Re: MF Discussion Topic for January 2004

From: Valence (
Date: Sun Jan 18 2004 - 19:14:59 GMT

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    Hi all,
    Sorry I've been so quiet in the discussion of the topic that I suggested,
    but thanks for your comments.

    To begin with, Mark... You made some comments that were prefaced on the
    thoughts in your recent essay. I must admit that I am not familiar enough
    with that particular essay to understand everything you were getting at. I
    promise to read it closer in the future. Ultimately, I was unable to
    determine what your answer to the question was... Do you think Pirsig meant
    that there is an additional empirical sense of value? If so, do you think
    he adequately supports that proposition?

    > Couldn't this quote be read as implying that the 'sense of value' is not
    > analogous to the five traditional senses, but 'primary', kind of
    > or abstracted from them?

    Maybe. But he does begin this description of the biological level by
    referencing the five senses (although on a side note, his favored American
    Heritage Dictionary recognizes six; equilibrium being the sixth and then immediately saying
    that it also *includes* a sense of value. To me, that sounds as though he's
    creating an analogy between 'evaluation' and 'sensing', implying that
    evaluating operates like the other five senses do. As if to say, we can
    see, touch, taste, smell, hear and value. I think Matt has come closest
    to identifying my fears about the 'sense of value' when he wrote:

    The first three lines supply heavy weight for interpreting him as
    saying that the sense of value _is_ separate from the five senses. The
    fourth supplies a heavy gloss over the first three, towards Wim's
    interpretation, but I don't think it is a clear cut gloss at all. Pirsig
    says, "it includes a sense of value," which is hard to interpret any other
    way than as an _addition_, not as a redescription. His next line is the
    chopped, "Values are phenomena." This is more ambiguous than the first, but
    if it were to read as a redescription, we would have to read the line as
    "Values are what phenomena are." This, I think, is a more strained
    interpretation than reading it as "Values are phenomena also." If we read
    it this way, that makes values a separate commodity then other things
    bouncing around reality. This would imply
    a sense of value as separate. In addition, if we read the second line
    linearly with the first, with the first providing the gloss for the second,
    the interpretation leans heavily towards reading it as the latter
    (values-as-additional-phenomena), rather than the former
    (values-as-phenomena). The third line then prompts us to gloss backwards to
    the meaning of the second. "To ignore them is to misread the world."
    "Them" refers to "values" in the proceeding line and it steers us to
    interpret that line as values-as-additional-phenomena.

    Right. If the point of the MoQ is to redescribe everything as a species of
    value then Pirsig got it plain backwards. What it should say is: "Phenomena
    are values." More to the point: 'Phenomena' are respectively: tactile
    values, visual values, auditory values, olfactory values, and (umm...)
    flavoritive(?) values.

    What bothers me about this mix-up is that I've occasionally seen this
    (and some others like it) and its arguable implication of an additional
    empirical 'sense of value' used by some to justify their own value judgments
    as being grounded in an 'empirical reality', verifiable and real; as if they
    can see what is good by looking at it the way they can see a coffee table by
    looking at. DMB implies as much when he writes...

    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...
    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 think there is. Once everything is redescribed as a species of value, I'm
    not sure what it could mean to have a sense of value *in addition* to the
    other five. DMB says Pirsig adds a sixth sense and insists that values are
    knowable through it, but if we have already redescribed *everything* as
    value, then value is all that can be knowable through other five senses and
    one is still left to explain what it is this sixth sense is sensing that
    makes it distinct from the others.

    enough for now,
    take care,

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