Re: MD What is a living being?

From: Paul Turner (
Date: Mon Apr 28 2003 - 14:25:22 BST

  • Next message: Platt Holden: "Re: MD Undeniable Facts"

    Hi Platt and others

    You will be pleased to know this will be my final post
    on this matter! I can sense an irritation developing,
    I'll have one more go at making my point clear and if
    I fail perhaps I can make the point over time from
    different perspectives. However, here is a response to
    Platt and a summing up of what I'm getting at.

    Platt wrote:

    '> In the first sentence Lila is a living human being.
    > Pirsig didn't think it
    > was necessary to state the obvious.'

    It may be obvious that Lila is a living being, but it
    is not obvious what a living being 'is'.

    What do I mean by that? Surely we all know what a
    living being is!! Well, it is obvious that a rock is a
    solid piece of matter until someone comes along and
    tells you that it is actually a stable inorganic
    pattern of Quality.

    You see, I think that, in Lila, Pirsig is sometimes
    guilty of taking concepts which are familiar and need
    no explanation within a subject-object metaphysics and
    transposing them undefined into the MoQ. You can't
    create a metaphysics which completely up-ends the
    metaphysics which has shaped our whole understanding
    of our world including our language and concepts and
    say that anything is 'obvious'. What is 'obvious' is,
    like all things I would argue, relative to your
    world-view or metaphysics.

    So, by and large, Pirsig provides the method of
    'working out' how the SOM derived concepts we have
    shape up in the MoQ. He spends a lot of time on
    'platypi' to do this. Substance, mind, matter,
    causation etc.

    However, the one I am really interested in is 'what is
    it that perceives and adjusts to Dynamic Quality?'
    (because it is the 'perceiving and adjusting to DQ'
    that is central to the theory of evolution upon which
    the levels and framework of morality is based) to
    which the only answer I can find is 'a living being'.

    So I am asking, what is the MoQ definition of a living

    Here are the responses I've had:

    Platt - 'It's the combination of all static patterns
    that can now respond to DQ.'

    Wim - 'Living Beings' are no different from 'inanimate
    things': they are just a way of looking at and naming
    evolving static patterns of value.

    DMB - Think of the cohesion as a forest. Elsewhere in
    the book, Pirsig describes persons as forests of
    static patterns, meaning a collection of various
    static patterns from various levels. That is the MOQ's
    definition of people. When the cohesion that holds a
    living being together is broken, that is death.

    Bo - What Pirsig means by "living -" is "human being",
    who is member of sufficiently advanced societies to
    support intellect..Intellect is now the upper level
    where the outermost pattern (the Quality idea)
    perceives my opinion.'

    I was hoping there was a clear answer in the book but
    I couldn't find one, however the responses have given
    me different interpretations to dwell upon.

    I interpret Platt’s definition of a living being as
    ‘Human Beings, who are a combination of all static
    patterns of Quality and can perceive or adjust to
    Dynamic Quality’

    So the dialogue goes something like this:

    Paul: What can perceive or adjust to DQ?
    Platt: Only human beings
    Paul: What is a ‘human being’?
    Platt: A combination of SPOQ
    Paul: But SPOQ can’t perceive or adjust to DQ by
    Platt: They can when they collectively ‘form’ a human

    I think Wim avoids the definition by saying there is a
    more sophisticated version of the MoQ which doesn’t
    recognise ‘living beings’. To Wim, a 'living being' is
    a SOM derived concept which represents the 'subject'
    in the subject-object division of reality.

    I think DMB sees the ‘living’ part of the ‘being’ as
    arising from the ‘cohesion’ between all levels.
    (Therefore the cohesion creates something other than
    the patterns themselves?) DMB reads ‘the static
    patterns can’t by themselves..’ as the ‘static
    patterns can’t, in isolation..’

    I think that Bo sees that ‘that which can perceive or
    adjust to DQ’ is the uppermost level in the hierarchy.
    Therefore only the intellectual level can perceive or
    adjust to DQ, only human beings participate in the
    intellectual level, so only human beings can perceive
    or adjust to DQ. This has not always been the case,
    the uppermost level changes. The definition of a
    living being, then, changes with evolution.

    So, I can pull them all together into a definition
    something like this:

    ‘In the MoQ, a living being is the attempt to
    integrate the ‘subject’ from SOM into the MoQ as the
    cohesion of static patterns of Quality from all
    current levels that perceives and adjusts to Dynamic
    Quality through static patterns of the uppermost
    level, currently Intellectual Quality’

    Snappy :) Still sounds ‘wrong’, only human beings are
    alive? And what’s so special about a ‘cohesion’?

    My own responses to the question are that (along the
    same lines as Wim) perhaps there is no metaphysical
    need to include the concept of a 'living being' in the
    MoQ. In which case, it is the statement that 'only
    living beings can perceive or adjust to Dynamic
    Quality' that doesn't need to be included. (As Wim
    points out, the tendency to take concepts and objects
    derived from SOM and fudge them into a MoQ is a
    simplified, perhaps transitionary form of the MoQ)
    From this solution it follows that all SPOQ can
    perceive or adjust to DQ by themselves.

    Another response is that, if the 'living being'
    statement has to stay then a 'living being' is the
    combination of both static and Dynamic Quality,
    patterned and unpatterned value.

    Pirsig: 'The static molecule, an enormous, chemically
    'dead' plasticlike molecule called protein, surrounds
    the Dynamic one and prevents attack by forces of
    light, heat and other chemicals that would prey on its
    sensitivity and destroy it. The Dynamic one, called
    DNA, reciprocates by telling the static one what to
    do, replacing the static one when it wears out,
    replacing itself, and changing its own nature to
    overcome adverse conditions. These two kinds of
    molecules, working together, are all there is in some
    viruses which are the simplest forms of life' Ch 11

    Pirsig: ‘Biologically she’s fine, socially she’s
    pretty far down the scale, intellectually she’s
    nowhere. But Dynamically…Ah! That’s the one to watch.
    There’s something ferociously Dynamic going on with
    her’ Ch 13

    I have speculated that the dynamic part of all nature
    is a ‘dynamic intelligence’ (not to be confused with
    the intelligence measured by IQ tests of course or
    with intellectual quality).

    Another response is to say that neither static
    patterns nor 'living beings' can perceive or adjust to
    DQ. DQ simply adjusts static patterns with the most
    potential for change, the weakest patterns, which is
    experienced as a perception of DQ. Maybe weak patterns
    held together by ambiguous preferences are what we may
    choose to call alive.

    Pirsig: 'mechanisms in which a number of options are
    so evenly balanced that a weak Dynamic force can tip
    the balance one way or another' Ch 11

    From the last solution, it does not follow that 'human
    beings' are the only SPOQ that can be adjusted by DQ.
    The Intellectual level may contain the weakest
    patterns but new 'lifeforms' may be evolving from weak
    patterns at the inorganic level at the bottom of the
    ocean, new viruses may be evolving from weak
    biological patterns in Hong Kong?

    Anyway, I don't know which explanation fits best for
    me right now. I do know that there are some of you
    that can't see why I can’t understand what is so
    obvious to you. That's okay, it’s not the first time -
    and as promised, I'll drop the subject now.



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