Re: MD Intellectual Art (Dynamic Morality)

From: johnny moral (
Date: Thu Apr 03 2003 - 18:26:17 BST

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    Hi Steve, (and Rick please take note below)

    > > We still use "more moral" the same way though, because when you say
    > > something is "more moral" you are presumably asserting that most people
    > > would agree with you about what to choose, at least once you've had a
    > > to explain your understanding of the situation, right?
    >Not at all. When I say something is more moral, I mean it actually is
    >better--as if quality is real. If you can't make this basic assumption, I
    >wonder what value you could possibly find in reading Pirsig. Without it, I
    >don't think we have enough common ground to make discussion of the MOQ

    I found some evidence that Pirsig uses "moral" like I do, what do you think
    of this:

    Lila chapter 26
    "Phaedrus recognized that there's nothing *immoral* in a culture not being
    ready to accept something Dynamic."

    Now, assuming he uses Dynamic in the same way you do, as in, "better", he is
    explicitly saying that better is not automatically moral, or "more moral".
    He is using it in the way I use it, saying that what the culture does is
    moral, what most people do is moral. So, since you were wondering, I
    possibly found some value in reading Pirsig right there.

    I want to clarify something I believe about morality that may bring us
    closer together: I do believe that in thinking about what is the moral
    thing to do, one should think about respected leaders and wise elders more
    than being influenced by polls of what people actually do. Morality was
    invented before polls were possible, and polls aren't good for morality,
    they spread it out and muddy the waters, leaving people with no idea what is
    moral, and having to turn to ethicists for direction. This is the great
    wound Kinsey inflicted, a turning point in our culture's morality. What we
    had previously not talked about, he actually took a (skewed) poll and, with
    the media's help, showed how what we really do is not what our culture says
    we do, and lo and behold, those things started to seem more acceptable and
    more and more people started doing them. What he did was immoral, it was
    immoral to discuss immoral acts in general, or ask people about them,
    because it was understood that immoral behavior snowballs towards morality
    when people start to admit to it. It is why priests don't write books about
    what they hear in the confessional. One of the purposes of shame is to keep
    people from discussing immoral behavior so as to keep it immoral. Private
    behavior should be kept private, not exhibited publicly for thrills.

    Some more thoughts about facts and burden of proof:

    Pirsig, earlier in chapter 26
    "It never occurred to him to think he was in a whole different harbor!
       It was a parable for students of scientific objectivity. Wherever the
    chart disagreed with his observations he rejected the observation and
    followed the chart. Because of what his mind thought it knew it had built
    up a static filter, an immune system, that was shutting out all information
    that did not fit. Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing.
      If this were just an individual phenomenon it would not be so serious.
    But it is a huge cultural phenomenon too and it is very serious. We build
    up whole cultural intellectual patterns based on past "facts" which are
    extremely selective. When a fact comes in that does not fit the pattern we
    don't throw out the pattern. We throw out the fact. A contradictory fact
    has to kep hammering and hammering and hammering, sometimes for centuries,
    before maybe one or two people will see it. And then these one or two have
    to start hammering on others for a long time before they see it too."

    On Facts:
    Notice that Pirsig puts the past facts in quotation marks, but those "facts"
    could be any of our current facts. Any fact could be festooned with
    quotation marks at any time. Pirsig seems to imply that that new fact that
    didn't fit the pattern is right, but that is a matter for the culture to
    decide, perhaps centuries later. The contradictory fact may turn out to be
    the "fact", and the original fact could remain true.

    On Burden of Proof:
    Notice that Pirsig says that a contradictory fact "has to keep hammering",
    and that the one or two people "have to start hammering ON OTHERS for a long
    time". If the burden of proof were on the existing patterns, the culture
    would accept every new fact that came along and throw out the pattern every
    time. That is just not the way it is. If you feel you've got a new fact,
    start hammering. Maybe in a few centuries your "fact" will lose its
    quotation marks, if other people see it too. But to simply say that static
    patterns in general are bad and a new fact deserves to replace the patterns
    because the new fact is "Dynamic" is not hammering, it is just trying to
    confuse and demoralize people so you can sneak the "fact" in through the
    back door before people even see that it has quotation marks around it.
    Hammering means trying to provide a burden of proof. He says "the solution
    is not to condemn the culture as stupid but to look for those factors that
    will make the new information acceptable: the keys."

    On Static Filters:
    Pirsig implies that he escaped from his static filter when he learned the
    "truth" that he was in Cleveland harbor. But he still had a static filter:
    now it was that he was in Cleveland harbor! There is no way to escape from
    static filters, the truth is what we see through static filters that agree
    with everyone else's static filters. Phaedrus's problem was that his static
    filter was wrong, not that he had one. When he replaced it with the common
    culturally correct filter, he saw the truth. Believing is seeing. What we
    believe is true, is what is true. What we believe is our static set of
    beliefs, implanted in us by the culture we are immersed in.

    Pirsig is making complaints here about unfortunate tendencies that we humans
    have been burdened with, and it may appear that he's saying that now, with
    the MoQ (which he thought of as a key), we can all shed our static filters,
    learn to see the more dynamic fact without waiting for centuries, and start
    believing what we see. But the MoQ is not a key. The MoQ won't get people
    who believe they are in Cleveland to think they aren't in Cleveland just
    because you tell them about Lila. The MoQ won't make seeing believing,
    believing will always be seeing. In those paragraphs above, he is not just
    lamenting about our present condition, he is describing our constant
    condition, he is describing reality. Believing IS seeing. Facts HAVE to
    hammer. That won't change.

    Johnny M.

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