Re: MD Self-consciousness

From: Scott R (
Date: Wed Oct 29 2003 - 02:02:52 GMT

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    > This excerpt from ZMM may help clarify my understanding of consciousness
    > in the MOQ:
    > "All the time we are aware of millions of things around us...these
    > changing shapes, these burning hills, the sound of the engine, the feel
    > of the throttle, each rock and weed and fence post and piece of debris
    > beside the road...aware of these things but not really conscious of them
    > unless there is something unusual or unless they reflect something we
    > are predisposed to see. We could not possibly be conscious of these
    > things and remember all of them because our mind would be so full of
    > useless details we would be unable to think. From all this AWARENESS we
    > must select, and what we select and call CONSCIOUSNESS is never the same
    > as the awareness because the PROCESS OF SELECTION mutates it. We take a
    > handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and
    > call that handful of sand the world.
    > Once we have the handful of sand, the world of which we are conscious, a
    > PROCESS OF DISCRIMINATION goes to work on it. This is the knife. We
    > divide the sand into parts. This and that. Here and there. Black and
    > white. Now and then. The discrimination is the division of the conscious
    > universe into parts." [ZMM p.82, My Caps]

    A helpful quote, and it points out a variance with my
    terminology. With respect to this quote I have been using 'consciousness'
    like Pirsig uses 'awareness', while what Pirsig refers to as 'consciousness'
    I would put as 'attention' or 'focus'. I use consciousness and awareness

    > In the passage above, I think "awareness" correlates with Quality, the
    > "process of selection" correlates with static patterns emerging from
    > ongoing Dynamic Quality and the "process of discrimination" correlates
    > with intellect.

    Yes, but I disagree with it. I see intellect doing all selection,
    discriminating, and so forth, and awareness as another name for the same
    thing. That is, awareness is the DQ/SQ divide, just as is intellect, while
    Quality is the undivided (and the undivided is not other than the divided,
    but...). One problem is the tendency to associate awareness with sense
    perception, ignoring that acts of intellect are also acts of awareness. And
    then, going the opposite way, forgetting that acts of sense perception are
    also acts of intellect. Thoughts are just as much data as what our senses
    produce. Further, thinking about the act of sensing lets one realize that
    sense perception is also a kind of thinking (Barfield's figuration).

    What Pirsig is doing is notint the relativity of the heaps of sand and
    assumes that intellect is somehow diminished for producing only relativity.
    That is, he is conflating the importance of thinking with the thoughts that
    thinking creates. The thoughts are, indeed, relative, often wrong, and a
    danger when taken too seriously (that is, as absolute Truth, or dogma). But
    that is not true of thinking. Thinking, like awareness, is absolute. the
    products of both are relative.

    But... absolute and relative are contradictory identities.

    > Consciousness is then the sum total of intellectual
    > patterns after they have been "pre-selected," described in terms of an
    > individual or as a level in its entirety.
    > To "see" or experience the "process of selection" directly and not hang
    > on to the results of this process as reality [and thus achieve
    > "awareness"] is what, I think, Buddha taught.

    Well, the Buddha, like Jesus and Socrates, never wrote anything down, so one
    is inevitably second guessing what he "really" taught, other than the Four
    Noble Truths. But what Buddhists teach, at least Mahayana ones, is that form
    is not other than emptiness and emptiness is not other than form. And I
    think Pirsig's centric mysticism misses this.

    - Scott

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