Re: MD Intellectual level - New letter from Pirsig

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Tue Oct 07 2003 - 11:06:51 BST

  • Next message: Wim Nusselder: "Re: MD Intellectual level - New letter from Pirsig"

    Dear Paul,

    You wrote 6 Oct 2003 13:15:56 +0100:
    'Perhaps, by not posting my letter along with his reply, I didn't make
    something clear. This is a reply to a letter in which I specifically
    mentioned that I participated in this discussion group and in which I asked
    questions about our discussions which he tried to answer...'

    That was completely clear to me already from what you wrote 29 Sep 2003
    16:52:03 +0100:
    'I wrote to Robert Pirsig to ask for a clarification on the MOQ definition
    of the intellectual level' and from the fact that Robert's answer referred
    to the discussions in this group.

    I was indeed overstating when I wrote to Robert 'now that you have decided
    to participate in this e-discussion', but he DID ask you to pass his letter
    on to MD:
    'Perhaps you can pass all this along to the Lila Squad'.

    I don't think any rules of this discussion group are broken and certainly
    not by you. My potential criticism of Robert (IF he doesn't read replies,
    his celebrity may -unintended- turn his occasional letters into something
    like decrees) were not meant to reflect on you. It is entirely Robert's
    responsibility to deal responsibly with his celebrity. It is our
    responsibility not to grant his opinions a privileged status in our
    discussion. I didn't feel you did.

    You answered for Robert (and you're very welcome to do so):
    'He is talking about the different general meanings of the word "intellect"
    and how it can cause confusion with regards to the MOQ. He goes on to define
    the MOQ use of "intellect" and "intellectual level" later in the letter.'

    That's precisely what I meant to say: that he was NOT defining the
    intellectual level in THIS paragraph.

    You continue:
    'an intellectual culture exists when "intellectuality" [which he goes on to
    define] plays an important role'

    If 'culture' means 'sum total of social and intellectual patterns of value',
    that's fine with me. It still doesn't define the intellectual level.

    For you Robert's letter was important
    'Because of my assumptions of what "thinking" meant regardless of time and
    place in history, I [like yourself I believe] had decided that the
    intellectual level began with "the first thought". If this is the case, I
    ancient Egyptians participated in the intellectual level. However, since I
    received this reply, I've spent more time looking at historical evidence
    from this period and in doing so I have let go of a lot of preconceptions
    about what it was to be a human prior to the 3rd millennia BC. I am really
    glad I did this.
    I now understand more about what Scott and Bo have been talking about in
    terms of volition being located "outside" of individual human control. E.g.
    It has been convincingly argued by Julian Jaynes that consciousness
    was learned socially when the control of "the gods" began to break down as
    documented in the Iliad and the Vedas.'

    I do not equate the intellectual level with thinking, nor its beginning with
    the first thought. Thinking (like consciousness) can be interpreted in too
    many different ways to be used in a definition of the intellectual level.
    Also I have been pleading for the possibility of emotion and intuition
    having a role in 4th level patterns of value alongside thought and
    I agree that the change (dated by Julian Jaynes and others around the 3rd
    century BC) to internal volition, subject/object-thinking, individual
    consciousness etc. was an important one. I don't think it is the same change
    as the change to collecting and manipulating symbols that should mark the
    start of the intellectual level if you use Robert's definition of it.
    Collecting and manipulating symbols doesn't require internal volition,
    subject/object-thinking and individual consciousness. Robert's definition of
    the intellectual level does NOT contain the term 'conscious'...
    I don't think this change around the 3rd century BC marked the addition of a
    new type of patterns of value. The same type of patterns of value
    (characterized by the 'standing for' relationship) first rested on 'group
    thinking' and after the change on autonomous individuals. The way in which
    they were latched didn't change. 'Copying motivations' stays 'copying
    motivations', whether they are motivations for individual choices or
    motivations attributed to Gods that are supposed to impel one's behaviour.

    Finally you write:
    'you can only really see the boundaries of something from outside of it and
    you cannot get outside of intellect
    with thought.'

    I think you CAN experience the boundaries of the intellectual level from
    within: as 'loss of control' or 'going mad' when trying to cross them. You
    can't describe those boundaries (nor define the intellectual level) while
    you are outside (while you are mad) and your description/definition when you
    have returned within its restrictions is necessarily of limited value. So I
    agree that Robert made a valid point.

    With friendly greetings,


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