RE: MF April 2004 - Metaphysics and the mystical reality.

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Apr 18 2004 - 23:03:38 BST

  • Next message: Sam Norton: "Re: MF April 2004 - Metaphysics and the mystical reality."

    dmb tried to re-focus on the topic:
    The last thing I had in mind was a narrow, hair-splitting debate about the
    use of terms. I hope we can get at something with more soul and substance.
    ..Instead, look at the central terms of the question; metaphysics and the
    mystical reality. That's what I'm asking about. ...Mystical reality and
    metaphyisics are contradictory terms, but they are at the core of the MOQ
    because it is essentially a metaphysics of mystical reality...

    Sam replied:
    Well, I raised the conceptual point because it seemed to me that if Pirsig's
    understanding of Quality/DQ/SQ was - shall we say - loosely worded, then
    that would have a significant bearing on what you want to talk about. ...I
    also think that it underlies much of the confusion that consistently defeats
    attempts to gain clarity about the different levels and the way that
    religion relates to the MoQ. So all in all, I make no apology for raising
    conceptual questions. If we can't gain further clarity about what we're
    talking about then there's not much point in having this discussion at all.

    dmb says:
    I can see how those three terms are related to the elected topic. I can even
    see how confusion about those terms could hinder a discussion of the topic.
    But please, Sam. You may have questions about Pirsig's "loosely worded"
    terms, but the elected topic is aimed at distinquising metaphysics from the
    mystical reality, not Quality from DQ. And here you seem to be openly
    admiting that you have an entire agenda in mind; Sorting out Q fro DQ, the
    confusion about the levels, confusion about the MOQ's view of religion. It's
    just too much baggage. To focus is the name of the game here, no? It seems
    that the elected topic is all but swallowed up in all this. If I were the
    moderator I would have rejected it for irrelevance - or at least asked for a
    re-write that show its relevance. Sure, I'm a bit angry. But don't get
    wrong. This is nearly as much fun as discussing the actual topic.

    Sam said:
    The understanding that I object to came to the fore again in your post. You
    said: "The true nature of reality is undivided. That's the pre-intellectual
    cutting edge of experience." As I understand the MoQ there are three
    elements: Quality, Dynamic Quality and Static Quality. Quality is (the
    mystical) reality. Dynamic Quality is the pre-intellectual cutting edge of
    Static Quality is the pattern of value that dynamic quality leaves in its

    dmb replies:
    You're saying that the undivided reality is different from the
    pre-intellectual cutting edge. I see. I think that's not what Pirsig is
    saying at all. The static/Dynamic split produces two elements, not three.
    Not only is there the problem of confusing Pirsig's one-word metaphysic with
    all that comes after chapter nine as we have already discussed, there is
    also the simple point that undivided and pre-intellectual mean essentially
    the same thing in this context. Both refer to the mystical reality that
    exist prior to our linguistic and intellectual divisions. Since intellect
    divides, pre-intellectual is undivided, see? And the static/Dynamic split is
    one such division of that undivided reality. These divisions are static
    descriptions and not the undivided reality itself, of course, but within
    this static intellectual description the term "DQ" refers the undivided
    reality, to that which is prior to and beyond definition.

    Sam said:
    So in terms of how we can understand and explain our experience what we have
    are: our static patterns; our 'dim apprehensions of things too obscure for
    its existing language' which is DQ; and we also have all those things which
    we don't have any comprehension or intimation of whatsoever - the totally
    unknown and unknowable.

    dmb replies:
    We have a dim apprehension of DQ, but Quality is totally unkown and
    unknowable? Hmmm. I'll try to be generous about this. In terms of
    experience, there is a wide spectrum of ways in which DQ seems to intrude
    into our everyday static lives. There are hot stoves and new songs. There is
    evolutionary growth and the moments when new scientific theories are born.
    There is the dharmakaya light and beginners luck. And then there is the
    full-blown mystical experience, where the divided reality is not just
    re-newed or refreshed, but where it falls away entire to reveal the
    undivided reality. It certainly doesn't require a third ontological category
    to explain this spectrum of experience. We may simply think of it as a
    matter of degree. Or even better perhaps, that the apparent intrusion of
    Dymanic Quality into our everyday static lives betrays the illusion of
    dividness and serves to lead us toward its dissolution. In any case, the
    point is just that there is no real difference between dim apprehensions and
    the mystical reality, except as a matter of degree as exhibited in
    particular particular manifestation. Here's Pirsig just five pages after the
    "dim apprehension" quote...

    "Their (American Indian) term MANITO is often used interchangably with "God"
    by whites who usually thnk all religion is theistic and by Indians
    themselves who don't make a big deal out of any verbal distinctions. But as
    David Mandelbaum noted in his book THE PLAINS CREE, 'The term MANITO
    primarily refered to the Supreme Being but also had many other usages. It
    was applied to manifestations of skill, fortune, blessing, luck, to any
    wonderous occurance. It connoted any phenomenon that transcended the run of
    everday experience.' In other words, 'Dynamic Quality'. With the
    identificaton of static and Dynamic Quality as the fundamental divisison of
    the world, Phaedrus felt that some kind of goal had been reached. This first
    division of the MOQ now covered the spectrum of experience from primitve
    mysticism to quantum mechanics." 120

    dmb contnues:
    Refered to the Supreme being, but also had many other usages. So many usages
    that Pirsig's version of the term, Dynamic Quality, covers "the spectrum of
    experience from primitive mysticism to quantum mechanics". See? The stuff is
    just everywhere. That's why we call it the ground of being.

    Sam said:
    Quality is bigger than DQ. But DQ is the interface between any particular
    set of static patterns and Quality itself. It's like saying a person is the
    skin - because the skin is what you touch, what you relate to. But there's
    more to a person than the skin - to argue otherwise is superficial.

    dmb replies:
    DQ is the interface? WHAT is like saying a person is the skin? How is this
    related to the elected topic? I honestly have no idea what you mean.

    Sam said:
    I think the heart of what I am trying to argue is that DQ is a relative term
    not an absolute term. Whether a particular pattern is DQ or not depends upon
    its relationship with the SQ surrounding it. When Socrates was teaching his
    students he was teaching them to realise something that he already knew -
    that didn't make it any less dynamic *for them*, ie for the static patterns
    that were interacting with Socrates' static patterns.

    dmb says:
    WHO said DQ was absolute term? WHAT is an absolute term? How can any static
    pattern be DQ? A Dynamic pattern? That defies the MOQ's most basic
    distinction. DQ is Dynamic precisely because it is not patterned. But I know
    what mean, you're talking about the apparent intrusions I've mentioned, and
    are only suggesting that some people hear that new song before the others.
    (And where's our elected topic?)

    Sam said:
    So when you say: "The true nature of reality is undivided. That's the
    pre-intellectual cutting edge of experience" I think you are eliding the
    distinction between Quality (the true nature of reality as undivided) and
    Dynamic Quality (the pre-intellectual cutting edge **which we experience**)
    because the latter is relative to the static patterns it is based in.

    dmb says:
    As I've tried to explain, and show with Pirsig's own words, it is not that I
    have omitted a distinction, but that you have invented one. I'm bit stunned
    by it, actually. Its so perfectly clear to me. Two terms are rendered by a
    metaphyician who divides reality in half, not three terms. The
    static/Dynamic split does not leave the undivided reality off in some corner
    where it can remain undivided as a third term. Doing metaphysics doesn't
    allow that. No. It is the undivided reality that has been so divided. As
    degenerate and contradictory (and fun) as it admittedly is, that's what
    mystical metaphysicians do.

    Sam said:
    Sorry if this isn't going where you want it to go, but I think this is the
    essence of the debate - and if we can sort this out, then I think many of
    our other disagreements will fall away.

    dmb replies:
    I hoped we'd begin by agreeing to discuss the elected topic. Even though
    I still consider this line of discussion to be a distracting indulgence on
    your part, there is enough of a connection that we are, at least, hovering
    around the issues. Metaphysical descriptions of the mystical reality have
    been discussed here. I have to admit its fun too. But its also true that I
    have posted quite a number of relevant Pirsig quotes, most as a response to
    your assertions, that have been ignored almost entirely. When this is added
    to your "three terms" impediment and the other items on your agenda, I can
    only wonder if you're trying to perpetrate some kind of conversational
    sabotage. Can't
    we please agree that the static/Dynamic split renders two kinds of quality
    and move on?

    Thanks in advance for your co-operation, instead of your co-optation.

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