From: Sam Norton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Dec 04 2003 - 11:37:29 GMT
As I proposed the topic, I suppose I'd better say a little something about why. As a number of
people know, I've been troubled by the understanding of 'intellect' within the MoQ for some time. A
fuller explanation of my concerns is available on the moq.org website (article: 'the eudaimonic
moq'), which covers quite a broad area. However, my concerns have developed and clarified over time,
and RMP's letter to Paul Turner rather neatly encapsulated the objection that I would like us to
Focus on, as I shall now explain.
At the end of the eudaimonic paper there is a link to a table, outlining what I see as the 'common
factors' across the different levels. These are:
the machine language interface - ie something which is created at the one level, but which is able
to respond to a higher level of Quality, and therefore generates a new level;
the 'choosing unit', which is the principal (evolved) unit of response to quality within that new
the static latches associated with the new level (ie the accumulation of value);
and the presiding values, ie the principal description of how Quality appears to operate at each
My contention is that the understanding of intellect offered by RMP *cannot* work in the way that is
required for an adequate description of the fourth level.
The key element in my argument here is that 'intellect' as such has no independent power of decision
making (for as a matter of scientific 'fact' (see the writings of Antonio Damasio that I have
frequently cited) it comes from an interaction with our emotions and personal history, as embodied
in the various physionomic responses and interactions between viscera and brain) - and therefore it
cannot act as the 'choosing unit' within the fourth level.
When making this argument, and discussing it in the MD list, several commentators said that the
definition of intellect that I was crediting to RMP was not in fact his intended use. That is, RMP
was employing a 'broad' understanding of intellect, ie it was anything 'thought', and that it
therefore included the emotions etc which are necessary for 'intellect' to be able to decide
anything, and therefore function as a 'choosing unit'. However, that line of defence is not
compatible with RMP's most recent comment that "the greatest meaning can be given to the
intellectual level if it is confined to the skilled manipulation of abstract symbols that have no
corresponding particular experience and which behave according to rules of their own".
To my mind RMP has given no account of WHAT is doing that skilled manipulation; and the intellect,
as commonly understood and described by RMP, CANNOT perform that skilled manipulation.
Hence my thesis for discussion: "Pirsig's conception of the intellect, as expressed most recently in
his letter to Paul Turner of 27 September 2003, is incoherent and unsustainable."
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