RE: MD Does she or not?

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Aug 03 2003 - 19:47:34 BST

  • Next message: Steve Peterson: "Re: MD Lila's Child"

    Steve and all MOQers:

    She doesn't have intellectual quality. Pirsig said that Quality has Lila.

    dmb said:
    Oh. Right. I don't know that anyone has explicitly said otherwise. We've
    just been following the phrases from the quotes. But I think we all agree
    that quality is not a possession owned by the individual. Its the stuff of
    which we are composed, so to speak. But even there we have to ask, "what
    kind?". What is Lila made of? What's she all about? (And even though our
    exchange has been quite heated, I'm thrilled this we've finally gotten to
    this central question. It allows us to discuss some of the literary elements
    for a change, which is about half the book. I wish there were more posters
    on the topic.)

    I agree that she is not after intellectual or social quality. She is
    dominated by biological value. There is no disagreement on dominance or what
    type of person she is.

    dmb says:
    Really? Well, that's all I was trying to say.

    I don't see why I need to restate the arguments that others have already

    dmb says:
    Yea. I get that alot. Its the kind of brush off I see far too often. Why
    restate it? Maybe because they are not your arguments. Maybe because they
    did not convince in the first place. Or maybe they were already addressed
    and defeated. Maybe because I have to read dozens of posts every weekend and
    shouldn't have to hunt for the other guy's case. Maybe becasue I want you to
    show me, in your own words, the line of reasoning. Maybe from now on I will
    just assume that such brusher-offers just are not capable of making their
    case. Do you subscribe to the notion that those who can't explain an idea
    don't really understand that idea? I do. In fact, I think its interesting to
    ask questions just to test posters. It has a way of weeding out the B.S. Or
    at least it makes people really work their way through it in a methodical
    way that can then be reproduced here in writing. That's what its all about,

    Steve said:
    I just don't equate types of patterns of value with types of people. Can you
    see a difference?

    dmb says:
    No. I don't equate the two. You've made this point many times. Let's go
    there. I wonder what you mean, exactly. Could you explain it? Tell me why
    these differences are so important. (Forgive me, but I fully expect another
    brush off on this one.)

    Steve said:
    Do you think Lila can be convinced of something with a rational argument?
    Not at the point when she thought the doll was her baby, course. But before
    that, could she understand reasoning like 'to make French fries you'll have
    to buy some potatoes'? Could she see the value in that statement over the
    statement, 'to make French fries you'll have to read Kant'? Or the value of
    2+2=4 over 2+2=5? If so, then she responds to intellectual quality as all
    humans do. To me it's as simple as that. Simply thinking. Sure, it takes
    much more than that to earn societies label of being "an intellectual," but
    I'm talking about a species of value, not a social distinction.

    dmb says:
    This is very easy to understand. But it seems to me that you're only making
    a case that Lila can preform some basic mental operations, that she has some
    cognitive ability. That's fine. But I don't think this shows that she is
    capable of responding to intellectual quality. The pyramid designers were
    very intelligent and had to preform all sorts of sophisticated mental
    operations, if you will, but the whole point of that task was religious.
    Equating intelligence or cognitive ability with intellectual values is the
    mistake. That's why "simply thinking" is such a disasterous definition.
    (There is another example of a brush-off. I've been asking those who use
    that definition to provide the context by way of explanation. So far I got
    But more to the point. In spite of Lila's ability to slice potatoes and cut
    her own meat, I think her behavior speaks volumes about her lack of ability
    to percieve intellectual values. Consider just this one point, will you? She
    is sailing down the Hudson with one of the most fascinating and famous
    philosophers alive today. And how does she see things? She thinks he's a sad
    sack! Can you imagine? Its hard to imagine how anyone could be more
    oblivious. Intellectually speaking, I would describe Lila as a bimbo without
    a clue. And who hasn't met people like that?

    Steve said:
    No animal will experience the low quality of an illogical statement, but any
    human adult will. What kind of quality could I be talking about in
    referring to an illogical statement or a rational one if not intellectual

    dmb says:
    Right. Logic and rationality are in the right neighborhood. But I'd again
    point out that cognitive skills are not quite the same thing as values. I
    mean, it seems to me that they are only a necessary, but insufficient
    condition. You gotta have it, but its not enough. Hitler, for example,
    displayed anti-intellectual values in the extreme, but this is not the same
    as saying he was stupid or whatever.

    Steve said:
    If Lila can value reason and give reasoned arguments to others then she
    participates in intellectual patterns of value to some degree as I
    understand the intellectual level. If you have a better definition, please
    tell me.

    dmb says:
    Well, there are rational arguments by well informed thinkers and then there
    are childish and defensive rationalizations. I see Lila doing the latter,
    but not the former. I see this kind of thing all the time. There has been a
    debate about gay marriage in the media in recent days. I see lots of very
    clever cases being made by perfectly intelligent people. But some of them
    are asserting social level values (homosexuality is a sin) over and above
    intellectual values (equality of rights, equality before the law, privacy
    rights). A Yale philosophy graduate with the largest vocabulary in the world
    and a 180 IQ could make the case that its a sin and it would still just be
    social values that are being asserted.

    Erin asked:
    How do you determine whether somebody has achieved the intellectual level?

    dmb said:
    By their words, deeds, desires, professed beliefs and such. Its not easy...
    like trying to determine what motivates a person, or what they really value
    most. In fact, its exactly like that. ...

    Steve says:
    Can you take this further so I may know what you think an intellectual
    pattern of value is? Is there a reason why you think it is important for the
    Lila character to not participate in intellectual patterns of value at all?

    dmb says:
    Pirsig gives examples like rights and freedoms, democracy and such and says
    that these are essentially aimd at protecting the freedom of intellect
    itself, freedom of the evolutionary process itself. In a more nuts-n-bolts
    sort of way, as you mentioned, logic and rationality and such are also part
    of the 4th level. All the sciences and academic fields, obviously, would
    have to be included. I suppose it would be hard to overstate the value of
    curiosity in all this. Even the cold spockish things, like empirical
    evidence, logic and rationality, if you look at the purpose behind them, its
    easy to see that they're aimed at providing a certain kind of honesty,
    clarity and openmindedness. Then the morality and beauty of it starts to
    come into view. Pirsig sites lots of examples, but we need not stop there. I
    think its perfectly all right to apply the basic idea in the examination of
    anything and everything. Whew! And that only begins to answer the first
    question. Now the second one...

    The reason I keep saying its important to see what's going on with this
    character have already been stated repeatedly. She is the title character.
    pirsig presents the question about her as a central one. Her function in the
    story demonstrates in a close up fashion what Pirsig is saying about the
    larger structure of his evolutionary morality. It suppose nobody will
    dispute the suggestion that Lila the fictional character is key to Lila the
    book. But let me add some detail because all this has already been said and,
    amazing as it is to me, it has not convinced you. ... Think of what Pirsig
    says about the hippies. There was something Dynamic going on for a while and
    in some places, but it degenerated into the biological, sex and drugs and
    all that. Lila is no hippie, but we can see in her an up close example of a
    biologically dominated person. Its a more intimate look at what would
    otherwise be a sociological observation. Or think of the idea that social
    level values are supposed to guide and control biological values. You can't
    talk crime away with the intellect. It can't speak directly to the
    biological. The social level has to do that. How does he put it? Cops and
    armies have always controled vice criminals at the point of a gun, or
    something like that? Anyway, its no accident that Rigel and Lila go off
    together at the end of the book. He takes her under his wing. (It works in
    the real world too. High crime areas can be improved by the presence of a
    church in the neighborhood.) That's what I mean when I insist that these
    characters, their words and deeds, are consistent with the larger structure
    of the MOQ. They serve to demonstrate the structure of the MOQ in a close up
    and personal way. And this is so we might actually be able to recognize the
    values that are presented to us in real life. And if Pirsig is right, our
    ability to make moral choices depends on that ability.

    Thanks for your time,

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