MD The Eudaimonic MoQ (choosing unit & conclusions)

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Wed Apr 09 2003 - 21:34:14 BST

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    [Part three of]


    The ability of an entity to choose is not unique to the fourth level. At
    each level the response to DQ is made by some specific unit, which can be
    described as the 'individual' unit at that level, whether atom, molecule,
    cell, plant, social unit or whatever. The MoQ describes different levels
    which respond to different types of value at each level; put differently,
    that are regulated by different 'laws'. So the inorganic level is regulated
    by the laws of physics, biological by laws of natural selection etc. And the
    later levels include the former. In MoQish, the different levels are
    dominated by different values - so in the first level the only available
    value is that of inorganic processes, in the second level the values relate
    to biological flourishing, in the third level the values relate to social
    flourishing. At each level there is a marvellous dynamic diversity of
    response to those dominant values. Within each level, the 'choosing unit'
    exercises dynamic freedom according to its position within the evolved
    complex. So, for example, a biological cell develops a new type of cell wall
    which gives it an evolutionary advantage over other cells - this is a DQ
    innovation describable in the values of biology. Similarly a human being - a
    brujo? Moses? - develops a new legal system which allows their society to
    flourish more successfully. The DQ innovation of that new legal system is
    valuable in terms of its ability to foster social flourishing, so although
    it is a human being doing the innovation, the dominant value is social
    value. The question for us is what is the dominant value of the fourth
    level? What are the values within which DQ provokes a particular choosing
    unit to respond? And what is the nature of the choosing unit? (For clearly,
    the choosing unit at each level is an 'individual' of some sort or another).

    So what is this 'choosing unit'? Talk of individuality can be misleading,
    but it centres upon a developed consideration of alternatives, and an
    emotional maturity in discriminating between alternatives. It is an emergent
    property; it is not 'either/or', it is a matter of more or less. Crucially,
    although such an individual may begin within a social structure, and carry
    out actions that could be exhaustively understood in social terms, a person
    who had achieved some level of eudaimonia could NOT be understood merely as
    a part within a whole, or a one amongst the many. The criteria used to
    distinguish such an individual changes - and that is the point. To be a
    fully functioning individual, in the sense that I have been arguing for, is
    actually to be a person in whom eudaimonia has taken root - the ability to
    operate at the fourth level is something to be achieved, through training
    and education and general moral development; it is not something which just
    comes from being a member of the species.

    This choosing unit, an autonomous individual is precisely a 'living
    narrative' - it is not a fixed and stable entity (in the same way that a
    society is an ongoing - living - construction, not wholly static.) As soon
    as something becomes wholly static it is blind to DQ and therefore dead. My
    point is that the autonomous individual - as a living narrative - is open to
    DQ in a way that intellect is not, because the narrative that explicates our
    identity is not a purely intellectual narrative. (To describe who I am,
    talking about my education would be helpful but it would not be sufficient
    on its own) I consider intellect (in the Western sense) to be something of
    an anti-DQ death-force, precisely because it seeks a 'closed' and formal

    I believe that the values of the fourth level - those within which different
    actions can static latch, the arena within which DQ can operate - can best
    be understood as those values which support full human flourishing -
    eudaimonia. Intellectual flourishing is one aspect of that full human
    flourishing, but there are areas of human flourishing - most prominently,
    art, music, poetry, friendship - which are not reducible to either social
    level values or intellectual values. They represent high quality
    achievements (and practices) which are not resolvable to either social
    quality or logical/scientific quality. They represent the best of humanity -
    the highest Quality.

    Most of what we truly value in life is not discerned by our intellect (ie by
    logic and reason divorced from our emotions, as 'intellect' was defined in
    my dictionary quote) but rather by our judgement. Our judgements of value
    are what build up the fourth level; indeed, they are the constituent
    elements of the fourth level. Hence the concern of 'human rights' (which is
    a social pattern of value directed by the fourth level), in order to
    preserve those things that are of Quality. Amnesty International does not
    exist to preserve the possibility of intellectual innovation; it exists to
    save people, because people are valuable, they have quality - and they are
    potentially able to judge Quality for themselves.

    Again, I think this is something that Pirsig himself articulates in ZMM, not
    least when he discovers the Sophists properly, and their teaching that 'man
    is the measure of all things', and Pirsig writes, "Quality! Virtue! Dharma!
    That is what the Sophists were teaching! not ethical relativism. Not
    pristine 'virtue'. But arete. Excellence. Dharma! Before the Church of
    Reason. Before substance. Before form. Before mind and matter. Before
    dialectic itself. Quality had been absolute. Those first teachers of the
    Western world were teaching Quality, and the medium they had chosen was that
    of rhetoric. He has been doing it right all along." Rhetoric - the
    development of the capacity to discern quality - is the pre-eminent
    technique for developing autonomous individuals. It seems fitting for this
    to be the most notable characteristic of the fourth level.


    As I see it at the moment, a 'knock down' objection to my claim would take
    one of the following forms (this isn't meant to preclude other arguments!!):

    1. Pirsig's description of the fourth level as intellect includes
    non-rational and non-scientific understandings; that is, Pirsig's account
    includes emotional maturity as a constituent part; 'intellect' includes the
    human flourishing that I refer to; and therefore my objection is just a
    question of semantics, a 'bickering about words'.

    2. Human flourishing (eudaimonia) is just a high quality static latch within
    the social level; eudaimonic qualities just refer to high quality social
    units; eudaimonic values are simply particular types of social value. The
    intellect is still at a level above all this. The problems listed earlier
    are all solvable.

    3. Human flourishing is an epiphenomena and an illusion, it has no intrinsic
    Quality. Where it is not an illusion it is the direct experience of DQ.

    Needless to say, I don't presently consider these objections to have force,
    but I would welcome comments or fully worked out examples of these
    objections (or others).


    I think that the MoQ would benefit from greater clarity about how to
    characterise the fourth level. As it presently stands, it cannot sustain
    rigorous intellectual scrutiny. This paper is an attempt to reformulate the
    MoQ, around the idea of 'eudaimonia' as the governing value of the fourth
    level, which operates on the 'choosing unit' of the autonomous individual.

    I find this conception to have higher quality than the standard account, and
    to cohere more with the evidence and my own scale of values. I should
    mention that my own scale of values are Christian, and, indeed, I think this
    'eudaimonic MoQ' is compatible with a Christian faith. Indeed, it gives a
    good account of why certain individuals, the saints, would be surrounded by
    haloes - the glow of DQ from those who have been 'born again' into the
    fourth level. I think there are also profound compatibilities between this
    account and the mystical path - but that is the subject for another paper.

    One final comment. Platt Holden has commented that 'eudaimonic MoQ' is not a
    particularly catchy description. I think that's true - but my concern here
    was clear articulation rather than advertising. However, on reflection -
    particularly with regard to the issue of human rights, and their role in
    regulating the border between level three and level four values - I think
    that this proposal could be nicely characterised as recommending 'An
    American MoQ'. For 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' is simply
    our modern way of describing the values of eudaimonia - values which I
    believe we can hold to be self-evident.

    Sam Norton
    April 9, 2003

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