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

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Oct 19 2003 - 02:27:56 BST

  • Next message: David Buchanan: "RE: MD Begging the Question, Moral Intuitions, and Answering the Nazi, Part III"

    Matt, Steve and all MOQers:

    Matt said to Steve:
    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
    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.

    dmb says:
    DQ is part of the language game? We should call DQ an assumption? We
    certainly agree on one thing; that doesn't get the effect that Pirsig wants.
    You also refer to DQ (redundantly) as "a new innovation by reality". In
    earlier posts you've described DQ as "a compliment we pay after the fact".
    And your essay seems to suggest that the problem with the Nazis is that they
    reject DQ in favor of static patterns. C'mon, Matt. Admit it. Yes, DQ has
    lots to do with the evolutionary process, but you're trying way too hard to
    make DQ anything other than religious mysticism, because it freaks out your
    atheist ass. :-)

    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
    pragmatist thinks he can clear away and still explain experience just as
    well, if not better.

    dmb says:
    There you go again. Ignoring the idea that DQ is the mystical reality has
    led you to the conclusion that "unmediated" experience only represents
    "unneeded conceptual problems". But an unmediated experience is just a
    descriptive name for a mystical experience. Since Lila sorta begins and ends
    with that scene in the teepee, I think its clear that Pirsig does not share
    the Pragmatists view. Pirsig gets at this kind of experience personally in
    at least two ways: by way of insanity and peyote. Then there is all that
    talk about ZEN and the pricelessness of solitude and empty space. Talking
    about all that kind of stuff is talking about unmediated experience. I think
    Pirsig and Rorty don't just beg questions over each other, each sees the
    other as the disease to be cured. To say Pirsig is a bad pragmatist is
    nearly as weird saying Rorty is a bad mystic. I'm not sure why the
    pragmatist thinks we should dissolve the distinction or otherwise deny such
    a thing, but Pirsig seems to be doing the very opposite and thinks that such
    denials are part of the problem to be solved.

    Matt wrote:
    ...the pragmatist is attempting to become post-metaphysical. This is the
    purely negative point that pragmatism adds to the philosophical
    conversation. Rorty doesn't always claim to be doing positive philosophy.
    For the most part, he leaves that to others.

    dmb says:
    Oh. You've been making a purely negative point. Didn't know that. Thought
    you had a point to make. My mistake. I'm relieved to hear it, actually. I
    was worried that the relentless negativity was due to clinical depression -
    or even worse - that it was brought on by something I said. Just kidding.

    Matt continued:
    When people accuse him of not moving on, of being as enraptured with the
    philosophical problems of Platonic philosophy as the metaphysicians, he
    simply 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."

    dmb says:
    As long as people do Platonic philosophy, we need Rorty? I guess the
    question would be; "Is Pirsig doing Platonic philosophy?" It would propably
    take thousands of words to make a case, but I've become convinced that the
    rejection of mysticism enters the picture again here. I think that Plato has
    been wildly misunderstood by guys like Rorty. Plato seems to be in Rorty's
    sights because he's taken for a foundationalist asserting ahistorical truths
    or whatever, but he was actually talking about the mystical reality. He was
    talking about something beyond history and prior to intellect. Anthony
    McWatt quotes THE HYMS OF THE RG-VEDA in Indian Philosophy...

    "Rta (i.e. Quality) denotes the order of the world. Everything that is
    ordered in the universe has Rta for its principle. It corresponds to the
    universals of Plato. The world of experience is a shadow or reflection of
    the Rta, the permanent reality which remains unchanged in all the welter of
    mutation. The universal is prior to the particular, and so the Vedic seer
    thinks that Rta exists before the maifestation of all phenomena. The
    shifting series of the world are the varying expression of the constant Rta.
    So Rta is called the father of all..."

    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.

    dmb says:
    Seriously? No knockout argument can be delivered? How about this? Genocide
    is evil. Murder is wrong. Coming up with arguments against the Nazis makes
    shooting fish-in-a-barrel look like rocket surgery. The problem is trying to
    grasp how anyone could have thought that Nazism was a good thing, as
    millions certainly did. The question is why did fascism emerge in the first
    place? What's the appeal? What's it all about? I've looked around some, and
    nobody splits those questions open like Pirsig does. His observation that
    the root cause is a conflict between two completely different levels not
    only explains WW2, but the present conflicts as well.

    Matt said:
    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 justification for our moral convictions. We think that
    we just need conviction.

    dmb says:
    Pragmatists think we just need conviction? Hmmm. The Nazis and the
    fundamentalists would probably go along with you on that, but I think
    unjustified convictions are just about exactly what we DON'T need. But
    that's beside my point. What I object to here is the idea that Pirsig's
    explanation of the Nazis rests upon "a claim about the way Reality REALLY
    is". You're confusing claims about the mystical reality with foundationalist
    claims about the world of experience. Pirsig's claims about the Nazis only
    assert that some static values are better and more evolved than others. And
    as I have tried to point out from the top, you repeatedly misunderstand and
    misconstrue the MOQ by confusing DQ with all kinds of static things.

    Matt said:
    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.

    dmb says:
    I'm a Kantian? You've mistaken mysticism for something else again! The
    cleveland harbour effect has surely sunk you by now. I certainly don't mean
    to suggest that there is only one possible interpretation of the MOQ, but
    looking at it with Rorty glasses seems to go way beyond purely negative
    tomato throwing and gumption sucking, it causes you to dismiss the central
    ideas, the heart and soul of the thing. You're not purifying anything here.
    Quite the opposite.

    More later. Thanks,

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