Re: MF Re: March 2004 - Metaphysics and the mystical reality.

From: Valence (
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 04:35:08 BST

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    Hi Mark, Hugo, Glenn, DMB, Sam, and all:

    MARK (quoting Pirsig)
    8. Why does Pirsig use "Dynamic Quality" to denote the ultimate reality and
    not other mystic terms such as "nothingness" or "oneness" in his
    .. When a scientifically orientated mind hears the term "substance" it says
    "that's reality". When it hears about "oneness" and "nothingness" it says,
    'That's just empty, meaningless, metaphysical claptrap for the "Mind of God"
    which we have already rejected for empirical reasons.'
    .."The word "quality" is superior to "oneness" and "nothingness" because it
    is impossible for scientists to reject as metaphysical claptrap. They try,
    but they cannot get away with saying there are no values in the world. Even
    a so-so philosopher can cut them to pieces dialectically... The Metaphysics
    of Quality is valuable because it provides a central term that the Western,
    scientifically structured mind cannot dismiss."
    (letter from Robert Pirsig to Anthony McWatt, December 24th, 1995)

    Pirsig says that the MoQ's value is in providing a new central term for
    mysticism, a topic which he believes 'a scientifically oriented mind' would
    consider claptrap. I'm not sure why simply renaming a philosophical concept
    would convince anyone to reevaluate it (renaming 'creationism' as
    'intellegent design' didn't change my opinion the quality of that theory). I
    think that scientist he's talking about would just say something like, "you
    can call it whatever you want but it's still just the same metaphysical
    claptrap." But I think Anthony gets right to the heart of the question when
    he writes....

    McWATT (from his textbook 2:3:5)
    "Firstly, the MOQ centres round the term 'Quality' (with a capital 'Q) which
    is used, interchangeably with 'Value'. 'Quality' is used to denote reality
    (by which Pirsig means the totality of what exists) in addition to its
    traditional context (i.e. as a synonym for excellence). In LILA, the term
    'Quality' is interchangeable with the term 'Dynamic Quality' when a mystic
    viewpoint is taken. This can be confusing at times though the understanding
    that Pirsig is alluding to can usually be understood in the context of the
    particular passage."

    ..I agree with Ant when he notes that Pirsig's use of Quality and dynamic
    quality as interchangeable 'in a mystic context' is confusing but I don't
    understand the second half of that sentence. It sounds as though he's
    conceding that Pirsig uses the terms inconsistently but that it's okay as
    long as one doesn't try and read it all together.

    I donīt think the actual question has been addressed....[snip]

    I think it is being addressed. I think Sam is saying "no" to the
    topic-question (ie. that the MoQ doesn't help distinguish between the two)
    because mysticism's relationship to the MoQ is itself unclear. So far I
    agree with him.

    ..I would answer that it helps us distinguish between
    metaphysics and mysticism, starting on the latter and
    landing on the former, i.e. he started with a mystical
    approach (Quality is undefinable) and ended in a
    metaphysical one (his MOQ)

    I tend to agree with you when you note that Pirsig's earlier ideas on
    Quality seem more mystic than his later work, but that is based on the
    understanding of mysticism and metaphysics I already had. The question is
    whether the MoQ itself adds any additional clarity to the distinction
    between the two. So far, I'm unconvinced it does.

    The difference between 'Quality' and 'Dynamic Quality'
    has been a perennial confusion within the MOQ. It is
    hard for me to understand how the term Quality can be
    sensibly understood as anything that exists apart from
    its use as a shorthand for the two types of quality -
    DQ and SQ - taken together. In other words, the idea
    that Quality is sliced up into DQ and SQ explains the
    kinds of Quality we have, not that DQ and SQ emanated
    from some well-spring of Quality; not that Quality is
    more primary than DQ and SQ; not that we have a
    trinity. DQ is the leading edge of experience and SQ
    is the creation left in its wake. That is all Pirsig's
    MOQ says there is.

    I believe the quotes previously presented support the notion that Pirsig
    sees static/dynamic as only one possible metaphysical division of Quality.
    This would suggest that he does see "Quality" as more primary that DQ and SQ
    (if other divisions of Q are possible, than how could it not be 'more
    primary' than one particular split?). This is not to suggest a trinity,
    rather I think he's suggesting that static/dynamic (or any other
    metaphysical division like romantic/classic, subject/object) only exist as
    concepts within human understanding; Intellectually adequate, but ultimately
    incomplete descriptions of Quality, the undivided reality that exists prior
    to and could never fully be contained within any human understanding. But I
    hope we can discuss this some more as I believe Pirsig's writings on the
    subject certainly warrant further exploration.

    Just as for other things that evade scientific
    understanding, mysticism is most assuredly lumped with
    DQ by the MOQ.

    But should it be?

    take care,

    Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress. - T.A.

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