MF [Fwd: BOUNCE Approval required:]

From: Mark Maxwell (
Date: Mon Mar 22 2004 - 19:48:30 GMT

  • Next message: Valence: "MF Re: March 2004 - Metaphysics and the mystical reality."

    From: David Buchanan <>
    To: "''" <>
    Subject: March 2004 - Metaphysics and the mystical reality.
    Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2004 19:43:00 -0700

    Thanks for getting the topic off the ground, Sam. I was beginning to think
    there was some kind of secret strike or something.

    Sam said:
    Being in a curmudgeonly mood I'm going to have a crack at confounding DMB's
    expectations. The essence of my objection lies in the following two quotes:

    "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)

    "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)

    Sam explained:
    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.

    dmb replies:
     Yes, the mystical reality is beyond definition, we agree about that, but I
    think you're making a mountain out of an ant hill by objecting to the use of
    two different terms for that mystical reality. The first quote is from early
    in the book, when Pirsig is addressing the mystic's objection to any kind of
    metaphysics. He draws a distinction that is wholly relevant to this month's
    question, which is why I included it in the opener. He's admiting right up
    front that any metaphysical division violates the unity of the mystical ONE,
    but also draws a sharp distinction between the two. Pirsig's first division
    is between that which is definable and that which is not. In MOQ terms, he's
    making a between (metaphysics) static intellectual quality, which is all
    about definitions and (the mystical reality) Dynamic Quality, which is
    beyond all definitions. I mean, the idea is certainly there, even if the
    term is not. The second quote comes 25 chapters later, where the DQ/sq split
    has already been fully developed and explained so that he can freely employ
    the terms. I really don't think there's any more to it than that. And in
    making this split he's saying what all mystics have said...

    "They share a common belief that the fundamental nature of reality is
    outside language; that language splits things up into parts while the true
    nature of reality is undivided. Zen, which is a mystic religion, argues that
    the illusion of dividedness can be overcome by meditation. The Native
    American Church argues that peyote can force-feed a mystic understanding
    upon those who were normally resistant to it,..." LILA (ch 5)

    Sam continued:
    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).

    dmb tries to reply:
    Nonsense? Must be the highest term? Hmmm. Not certain I understand you here.
    Yes, DQ and sq are metaphysical subdivisions, but again he's not yet arrived
    at the split when describing Quality as beyond definition. In fact, he
    doesn't get to it until chapter the middle of chapter nine, where, just
    prior to the introduction of this first division, he talking about cuts of
    meat in the butcher shop in terms of Quality.

    "In his book Phaedrus had tried to save Quality from metaphysics by refusing
    to define it, ...He had demonstrated that even though you can't define
    Quality you still must agree it exists, since a world from which value is
    subtracted becomes unrecognizable.
    But he realized sooner or later he was going to have to stop carping about
    how bad SOM was and say something positive for a change. Sooner or later he
    was going to have to come up with a way of dividing Quality that was better
    than subjects and objects. He would have to do that or get out of
    metaphysics entirely. Its alright to condemn somebody else's bad metaphysics
    but you can't replace it with a metaphysics that consists of just one word.
    By even using the term 'Quality' he had already violated the nothingness of
    mystic reality. The use of the term 'Quality' sets up a pile of questions of
    its own that have nothing to do with mystic reality and walks away leaving
    them unanswered. Even the name, 'Quality' was a kind of definition since it
    tended to associate mystic reality with certain fixed concepts and limited
    understandings. Already he was in trouble. Was the mystic reality of the
    universe really more immanent in the higher-priced cuts of meat in the
    butcher shop? ...Phaedrus had no answers."
    dmb adds:
    Again, Pirsig only begins to employ the term DQ in chapter nine and I think
    this explains the misconception under which you are laboring. But there is
    another way to get at it too. Think of it this way. If we say that Quality
    refers to the mystical reality. And if Quality includes both sq and DQ, then
    we are saying that both sq and DQ is the the mystical reality. This would be
    hopelessly confusing. It would mean a major contradiction because sq is
    defined as that which is definable and indefinable at the same time. It
    would erase Pirsig's first metaphysical distinction and otherwise make a
    mess of things.

    Sam continued:
    The second is more pragmatic. ...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:

    " long as the rituals are seen as merely a static portrayal of DQ, a
    sign-post which allows socially pattern-dominated people to see DQ. The
    danger has always been that the rituals, the static patterns, are... allowed
    to destroy the Dynamic Quality they were originally intended to preserve."

    dmb says:
    Quality is only for those at the cutting edge? Not at all. Its for
    meditators, motorcycle mechanics, peyote eaters and everyone else. Can't
    imagine why this implication comes from Pirsig. I think he's only saying
    that those at the cutting edge of society are the ones who bring about
    social change just as changes in science come from those with cutting edge
    ideas. Its just part of his larger case about DQ driving evolution at all
    levels. Beyond the unfounded implicaton, I wonder what understandings of
    Pirsig's are undermined, as you see it? I also wonder if you could explain
    how the "static portrayal of DQ" quote is related to the Brujo story. I
    don't follow that at all.

    Sam continued:
    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.

    dmb replies:
    He reifies DQ??? OK, now you're just being far too "inventive". After all
    Pirsig's talk of "static portrayals and "certain fixed concepts", after the
    many, many time he insists the mystical reality is beyond definitions, after
    saying pithy and memorable things like, "Metaphysics is not reality.
    Metaphysics is NAMES about reality. Metaphysics is a restaurant where they
    give you a 30,000 page menu and no food." you still accuse him of reifying
    DQ??? And based on a quote that complains about reification no less!!! I
    think that you are quite conspicuously incorrect, sir!

    Sam concludes:
    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

    dmb does too: (Whew!)
    As I've tried to demonstrate, I think the error is yours, not Pirsig's. What
    you see as an inconsistency is merely a misreading on your part. The
    difference between 'Quality' and 'Dynamic Quality' as referents to the
    mystical reality is only the difference between ZAMM and LILA, between
    pre-MOQ terms and MOQ terms. His second book only gets more specific because
    he no longer refuses to do metaphysics. As such it is perfectly consistent
    for Pirsig to identify DQ with the mystical reality, especially since the
    first eight chapters serve as a transition from ZAMM's Quality to the MOQ's
    Dynamic Quality. To the extent that the rest of your criticisms rest upon
    and follow from this one misconception, I feel I have successfully defeated
    your entire argument.


    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archive -
    MF Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_focus follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Mar 22 2004 - 19:49:05 GMT