Re: MD Begging the Question, Moral Intuitions, and Answering the Nazi, Part III

Date: Mon Oct 13 2003 - 19:00:51 BST

  • Next message: David MOREY: "Re: MD Begging the Question, Moral Intuitions, and Answering the Nazi, Part II"

    Hey Steve,

    Steve said:
    But can't we also think of DQ as one of those assumptions Pirsig is making? This hypothesized "something out there" is part of what makes the MOQ the best metaphysics I know.

    Sure. That's what I mentioned as what Quine would do if he stumbled upon Pirsig's attempt to force the Nazi to play his game ("I could try by pointing out that "Dynamic Quality" exists as a static pattern, that we can't seperate any of those words from a vocabulary, from the Quality vocabulary"). However, doing this takes the sting out of DQ. If we say that DQ is part of the language game we play, then we simply beg the question over the Nazi. I see this as not what Pirsig is trying to do, and DMB agrees with me when he says that "The MOQ doesn't
    make any sense when its read that way. To equate DQ with ... assumptions or any other static
    thing." Now, I happen to agree with you, that we can and should call DQ an assumption. But that doesn't get the effect that DMB wants and Pirsig, I think, wants.

    Steve said:
    I think you are betraying the materialist assumption that stands within your version of pragmatism. Why does it make sense for rocks and tigers to cause you to believe things but you can't accept DQ? What is intuitive and obvious about rocks, that DQ is lacking?

    Nah, it has nothing to do with a materialist assumption. Remember, pragmatists don't make assumptions about the way the world really is. But this is actually neither here nor there in this case. First, I didn't make a difference between rocks and DQ, it was between rocks and morals. And the difference is between that which is easily agreed on and that which isn't. This is an empirical claim. The Nazis agreed as much as anybody about physics. Morality is where the trouble arose.

    With DQ, "it" does cause us to believe things. I think of DQ as a new innovation by reality. If you look at the four levels of static patterns, each level is progressively divergent in people's beliefs about them, less hard and more squishy, if you will. So, DQ claims will originally be the squishiest claims made, because they are creative, innovative, new, and untested. As static latching occurs, the original DQ claim looks less and less squishy and more and more, well, static.

    Steve said:
    Anyway, if DQ does not make Pirsig's MOQ a better explanatory tool for you, then I guess as a good pragmatist you should reject the MOQ as you have. I still don't see why Pirsig is a bad pragmatist for including DQ which many of us find to be helpful in describing experience.

    I think people are very confused but what I was trying to do in my series of posts. I was attempting a reconstruction of Pirsig's philosophy from his texts. I was doing what, the other day, I called biography, as opposed to philosophy. Most of your questions so far, I think, have made the assumption that I was doing philosophy. DMB and Platt, I think, did the same thing. That wasn't my purpose. I interspliced periodically what the pragmatist thinks about some of the claims I think Pirsig is making, but the purpose of the posts was to get at what I think Pirsig thinks he is doing. I said nothing about my own opinions about DQ, in fact, I have no problem with DQ properly pragmatized. Its not that Pirsig is a bad pragmatist for including DQ, he's a bad pragmatist for making a distinction between mediated experience and unmediated experience. The pragmatist thinks this way of describing experience creates a lot of unneeded conceptual problems, problems that the pragmati
    st thinks he can clear away and still explain experience just as well, if not better.

    Steve said:
    I see Pirsig as a post-pragmatist and as a post-post-metaphysical philosopher. He is post-pragmatist because he accepts the critiques of pragmatism on modern philosophy yet moves on. He is post-post-metaphysical because he sees his metaphysics as an intellectual postulate, and because his intellectual postulate includes the proposition that the MOQ will be replaced by something better.

    My efforts in these last series of posts were to show why I don't think Pirsig has assimilated pragmatism, why he is neither post-pragmatist or post-metaphysical. I see the mantles "post-pragmatist" and "post-post-metaphysical" as being the same thing. The reason is that the pragmatist is attempting to become post-metaphysical. This is the purely negative point that pragmatism adds to the philosophical conversation. After pragmatism clears away the conceptual debris of metaphysics and epistemology, a post-pragmatist philosophy would make positive points, do what Sellars called "seeing how things, in the broadest sense, hang together, in the broadest sense." This isn't a critique of Rorty, however, as many have thought. Rorty doesn't always claim to be doing positive philosophy. For the most part, he leaves that to others. When people accuse him of not moving on, of being as enraptured with the philosophical problems of Platonic philosophy as the metaphysicians, he si
    mply shrugs his shoulders and says, "As long as people do Platonic philosophy, you need me to try and convince them to move on and do what you guys are doing. And I'll keep cheering you on and pointing out to everyone else what wonderful things you guys and gals are doing." Rorty has been one of the most influential debunkers in the latter part of the 20th century, influencing no small amount of intellectuals. That they wish he'd become obsessed about something else is nice on there part, but Rorty has the job he laid out for himself, just as every person should be allowed to lay out their own path.

    Matt said:
    You can see why I'd agree to a "true MoQ" for the sake of argument; even if we tripled the amount of tension in Pirsig's books, there is no way we could call Pirsig a Nazi. The reason for this is that what keeps Pirsig from being a Nazi are the concrete sections of history he does, not the abstract philosophizing, and the abstract philosophizing is where all the tensions appear (so far as I've seen). If Pirsig had _simply_ written a moral hierarchy and dressed it up with a few metaphysical and epistemological arguments, then I don't think there would have been anyway for us to say that the Nazi couldn't use it because there would have been no evidence to say that Pirsig meant it one way and not another.

    Steve said:
    I don't see how this is in any way a critique of Pirsig's MOQ or a refutation of his claim that the Nazi could not justify his actions by the MOQ. I think you're basically saying that Pirsig is wrong because the Nazi could use it as long as he didn't understand it? To me that means he couldn't use it.

    Well, like I said, I never claimed the Nazi could use it if constructed and argued for the way Pirsig does, what you want to call the proper MoQ. But this isn't the issue I think important. The importance of the Nazi is people's desire to see the Nazi _answered_ and not simply outlived or converted. People want to see a knockdown argument delivered to the Nazi. This is what I don't think can be delievered, and I don't think Pirsig thinks there is any non-question begging way to either. What Pirsig does seem to claim is that a proper understanding of reality would show that the Nazi is wrong. As long as we think this claim is made in a vocabulary, it begs the question. What Pirsig wants us to think is that it doesn't matter if it begs the question of not, we've seen the Truth, the Nazi hasn't. Pirsig seems to want to make a claim about the way Reality _really_ is which will philosophically justify our moral convictions. Pragmatists don't think we need philosophical j
    ustification for our moral convictions. We think that we just need conviction.

    I never made any claims about Pirsig being wrong. Any such claims would be question begging. As I laid out, I was explicating Pirsig's position and noting the differences between his position and the pragmatist's.

    Steve said:
    I think it's part of Pirsig's intellectual postulate called the MOQ, that we all play the MOQ game. That's part of what makes it a metaphysics. I don't see the problem. According to the MOQ, the Nazi's reality and experience is Quality, too, yet he is dominated by social patterns of value and so he is likely to see the MOQ as a threat to society.

    Yeah, sure, it is clearly question begging to think that "we all play the MoQ game." That is a perfect way of summarizing what I think Pirsig is claiming. He thinks the Nazi is playing the MoQ game whether he likes it or not, so he loses. But what's the point in saying that the MoQ is the best metaphysics you've seen so far? By its own lights, its the only game in town.

    Again, I think people are misunderstanding what I was up to. My main project was an explication of Pirsig's system and then what kind of consequences it would lead to. Because I think Pirsig to be horribly complicated, I was choosey and highlighted, lifted, and drew attention to all the sections of Pirsig that Kantians like DMB and Platt enjoy. My effort was to show that a Kantian Pirsig does exist. That it is in tension with other points of his philosophy, I have no doubt. But people keep insisting that there only exists one possible interpretation of Pirsig, and I think Pirsig is just too rich a philosopher for that to happen. I think Pirsig is stuck halfway between metaphysics and post-metaphysics. Because he was trained as a philosopher, he kept using some of their tools, like metaphysics. But he also kept pointing the way towards escaping it, hence his pragmatist passages. I don't think this is a knock on his genius, I think all the great geniuses and innovativ
    e thinkers were caught up in the past to a certain extent. You can't be innovative about everything. Like Dewey says, the push forward is muddle. We are not quite sure where we should be until we get there. My efforts in doing _philosophy_ with Pirsig (as opposed to biography) is an attempt to purify his greatest insights of the metaphysical baggage, which is simply Kantian conceptual debris.


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