and simplity, you and Pirsig are
    attacking the same enemy for different reasons and from different angles.
    You, obviously, are going at it from a postmodern perspective. But Pirsig's
    aim is to reconcile East and West. Buddhism and Taoism and mysticism not
    only have a place in the MOQ, it is a version of those systems. And if you
    will recall, in LILA Pirsig goes out of his way to assert the provisionality
    and context-dependence of our truths, to reject the correspondence theory of
    truth, scientific objectivity and he rejects Plato's "fixed and eternal
    ideas" way back in ZAMM.

    "Plato is the essential Buddha-seeker who appears again and again in each
    generation, moving onward and upward toward the 'one'. Aristotle is the
    eternal motorcycle mechanic who prefers the 'many'. I myself am pretty much
    Aristotelian in this sense, prefering to find the Buddha in the quality of
    the facts around me, but Phaedrus was clearly a Platonist by temperment and
    when the classes shifted to Plato he was greatly relieved. His Quality and
    Plato's Good were so similar that if it hadn't been for some notes Phaedrus
    left I might have thought they were identical." ZAMM 331-2

    "The difference was that Plato's Good was a fixed and eternal and unmoving
    idea, whereas for the rhetorician it was not an idea at all. The Good was
    not a form of reality. It was reality itself, ever changing, and ultimately
    unkowable in any kind of fixed, rigid way." ZAMM 342

    Likewise, Matt also said to Mark (IIIB):
    So I don't know where this leaves us, Mark. At first blush, you seem to
    think that some of my arguments are about your "style," when they are all
    commonly arrayed against the same set of Enlightenment-style assumptions
    that let's you call _anything_ universal, anything that sets up
    epistemological or metaphysical foundations. And when you want me to engage

    you, you deprive me of some of the weapons I consider fundamental, basically

    claiming they are just part of my "style." I don't think they are.

    dmb replies:
    The funny thing about your style is that it won't allow you to hook up your
    vocabulary with Pirsig's. "Enlightenment-style assumptions", for example,
    surely has some relation to Pirsig's critique of SOM. Why not discuss the
    issue in terms we all have in common here, Pirsig's terms? If the concern is
    about universals and foundations, why not discuss it in terms or Pirsig's
    rejection of "a single exclusive truth"? See what I'm getting at? It seems
    like you want to paint MOQers as Platonists simply for failing to use your
    particular jargon and slogans. But the fact is there are a great many
    critiques of Modernity and there no reason why one should be so rigid about
    the terms with which we discuss it. In fact, I think your unusual dedication
    to that jargon has proven to be quite a disability here. I know you think it
    marks your intellectual progress, but I think its only preventing progress.
    It has a way of preventing you from seeing connections and making
    distinctions at the same time.

    I suppose you've heard all this before and haven't yet been persuaded by it,
    but I felt obligated to present my side of "dmb and me".

    Basically, I think mysticism does not appear on your map and that, as a
    result, you're suffering from a wicked case of the cleveland harbor effect.
    Since it may be contageous, I'll ask you to keep your hands off my stick.

    Thanks to all readers.

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