RE: MD A Brief Proposal for a 5th Level

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sat Aug 16 2003 - 22:33:45 BST

  • Next message: Ian Glendinning: "RE: MD Pirsig, Falck, and Wolfram"

    Scott and all:

    Scott said:
    I've been toying with a three-level system, where the social and
    intellectual are collapsed into one level, called the semiotic level. The
    general idea is that all social patterns are semiotic (it is the badge that
    signals that this biological organism is a cop and can arrest you according
    to some other signs called laws, etc.), and of course, all normal
    intellectual activity consists of playing language games, each of which has
    to be -- per Wittgenstein -- a social game. So that leaves two things to
    deal with: the fact that higher animals engage in semiotic activity as well,
    and of course, what happens to social/intellectual conflicts.

    dmb says:
    The social and intellectual collapsed into one level? Why? SOM already does
    that and, according to Pirsig, that confusion is one of its biggest flaws.
    To try to put this flaw back in the name of semiotics seems to contradict
    some of Pirsig's most important assertions. From chapter 21...

    "Phaedrus thought the metaphysics of substance fails to illuminate the gulf
    between ourselves and the Victorians because it regards both society AND
    intellect as possessions of biology. ... In a substance metaphysiccs,
    consequently, the distinction between society and intellect is sort of like
    a distinction between what's in the right pocket and what's in the left
    pocket of biological man. In a value metaphysics, on the other hand, society
    and intellect are patterns of value. They're real they're independent. ... A
    value metaphysics makes it possible to see that there's a conflict between
    intellect and society that's just as fierce as the conflict between society
    and biology or the conflict between biology and death. Biology beat death
    billions of years ago. Society beat biology thousands of years ago. But
    intellect and society are still fighting it out, and that is the key to an
    understanding of both the Victorians and the twentieth century. What
    distinguishes the pattern of values called Victorian from the postWWI period
    that followed it is, according to the MOQ, a cataclysmic shift in levels of
    static values; an earthquake of such enormous consequence that we are still
    stunned by it, so stunned that we haven't yet figured out what has happened
    to us. The advent of both democratic and communistic socialism and the
    fascist reaction to them has been the consequence of the earthquake. The
    whole 'Lost Generation' of the 20th century which continues, as lost as
    ever, through generation after generation, is a consequnce of it. The 20th
    century collapse of morals is a result of it. Further consequances are on
    their way."

    From chapter 24:
    "By the end of the 60's the intellectualism of the 20's found itself in an
    impossible trap. If it continued to advocate more freedom from Victorian
    social restraint, all it would get is more hippies, who were really just
    carrying its anti-Victorianism to an extreme. If, on the other hand, it
    advacated constructive social conformity in oppositon to the hippies, all it
    would get was more Victorians, in the form of the reactionary right."

    dmb says:
    Its important to maintain the distinction between social and intellectual
    values to keep the MOQ's structure and coherence in tact. The MOQ hardly
    makes sense without it. And perhaps it is just as important to keep it so
    that we can use this system as an explanatory tool. The MOQ describes a
    conflict of values that explains our history and the current political
    battles. Maybe its because I'm a news junkie and earned my degree in
    history, but I think Pirsig's descriptions of this conflict explain current
    events like nothing else can. This is why I find the suggestions of adding
    or fusing levels to be so very objectionable.


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