MD The Eudaimonic MoQ (standard account)

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Wed Apr 09 2003 - 21:33:54 BST

  • Next message: Wim Nusselder: "MD The Eudaimonic MoQ (choosing unit & conclusions)"

    Dear Sam,

    I find it easier for reference purposes to have your essay available on-list, so I copy
    it in 3 parts. It may also attract more readers that way and I think it is
    worth their while.

    I will reply to it in due course.

    With friendly greetings,


    A proposal for reconceiving the fourth level


    This paper is an extension and summary of the proposal initially put forward
    in the 'MD Sophocles not Socrates' thread in the MD Discussion forum,
    beginning in October 2002. My central thesis is that the fourth level of the
    Metaphysics of Quality (MoQ) is best described as a 'eudaimonic' level and
    not an 'intellectual' level. This thesis does not take issue with the
    overall framework of the MoQ, that is, an understanding of reality as
    founded on Quality (value) which can be understood as separated into four
    static levels and one dynamic force driving evolutionary development. To
    that end, I begin with what I understand the MoQ to be, which I call the
    'standard account'.


    The Metaphysics of Quality (MoQ) is an intellectual ordering of experience;
    it is a way of organising our knowledge; it is a filing system for the
    contents of our mind.

    It postulates that the fundamental reality is Quality or value. All things
    come from Quality, and it is Quality that draws all things into being from
    Quality. All that exists is a form of Quality, and nothing exists without

    The first distinction that is made in understanding Quality is a distinction
    between Dynamic Quality (DQ) and Static Quality (SQ). DQ cannot be named and
    cannot be described. It is the cutting edge of experience. It is
    pre-intellectual awareness. DQ does not fit into any intellectual system; it
    is the ragged edge at the border of all such systems. DQ is the driving
    force of evolution, the lure which all of existence pursues.

    Sometimes, a DQ driven evolution creates an evolutionary leap. Something new
    comes into existence. For this new thing of value to be maintained in
    existence it must 'static latch'; that is, it must be able to generate a
    particular pattern of value which persists over time, either on a continuous
    basis or a continuously regenerated basis.

    These static latches form the known world. They are the stable forms of

    Static Quality can be named. It can be classified and analysed. The
    principal classification of SQ is a division into four levels. These levels
    are discrete and do not overlap. Moreover, all that we presently know can be
    classified and described according to these four levels, except for DQ
    itself, which, to repeat, remains outside of all realms of classification.

    The four levels are: inorganic, organic, social and intellectual. (For the
    sake of simplicity the inorganic can be taken to include the quantum level,
    although perhaps this level could constitute its own 'zeroth' level).

    The inorganic level refers to atomic and molecular behaviour. Any object can
    be viewed as existing at the inorganic level. For example, a rock is a
    pattern of inorganic value - it's constituents parts value their current
    relationships more than any other alternative (eg disintegration). In the
    original flux, before there was either matter or time, Quality was found to
    lie in a certain structuring of quantum forces. [Here an astro-physicist can
    fill in the gaps].

    The inorganic level is shaped by the laws of physics. These laws are a
    codification of the value choices made by atoms and molecules.

    The organic (or biological) began to develop when a particular molecule made
    a DQ leap into a different pattern of behaviour. 'Biological evolution can
    be seen as a process by which weak Dynamic forces at a subatomic level
    discover stratagems for overcoming huge static inorganic forces at a
    superatomic level.' The DQ innovation and static latch at the organic level
    was the molecule DNA. In practical terms this level can be considered as
    anything which can be described with reference to DNA.

    The organic level is shaped by the law of natural selection. This law is a
    codification of the value choices made by organic patterns of value.

    Uniquely (so far as we know), the human species is able to experience two
    further degrees of static quality.

    The social level is the 'subjective customs of groups of people'. This sense
    of 'social' does not apply to anything non-human. The DQ innovation and
    static latch which enabled the social level to come into being was the
    development of language. It is possible that this static latch was
    supplemented by the further DQ innovation and static latch of ritual, but
    that is a moot point.

    The social level encompasses an enormous variety of human behaviour. It can
    be understood through the values which govern it. The social level is shaped
    by laws, customs, mores and religious practices (eg against murder,
    adultery, theft) which are enforced by soldiers, policemen, parents and
    priests. These laws are what preserve the existence of social patterns of
    value from a degradation into the biological patterns of value on which the
    society depends. The social level is also ordered through the celebrity
    principle, which articulates the governing social values. Celebrities are
    those people who exemplify the values of the society, and who gain social
    rewards (principally wealth, power and fame) as a result.

    The intellectual level is 'the level of symbolic social learning', the 'same
    as mind'. It is the 'collection and manipulation of symbols, created in the
    brain, that stand for patterns of experience'. The DQ innovation and static
    latch which enabled the intellectual level to come into being has not been
    satisfactorily determined.

    The intellectual level is shaped by the notion of 'truth', which stands
    independently of social opinion. There is no link between celebrity and
    truth. The guardians of the intellectual level are, variously, the members
    of the Church of Reason. Intellectual 'laws' (eg logic) are a codification
    of the value choices made by intellectuals.

    A culture is a combination of social and intellectual patterns of value. The
    twentieth century can be understood as a contest between social and
    intellectual patterns of value.


    There are main concerns that I have with the 'standard account' of the MoQ.

    1. The definition of the intellect used by Pirsig is too narrow to function
    as a description of a fourth static level. What has been known to the wise
    for millenia has now been (ironically) confirmed by scientific analysis
    itself; that is, our assessment of intellectual truth cannot be divorced
    from our emotional intelligence and maturity. As Antonio Damasio has
    written, 'It does not seem sensible to leave emotions and feelings out of
    any overall concept of mind'. Consequently any account of a stable fourth
    level has to give an account of the role of emotions - this Pirsig does not

    2. Describing the fourth level as 'intellectual' implies that much of
    specifically human quality is classified as social, which is significantly
    counter-intuitive. This seems either Procrustean or a major platypi
    generator. Those elements of human life which do not fall naturally in the
    field of logic or scientific thinking are deemed to be social level products
    (that is, putting it differently, their quality is primarily assessed in
    social terms). So: a Shakespeare play has primarily social value; such
    intellectual value as it contains can be abstracted away from the dramatic
    context without diminution of Quality. Similarly, psychotherapy can be
    exhaustively analysed in terms of social value (making well-adjusted
    citizens) and intellectual value (fostering the ability to carry out logical
    and scientific reasoning). I think that this is a distortion of human
    Quality, that is, it does not provide a high Quality account of those things
    which we value. (Pirsig makes this point in ZMM; it is one of the
    discrepancies between ZMM and Lila)

    3. Looking at history, we can see many societies where intellectual values
    have been able to flourish, yet we would not consider such societies to
    operate on a higher scale than alternatives. The clearest example is Soviet
    Russia. Putting Sputnik into orbit was clearly a triumph of intellect, yet
    that triumph of intellect occurred in a society where the wider values
    (human rights to the forefront) were systematically denied. If human rights
    are seen as the arena of conflict between the third and fourth levels of the
    MoQ then it is incoherent to make the flourishing of intellectual values the
    definition of a fourth level.

    4. There is an explanatory gap in the standard account - what is the
    'choosing unit' of the fourth level, the equivalent of the cell or the
    social unit? Whatever the determinant values are for the fourth level, there
    must be something on which those values operate, which responds to that
    Quality. Just as DNA responds to the 'law' of evolution, and human beings
    respond to the mores of society, so too there must be something which
    responds to whatever the 'laws' of the fourth level might be. The intellect,
    for reasons related to point 1. cannot perform this function.

    5. It is not clear that 'intellect' does not function at the social level,
    viz 'the manipulation of symbols'. The DQ innovation and static latch which
    enabled the social level to come into being was the development of human
    language, and human language is par excellence an example of symbol
    manipulation. Furthermore, the various elements of human life, most
    particularly the way in which human society is dependent upon the use of
    tools, means that there are clearly intellectual elements involved in all
    stages of human evolution. The fourth level might be distinguished from such
    intellectual activity through a particular process of refinement or
    abstraction - yet this is not a clear change of level. Analagously, the
    flight of an eagle is a long way from the first creation of a cell wall
    through DNA developments - but they are both adequately characterised as
    'biological', ie, governed by DNA.

    To my way of thinking, the essence of the fourth level is the existence of
    an autonomous individual: autonomous because the individual is (for the
    first time) capable of establishing their own laws by which to act (auto
    nomos). Such an individual has freedom of choice and is thereby open to
    dynamic innovation; such an individual is able to develop that freedom
    through the development and application of the virtues: it is the wise
    person that is most free and in touch with Quality, not the intellectual.

    [to be continued]

    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archives:
    Aug '98 - Oct '02 -
    Nov '02 Onward -
    MD Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_discuss follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Apr 09 2003 - 21:41:08 BST