RE: MF Discussion Topic for January 2004

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Jan 11 2004 - 22:22:48 GMT

  • Next message: MATTHEW PAUL KUNDERT: "Re: MF Discussion Topic for January 2004"

    Rick, Matt and all moqer focers:

    Does the MOQ's 'sense of value' make sense? Yea, I think it does. The
    problem is the abject ubiquity of this sense. It's everywhereness has a way
    of making it invisible.

    Pirsig said in his SODV paper:
    "The Metaphysics of Quality follows the empirical tradition here in saying
    that the senses are the starting point of reality, but -- all importantly --

    it includes a sense of value. Values are phenomena. To ignore them is to
    misread the world. It says this sense of value, of liking or disliking, is a
    primary sense that is a kind of gatekeeper for everything else an infant

    Matt wrote:
    With a "sense of value" as primary, I take it this means that all other
    senses evolve out of the original historically and in each individual's case
    the five senses are simply five different kinds of a "sense of value."
    ...However, ...Pirsig says, "it includes a sense of value," which is hard to
    interpret any other way than as an _addition_, not as a redescription.

    dmb says:
    As I understand it, Pirsig is comparing the MOQ's empiricism to traditional
    empiricism. It very much follows this tradition, but adds a sixth sense and
    insists that values are knowable through this sense. But this only defines
    the MOQ's brand of empiricism, not the 'sense of value' itself. This sense,
    you may recall, is ubiquitous even beyond the biological senses. Below the
    second level, even particles have preferences. Its hard to imagine how
    morals and science could exists without 'a sense of value' at the third and
    fourth levels too. And its pretty clear that in the end, values are every
    last bit of it.

    Matt wrote:
    "To ignore them is to misread the world." ...If values were the sum total of
    reality, if it were used redescriptively, then it wouldn't be possible to
    ignore them because you are everywhere and always in touch with reality.

    dmb says:
    What i'm saying is that values are the "sum total of reality", but that
    there is no contradiction between that "redescription", if you must, and an
    epistemology that adds a sense of value. I'd guess that the false dilemma
    arises from importing SOM's notion of the self, where the five physical
    senses are treated as the most reliable of scientific instruments. But the
    apparent dilemma disappears when we remember that the MOQ specifically
    rejects this kind of materialism. I like to imagine that the preferences
    exhibited by particles is somehow identical with its very shape and form. I
    mean, I like to think of things like strings, quarks, neutrons, atoms and
    molecules as little manifestations of consciousness. Its not the kind of
    consciousness we humans can easily relate to, but if preferences are
    expressed at the inorganic level, then a sense of value goes all the way
    down. This means that physical reality isn't quite the lifeless matter we
    thought it was and that levels of perception and the forms in reality are
    the same thing. Or as Emerson put it, "Nature is mind precipitated."

    Matt wrote:
    I think Pirsig uses "value" in two ways, as synonymous with Quality, i.e. in
    its redescriptive, ubiquitous sense, and in the more traditional sense of
    being synonymous with morals.

    dmb says:
    He uses it in lots of ways. It replaces "cause" in our physical
    descriptions, it refers to a prime cut of beef and a hot sexy babe, it
    refers to the social codes of morality, to intellectual explanations and
    abstract art. These are only a sketch of the ubiquity of value in the MOQ.
    But again, there is no tension or dilemma because of the way the traditional
    meanings fit in with the bigger picture.

    Matt wrote:
    So, in answer to the topic question, "Does Pirsig adequately support his
    notion that we have a 'sense of value' analogous to the five traditional
    senses?" I think we have to answer in one of two ways: 1) "mu," because we
    do not have a sense of value that is analogous to the other senses because
    all Pirsig means is his redescription of reality.

    Matt continued the thought:
    A corrollary of 1) is that we can still keep the sentiment of "Values are
    phenomena," despite the fact that it clutters up this passage, when values
    are synonymous with morals. I took the entire point of the Quality
    redescription to be that values are as real as rocks.

    dmb says:
    Yea, values are primary, as real as rocks - and rocks ARE values of a
    certain kind. Morals are values of a different kind, etc. The hardness and
    wieght and solidity of physical objects like rocks are taken to be more real
    than morals and other 'subjective' values, but the MOQ says they are not
    only just as real as rocks, but they are also a more evolved form of the
    same "stuff".

    Matt continued:
    or 2) no, because if we have a "sense of value" analogous to our five senses
    then it would beempirically testable as a physical section in our brains
    (like the other five senses) and I severely doubt we find a section in our
    brain that senses morals and can be developed or underdeveloped

    dmb says:
    The "physicalism" of Matt's view is most conspicuous here, but runs
    throughout his case. The complaint seems to be that our 'sense of value'
    can't be located by neurologists or otherwise dectected by scientific
    instruments. But neither can the POTUS. This is just SOM saying its not
    really real. As I've tried to explain, I don't think the 'sense of value' is
    limited to the workings of a biological organ. But its also true that our
    sense of value isn't excluded from the biological level. I mean, the five
    sense are replied upon in most Western epistemologies, but if we imagine
    that these senses were originally all aimed at getting fed and laid - for
    millions of years - Pirsig's description of sex as the central organizing
    force of that level is only reinforced. If its true that value is percieved
    and preferences are expressed at every level of reality, then we have not
    only abandon traditional materialism, we also have a completely different
    picture of the self, a different picture of the "agent" of that perception.

    Pirsig in chapter 11 of Lila:
    "Nothing can have Quality. ...Nothing dominates Quality. If there's
    domination and possession involved, its Quality that dominates and possesses
    Lila. She's created by it. She's a cohesion of changing static patterns of
    this Quality. There isn't any more to her than that. The words Lila uses,
    the thoughts she thinks, the values she holds, are the end product of three
    and a half billion years of the history of the entire world. She's a kind of
    jungle of evolutionary patterns of value. She doesn't know how they all got
    there any more than any jungle knows how it came to be."

    And this is true for each of us. Each one is created in the same way and is
    also a jungle of patterns. Surely each person's sense of value is determined
    by the compositon of their particular jungle. In any case, the MOQ rejects
    the idea of a lonely and subjective ego peering out at a world of substance
    and replaces it with a self that is, in some sense, indentical to the world,
    a feature of the evolving static world. So yea, I think the sense of value
    makes sense, even if we need to go beyond the SODV quote to get at it. Once
    we look at the "sense of value" in the full context of the MOQ I think we
    can see that Pirsig is talking about something so completely pervasive
    throughout reality that it becomes invisible to us. As it says in the Gospel
    of Thomas, "The kingdom of heaven is spead out upon the face of the earth,
    but men do not see it." You know, the lotus flower and the gears of a
    motorcycle equally.

    This implies a kind of "thou art that" Zen mysticism, but that's a post of
    its own. (feel free, anyone.) This one is too long already.

    So, eat your veggies and stay in school.


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