Re: MD Intellectual level - New letter from Pirsig

Date: Mon Oct 06 2003 - 16:40:38 BST

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    Hello and welcome back Wim.
    (I'll have to cut your message as make it within limits, but you know
    what you have written)

    5 Oct. you wrote: (to Pirsig)
    > Your next example, that's supposed to clear up the confusion of
    > 'intellect' and 'intellectual' likewise doesn't say anything about the
    > intellectual level either: 'Thus, though it may be assumed that the
    > Egyptians ........................snip

    You point to the same intellect-before-the intellectual level quandary
    that I raise.

    > I don't really see how clarity about the intellectual level is gained
    > by your next statement either: 'Just as every biological pattern is
    > also inorganic, but not all inorganic patterns are biological; and
    > just as every social level is also biological ...........snip

    Wim, here you misunderstand. The inorganic level is the base for life,
    but not all elements are present in organisms . Even if they were the
    discreteness is clear. Thus inorganic value is found under the
    biological and social layers at the intellectual level.

    > '"Intellect" can then be defined very loosely as the level of
    > independently manipulable signs.' is less clear (because it is indeed
    > only a 'loose' definition) than your earlier definition from 'Lila's
    > Child': 'the intellectual level is .....snip

    That was a deep one! But I agree, symbol-manipulation is not
    intellect. I would have liked it to say: "Intellect is the value of seeing
    symbol-manipulation as different from the rest of experience" I.e: the
    subject/object divide.

    > The question when the intellectual level started should be answered
    > using one's definition of the intellectual level. Your suggestion that
    > the intellectual level started with some Greek philosopher (and
    > contemporaries in Oriental cultures) .............snip

    As I don't agree with the "symbol-manipulation" definition I welcomed
    the reference to Greek philosophers. According to ZMM this is the
    emergence of the SOM and matches my S/O-intellect perfectly. As
    follows from my "solution" the society-intellect transition took place
    earlier, but the S/O divide was its inevitable outcome.

    > You wrote to Paul:
    > 'If one extends the term intellectual to include primitive cultures
    > just because they are thinking about things, why stop there?' But you
    > didn't define the 'intellectual level' with 'thinking about thinking',

    Which shows that Pirsig has been thinking.

    > but with collecting and manipulating symbols. We shouldn't include a
    > whole culture (i.e. social and intellectual patterns of value) in the
    > intellectual level anyway.

    ...and that the reduction to "symbol-manipulation" isn't enough.

    > If a culture of a group of people is the sum total of the social and
    > the intellectual patterns of value in which they participate, then the
    > intellectual level starts with the first culture that doesn't consist
    > solely of social patterns of value.....snip

    Intellectual value is no built-in part of a culture. Maybe necessary in
    your view though because you see social behavior as mindless.

    > Why don't you stick with what you wrote in chapter 30 of 'Lila'?
    > 'He could only guess how far back this ritual-cosmos relationship
    > went, maybe fifty or one hundred thousand years. ..snip

    Just because Pirsig says that the rituals may be the social-intellect
    connection it does not mean that intellectual reality is synonymous
    with rituals.

    > snip ...............................That might put it back 50.000 -
    > 100.000 years, but there WOULD be a good a reason to stop there. On
    > the basis of your definition of the intellectual level I don't see a
    > good reason to stop at the ancient Greek, however.
    The intellectual level before Homo Sapiens? Well, we have always
    disagreed here. Homerian time is the period when many historians
    and/or philosophers postulate some great shift took place, in the MOQ
    it spells the advent of the intellectual level.

    > You last statement is both confusing (invoking all the confusions
    > about 'intellect', 'intellectual level', 'intellectual' as noun,
    > 'intellectual' as adverb etc. that you sought to clarify) and
    > paradoxical: 'for anyone who really wants to know what intellect is I
    > think definitions are not the place to start. Since definitions are a
    > part of the intellectual level the only person who will understand a
    > definition of intellect is a person who already is intellectual and
    > thus has the answer before he ever asks.'

    I agree that the "symbol-manipulation" definition leads nowhere IMO
    because it sounds too much like SOM's mind: The eye that can't see

    > In a sense you DO have to
    > start with a definition of the intellectual level to understand what
    > it is.


    > Only when you understand the definition you will know that you
    > are an intellectual-that-also-happens-to-be-intellectual (able to
    > manipulate symbols at this level of abstraction). Then you will also
    > recognize that definition as defining part of your 'self', your
    > participation in intellectual patterns of value.

    ...maybe agreement here too ...when I understand it :-)

    > In another sense
    > knowing yourself as intellectual and understanding the definition are
    > two sides of the same coin. Whichever of the two you start with, you
    > are doing essentially the same thing. The answer is in the asking, but
    > not before. An answer is unthinkable without a preceding question.

    At times I wish we would heed the point about a child understanding
    the Quality Idea and forget about these out-of-this-world definitions of


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