Re: MD Making sense of it (levels)

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Tue Feb 18 2003 - 22:01:28 GMT

  • Next message: "Re: MD About Quality."

    Dear Platt,

    You wrote 11 Feb 2003 09:58:17 -0500:
    'To determine at what level a certain object, artifact or action belongs I
    ask myself, "What is the highest moral pattern I can reasonably
    attribute to it?" If the answer is biological, this will automatically
    the inorganic since the biological is dependent on inorganic patterns.
    Likewise, if the answer is intellectual, the social, biological and
    inorganic patterns are also included because the intellectual pattern is
    dependent on these lower level patterns. So of course a bike is "also an
    inorganic pattern of value" as are all artifacts I can imagine. But what
    distinguishes it as a bike are the intellectual patterns that designed and
    produced it.'

    If your method of attributing a level to a pattern of value allows
    attributing more than one level to the same pattern of value, then always
    choosing the highest one is a way to solve the ambiguity. That leaves the
    question unanswered HOW you attribute (one or more) levels to patterns of
    value. I suggested 'by the way they are held together when understood as
    wholes holding parts'. You disagreed, but didn't give an alternative.

    So according to you all artifacts are intellectual patterns of value because
    they are designed and produced by intellectual patterns of value (except
    artistic artifacts). I would say that all artifacts 'participate in' or 'are
    elements of' intellectual patterns of value (which doesn't contradict their
    participation on lower level patterns of value).

    You quoted Pirsig 14 Sep 2001 13:41:57 -0400 (and quite a few times
    afterwards) as saying:
    'Intellectuals must find biological behavior, no matter what its ethnic
    connection, and limit or destroy destructive biological patterns with
    complete moral ruthlessness, the way a doctor destroys germs, before those
    biological patterns destroy civilization itself.'
    You applied that to terrorism:
    'those who are terrorists and those countries who support and/or tolerate
    terrorists have the moral standing of germs and like germs must be
    deliberately and ruthlessly annihilated by all means at our disposal.'
    If terrorists are biological patterns of values according to you, how would
    you classify artifacts designed and produced by terrorists, say a shoe-bomb?

    You wrote 24 Nov 2002 20:00:03 -0500:
    'All humans have intellect. To suggest that an individual's religious
    beliefs, political leanings, or sexual practices are the decisive criteria
    in determining intellect is ... "quite preposterous."'
    So one can reasonably attribute to ALL humans intellectual patterns of value
    (and to some even higher artistic/religious yet unpatterned value?!). Are
    you sure the highest level you can attribute to terrorists is biological???
    Isn't it equally preposterous to suggest that an individual's terrorist
    practices are decisive in determining that it belongs at the biological

    You wrote 11 Feb 2003 09:58:17 -0500 again:
    'What artifacts did you have in mind that were built before the first
    intellectual pattern? Recall that Pirsig said that the intellect's
    evolutionary purpose was "to help a society find food, detect danger, and
    defeat enemies." (24) Doesn't this mean that intellectual patterns (language
    and such) were around since the
    beginning of human society? Their "independence" from social patterns and
    becoming an entirely separate level comes much later.'

    I think it is confusing to say that intellectual patterns of value were
    there before the intellectual level was there (as 'an entirely separate
    level'). At the start of chapter 12 of 'Lila', where Pirsig 'defines' the
    levels as discrete and operating simultaneously but almost independently, he
    uses 'levels' and 'systems of static patterns of value' as interchangeable.
    I think society and social patterns of value holding societies together were
    there before intellectual patterns of value were around to help societies to
    (better) find food, detect danger and defeat enemies. Social patterns of
    value already offered freedom from biological want and had non-intellectual
    ways of finding food, detecting danger and defeating enemies. Intellectual
    patterns of value (to the extent that they didn't go off on purposes of
    their own) only helped society to do better in that respect.
    I think human society began with hominids, around 2 million years ago, who
    had only a rudimentary language with which they could express and
    communicate emotions. Their social patterns of value, that gave them an edge
    over anthropoid apes, were patterns of unthinking behavior that were passed
    on between generations because of a stronger inclination towards curiosity
    and mimicry. They could never have phrased the question 'Why are you doing
    that?' to their elders, but from an intellectual point of view that's
    exactly how we can interpret their curious and mimicking behavior. Their
    elders could never have answered that question in their rudimentary
    language, but from our intellectual point of view their behavior (showing
    how to do things and if necessary beating their juniors into line if they
    deviated) expressed the answer: 'because it has always worked and will work
    best now'.
    Intellectual patterns of value were first created by homo sapiens, between
    50.000 and 100.000 years ago. Rituals (elaborate patterns of essentially
    unthinking behavior preserving the best know-how available to a society) may
    have been 'the connecting link between the social and intellectual levels of
    evolution' (according to Pirsig in chapter 30 of 'Lila'). They may have
    enabled 'the oldest idea known to man', that 'the physical order of the
    universe is also the moral order of the universe', the first proper answer
    to 'Why are you doing that?': 'Because that's how the universe works, that
    is the order we should uphold.'
    Another possible connecting link between the social and intellectual levels
    of evolution (according to me) may have been symbolic language, but that is
    another subject.
    Anyway, among those patterns of unthinking behavior that were passed on
    between generations of hominids long before intellectual patterns of value
    were around were ... the making of artifacts. At first only sharpened sticks
    and stones to beat of predators with. They were neither designed nor
    consciously discovered. They were simply used because they worked. (And
    others that didn't work led to the extinction of the group that used them,
    so the making of others wasn't passed on to next generations.) But they WERE
    Even today, although most artifacts are consciously designed or discovered
    the first time, they are often (re)produced by unthinking routine behavior,
    by social patterns of value.

    I may come back later on your last two remarks:
    'Unless something is meaningful and important to you personally and
    privately first it can never have meaning or importance when "shared"
    with others.'
    'As for your "unequal probability of certain quantum behaviors" and such,
    I confess your explanation is way over my head.'

    With friendly greetings,


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