Re: MD About Quality.

From: Matt the Enraged Endorphin (
Date: Thu Feb 20 2003 - 00:36:29 GMT

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    Fatal? Um, no. Actually, I didn't reply because most of the time you
    ignore my replies and simply refer to them as low quality. But, in the
    interests of striking up a worthwhile dialogue, I shall take you responses
    seriously, even though you apparently don't repay the courtesy.

    Matt said:
    But if you wanted one example of what I think I may have helpfully pointed
    out to some people, it is that Quality is not an essence. It is an

    Sq: 1. Essences belong in a substance based metaphysics. The MoQ is not a
    substance based metaphysics.

    Great point. Thank God I agreed with it. Oh wait, you really hate all
    that God-talk. Let me rephrase: Thank goodness I agreed with it.

    Matt said:
    The thought following from that is that, if metaphysics is
    the search for essences, then we should stop doing metaphysics because we
    will never find any essences.

    Sq: 2. If is a big word. Back in the world of the MoQ, which, if you will
    forgive me treading dangerously close to the crumbling edge of the obvious,
    is an appropriate concern of mine, and i quote: " exists to provide
    a forum for discussion and study of the Metaphysics of Quality as proposed
    by Robert M Pirsig in his books Lila: An Inquiry into Morals and Zen and
    the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" because that's the name of the forum.

    Maybe this is why I use alot of religious metaphors when refering to some
    adherents and readers of the MoQ. In the negative sense of "religious"
    that conflates it with "dogmatic" and "fundamentalist" (something I don't
    normally indulge in), in the world of the MoQ that Squonk dwells in,
    apparently we are never allowed to disagree with Pirsig.

    But, to state more explicitly where I disagree with Pirsig, I disagree in
    his choice of the word "metaphysics" to describe what he is doing. In the
    sense of metaphysics that I prefer, and that I consider more useful,
    metaphysics is what Pirsig is destroying in his attacks on SOM. What is
    left is more appropriately called "philosophy" in the wide sense that
    Pirsig uses when he describes Lincoln as his favorite philosopher (see his
    "Letter to the Lila Squad"). I have argued quite long about this, and
    quite recently, so I hesitate to go back into it. (See the "Pirsig, the
    MoQ, and SOM" from Oct, particularly Wim's replies. The recent flame up of
    this debate was in the "Nazis and Pragmatism" thread, starting with my 2/11
    7:30 post. I said a few short dogmatic things about not using
    "metaphysics" to describe what Pirsig's up to and Scott replied with his
    list of reasons for wanting to support the continued use of metaphysics.)

    Sq: 3. Static patterns evolve towards DQ. DQ does not evolve. Experience
    composed of static patterns evolves, but DQ is unpatterned.

    That's one interpretation. I would choose not to hypostatize DQ by saying
    that it does not evolve. By combining "Static patterns evolve towards DQ"
    with "DQ does not evolve" you come dangerously close to interpreting DQ
    like a Hegelian Absolute. Hegel had a historico-dialectical system like
    Pirsig's, but he put Absolute Spirit as the end point. This seem like a
    needless invocation of essence to pragmatists. The only purpose I see in
    this is that way we can compare our current practices with some absolute.
    I would interpret DQ as fluid. Static patterns evolve and we call it when
    they evolve "Dynamic Quality."

    Either way, I don't see how your interpretation differs all that much from
    mine and I certainly don't see how it could be fatal.

    Isn't that what Pirsig's doing when he constructs
    SOM and compares the MoQ to it?
    Isn't SOM just the picture Pirsig's drawn
    out of the materials supplied by the books he's read, like Kant and Boas?
    Isn't he just doing literary criticism when he does that?

    Sq: 4. No. There are patterns of thinking that are so abstract they move
    beyond literature. These patterns may be embedded in literature, they may
    appear in metaphor, but the abstractions are not within the purview of
    ordinary culture. Even then, they may be questioned on higher levels - the
    levels Quality appears as Pirsig first saw it. SoM is a construction along
    the way, but its not Pirsig's construction as such; its too deep. Your
    mucking about doesn't go near.

    I'm not sure at all what you point is here, nor how it could be fatal. The
    point of my rhetorical questions was to draw some very plausible
    similarities between what I and everybody else does and what Pirsig does.
    As far as I can see you've simply redescribed Pirsig's answers, not refuted
    mine. You make a hard distinction between literature and philosophy. I do
    not and I don't think Pirsig in his better moments really does either.
    Take his example of Lincoln as a philosopher. The talk about abstractions
    is a little confusing. I'm not sure what you are saying. But I will say
    this, pragmatists usually refrain from excessive abstractions, or at least
    taking these abstractions as somehow more real then our experiences.


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