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From: Mark Maxwell (
Date: Sun Mar 21 2004 - 21:58:35 GMT

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    From: "Sam Norton" <>
    To: "Moq_Focus@Moq.Org" <>
    Subject: Re: MF March 2004 - Metaphysics and the mystical reality.
    Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2004 20:10:10 -0000

    Hi all,

    The question we have to consider this month is: "Does Pirsig's work help us sort out the
    distinctions between metaphysics and the mystical reality?". DMB has opened it with something of a
    challenge: "I don't expect to see any persuasive cases made for answering the question with a 'no'
    and I doubt if there is anyone left who seriously doubts the mystical nature of Pirsig's
    metaphysics." Being in a curmudgeonly mood I'm going to have a crack at confounding DMB's

    The essence of my objection lies in the following two quotations (helpfully provided by DMB in the
    MD forum):

    Quotation 1:
    "Quality is indivisible, undefinable and unknowable in the sense that there is a knower and known,
    but a metaphysics can be none of these things. A metaphysics must be divisible, definable, and
    knowable, or there isn't any metaphysics. Since a metaphysics is essentially a kind of dialectical
    definition and since Quality is essentially outside definition, this means that a 'MoQ' is
    essentially a contradiction in terms." (Lila chapter 5)

    Quotation 2:
    "The MOQ associates religious mysticism with Dynamic Quality but it would certainly be a mistake to
    think that the MOQ endorses the static beliefs of any particular religious sect. Phaedrus thought
    sectarian religion was a static social fallout of DQ and that while some sects had fallen less than
    others, none of them told the whole truth." (Lila chapter 30)

    My problem can be expressed in the following way. Assume that "the mystical reality" is ultimately
    indefinable. In the first of these quotations Pirsig identifies the indefinable with Quality as
    such, in the second he identifies it with Dynamic Quality.

    When Pirsig talks about Quality and the SQ/DQ division I think he talks sense. When he talks about
    DQ as religious mysticism I think he talks nonsense.

    To bring this out I would say two things.

    The first is a conceptual point. If Static Quality and Dynamic Quality are the subdivisions of
    Quality then Dynamic Quality cannot be the mystical reality, for the mystical reality must be the
    highest term in the metaphysics (else you no longer have One, you have Many).

    The second is more pragmatic. Take the development of a particular person's understanding towards
    higher Quality. Such a person will, inevitably, learn things new to themselves which are not new to
    others. So what is DQ to one person is SQ to another. Religious traditions recognise this by saying
    that God (Quality) is present throughout the development. Pirsig's writing on mysticism seems to
    imply that Quality can only be present with those like the brujo who are at the cutting edge of
    their society's experience. I think this undermines his understanding in all sorts of ways, and lies
    behind the following quotation:

    "Phaedrus saw nothing wrong with this ritualistic religion as long as the rituals are seen as merely
    a static portrayal of Dynamic Quality, a sign-post which allows socially pattern-dominated people to
    see Dynamic Quality. The danger has always been that the rituals, the static patterns, are mistaken
    for what they merely represent and are allowed to destroy the Dynamic Quality they were originally
    intended to preserve."

    To my mind, this quotation encapsulates what is both good and bad in Pirsig's writing. He concedes
    that static patterns can enable the apprehension of Quality; but he also reifies Dynamic Quality as
    what the rituals 'were originally intended to preserve' - which I think is a mistake. The rituals
    are static representations of Quality as such, not Dynamic Quality. So a religious (mystical) path
    can validly include the static patterns that particular religious traditions have accumulated - as
    Pirsig himself concedes elsewhere.

    In other words, I think it is an error to identify DQ with the mystical reality, and I think that
    because Pirsig makes this error he is inconsistent with his own metaphysics. Consequently I think
    that Pirsig's work does NOT help us sort out the distinctions between metaphysics and the mystical

    Hopefully that'll kick MF up again :o)
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