Re: MF Discussion Topic for December 2003

From: Sam Norton (
Date: Thu Dec 04 2003 - 11:37:29 GMT

  • Next message: David Buchanan: "RE: MF Discussion Topic for December 2003"

    Dear friends,

    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 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."


    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archive -
    MF Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_focus follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Dec 04 2003 - 23:33:03 GMT