MD "metaphysics" means..?

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Mar 14 2004 - 00:52:55 GMT

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    Matt. Paul and all MOQers:

    Matt said to Paul: (on 3/11 in the MOQ or Idealism of Pragmatism? thread)
    Yes, Pirsig says he's creating a metaphysics, but what does that mean to
    him? Obviously not what it means to many others. Many of the strongest
    adherents here of Pirsig and his use of the term "metaphysics," so I've
    found, are not using it as many have in the past which causes certain
    conversational difficulties once in a while. So, instead of bickering about
    what "metaphysics" means, I pin it down for my own purposes...

    dmb says:
    Hmmm. "Certain conversational difficulties" have been caused by Pirsig and
    his adherents using the word "metaphysics" differently than "many have in
    the past"? This observation isn't very far from what I've so unsuccessfully
    been trying to tell you. The main difference is that I think the MOQ itself
    is different and its not just a matter of word usage. Also, instead of
    blaming Pirsig and all his readers, I blame you for the "conversational
    difficulties". The problem is not that Pirsig has failed to adopt the
    neo-pragmatist, anti-metaphysical definition of the word, the problem is
    that you think he should. The futility of ever achieving certain knowledge
    of absolute reality, and all that sort of rot, does not apply to the MOQ.
    Pirsig makes no such claims and repeatedly insists that his metaphysics is
    provisional. Let me get more specific. The comment about "conversational
    difficultiies", oddly perhaps, reminded of an exhange between you and Paul
    way back in February...

    About six weeks ago, Matt axed Paul:
    Once you open the door to epistemology, you will recieve an endless barage
    of questions like that. "How do you know it has high value? Are you
    certain? How can you be certain?" ...How do you _know_ value has reality?
    Well, actually, that's the easy question answered by Pirsig. The much more
    difficult question is How do you _know_ value is the primary empirical
    reality? How do you _know_ Quality is all there is? How do you _know_ it
    grounds everything?
    ...I mean, I hope you just drop all of those stupid questions from above. I
    think them quite pointless and my effort in proliferating them is my effort
    in trying to persuade you that carrying the mantle of epistemology
    and/ontology is not worth the trouble.

    Paul replied:
    I know you have arrived at a realisation about the ultimate futility of
    metaphysics but, once it is accepted that all intellectual knowledge is
    provisional and speculative, I think it is still interesting and useful to
    examine and set out a system of beliefs and assumptions to see how it fits
    together and to try it out against your experience. If you would prefer to
    refer to this activity as "philosophy in the broad sense of seeing how
    things in a broad sense kind of hang together on weekends" instead of
    that's OK :-)

    dmb says:
    I agree with Paul. (And he's much nicer about it than I.) I think Pirsig has
    really good answers to all those "stupid" and "pointless" questions. To each
    of the "how do you KNOW, how do you KNOW, how do you KNOW" questions, I
    imagines Pirsig would reply, "I don't KNOW. Its just an idea based on
    experience and lots of other ideas." I'd not only say these questons are
    more trouble than they are worth, I'd go even further. I'd say that we'd all
    be wise to be cautious about people who claim they KNOW anything with
    absolute certainty. So again, this is pretty close to what I've been trying
    to say. Except that you want Pirsig and his adherents to abandon these
    "stupid" and "pointless" questions, while I want you to stop pretending that
    he hasn't already done that. Its not that different from the way you try to
    read Pirsig's "primary empirical reality" as some kind of foundationalism.
    But like I said, a Dynamic foundation makes as much sense as a liquid
    cornerstone. And it is probably Pirsig's mysticism that makes his MOQ so
    completely INCOMPARABLE to any SOM. The neo-pragmatist's anti-metaphysical
    critique makes no sense when applied to the MOQ. I believe this is the
    source those "conversational difficulties". I'd say they were conceptual
    difficulties. I'd also guess that, to you, it's the same thing. In any case,
    I just think it doesn't fit. You know, square peg, round hole and all that.

    And since this forum is dedicated to the discussion of Pirsig's metaphysics,
    I think its only reasonable to allow the participants to use the word
    "metaphysics" as Pirsig does. The implication that Pirsig and his readers
    are the cause of the confusion is quite over-the-top. I actually laughed.
    Matt, dude, you have a set of stones bigger than Rushmore. Where'd you get


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