Re: MD NAZIs and Pragmatism

From: Scott R (
Date: Wed Feb 12 2003 - 02:59:50 GMT

  • Next message: Elizaphanian: "Re: MD NAZIs and Pragmatism"

    Matt, Erin, Kevin, etc.,

    You (Matt and Kevin) are trying to put Pirsig's metaphysics into the
    category of metaphysics that Dewey, etc, object to: a system with which one
    can grind out answers to all our questions. But Pirsig's metaphysics doesn't
    do that (and neither, really, have other systems much), and doesn't try to.
    It says that all is Quality, and it is good for us to remember that. It also
    appears to say that, when a conflict arises due to a conflict between
    levels, go for the upper level. But if you think about it, this is not some
    formula with which one can determine one's proper course of action. Rather,
    it is a useful framework for thinking about some (but not all) conflicts.
    The hippie as one who is confusing the spontaneous with the biological is
    one example. Thinking about it in these terms helps us to expand our
    horizons a bit so we don't get caught up in over-simplifications. What it
    does *not* do is "tell us what to do".

    Pirsig (in the introduction to Lila's Child):

    "After reading through these and many other comments, I've come to the
    conclusion that the biggest improvement I could make in the MOQ would be to
    block the notion that the MOQ claims to be a quick fix for every moral
    problem in the universe. I have never seen it that way. The image in my mind
    as I wrote it was of a large football field that gave meaning to the game by
    telling you who was on the 20-yard line but did not decide which team would
    win. That was the point of the two opposing arguments over the death penalty
    described in Lila. That was the point of the equilibrium between static and
    Dynamic Quality. Both are moral arguments. Both can claim the MOQ for
    support. Just as two sides can go before the U.S. Supreme Court and both
    claim constitutionality, so two sides can use the MOQ, but that does not
    mean that either the Constitution or the MOQ is a meaningless set of ideas.
    Our whole judicial system rests on the presumption that more than one set of
    conclusions about the individual cases can be drawn within a given set of
    moral rules. The MOQ makes the same presumption."

    Because Quality and DQ are undefined, the MOQ really can't be used in the
    way you fear (as a combined reality/justice vision). What it is is a "set of
    ideas" on how things, in the most general sense of the term, hang together
    (etc.), just as Rorty's materialism/nominalism is another (and different)
    set of such ideas, and so Rorty is also a metaphysician. (And denying the
    value of appearance/reality distinctions is also a metaphysical position,
    but that's another post.)

    - Scott

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Matt the Enraged Endorphin" <>
    To: <>
    Sent: Tuesday, February 11, 2003 6:47 PM
    Subject: RE: MD NAZIs and Pragmatism

    > Erin,
    > Erin asked:
    > the only question I have for you
    > is why is it okay if Rorty asks us to do
    > both but contradictory if Pirsig suggests both?
    > Matt:
    > Well, it's not that Pirsig suggests both. Rorty asks us to hold the
    > and private spheres apart and that we spend time doing both. Pirsig,
    > however, seems to suggest that by holding reality and justice in a single
    > vision, by conflating the public and the private, by deciding on what the
    > Good is first, that we can then affect real social change.
    > Now, take this passage from ZMM:
    > "My personal feeling is that this is how any further improvement of the
    > world will be done: by individuals making Quality decisions and that's
    > all." (Ch. 29)
    > If one interprets Quality like Platt wants to, as an absolute that we will
    > all agree on, then we first need to do metaphysics to find out what
    > decisions are and then pattern our politics after them. This is, quite
    > obviously, what Pirsig goes on to do in Lila, so there is some back up for
    > this type of reading. However, if one follows my pragmatist reading where
    > we emphasize the ZMM-Pirsig and not the Lila-Pirsig, then one will be more
    > likely to interpret him as simply saying we need, as he says further on,
    > return to individual integrity, self-reliance and old-fashioned gumption."
    > You don't need to do metaphysics to do this.
    > Now, in case anybody thinks I am picking fights where none exists, my
    > evidence of the ambiguities are 1) the transition from ZMM to Lila, from
    > self-reliance and gumption to metaphysics and 2) his continued references
    > to how he disapproves of Phaedrus in ZMM even though Phaedrus, at the end
    > of ZMM, is the persona that wins out over the struggle for the body and
    > then continues on as the central character on Lila. After the above
    > passages on Quality decisions, Pirsig says, "Phaedrus went a different
    > from the idea of individual, personal Quality decisions. I think it was a
    > wrong one ... He [Phaedrus] felt that the solution started with a new
    > philosophy, or he saw it as even broader than that--a new rationality...
    > Reason was no longer to be "value free." Reason was to be subordinate,
    > logically, to Quality...." That the MoQ gives us a new Reason is
    > that many people interpret Pirsig as doing in Lila. That does seem to be
    > what he's trying to do. But that is Phaedrus' project, not the
    > post-metaphysical narrator's. And Phaedrus wins in the end and then we
    > Lila. The intense ambiguity arises when we try and take the parts of ZMM
    > that the narrator espouses and say that those are good, too, along with
    > metaphysics of Lila. There are several ways out from this ambiguity. We
    > can either deflate the importance of what the narrator says and emphasize
    > the Pirsig of Lila (you can do this by saying that the narrator's good
    > parts are suggestions for social level values), or deflate the imporatance
    > of what Phaedrus says and emphasize the Pirsig of ZMM.
    > My suggestion is that we read Pirsig as a pragmatist who thinks that the
    > American seperation of church and state is still a good thing (the Pirsig
    > that comes out strongest in ZMM), not as a metaphysician who thinks that
    > need to do philosophy first (the one that comes out strongest in Lila). I
    > read Pirsig, when he describes Phaedrus in the Intro to the 25th
    > Anniversary Edition as "a mild-mannered hyperintellectual," as poking fun
    > at Phaedrus' (i.e. his own) delving into metaphysics. I take this as an
    > additional ambiguity. If the philosophical Answer to what Truth and Good
    > are is needed before we can get down to affecting change, then I would
    > Phaedrus' project as of the upmost and serious importance. This little
    > poking of fun at Phaedrus says to me that Pirsig thinks the Metaphysics of
    > Quality is a little self-indulgent, an intellectual's pet project,
    > not something that is for everyone. Self-indulgence is the province of
    > private sphere. So, I then feel more justified in thinking that Pirsig
    > reads the MoQ, not as the Truth, but as his personal context for making
    > decisions, his personal route towards self-perfection.
    > Matt
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