Re: MF Discussion Topic for May 2004

From: Sam Norton (
Date: Wed May 19 2004 - 14:28:23 BST

  • Next message: David Buchanan: "RE: MF Discussion Topic for May 2004"

    Hi DMB, Mark, all,

    Brief comments on the 'machine language interface' point, and some points for Mark.

    > dmb replies:
    > I think you've missed the point of Pirsig's computer analogy. He uses it to
    > explain his "unusual" assertion; that the level are "discrete", "not
    > continuous" and "have nothing whatsoever to do with each other". Immediately
    > following this unusual assertion, he says "This observation is impossible in
    > a substance-dominated metaphysics where everything has to be an extension of
    > matter." and then moves directly to the analogy, telling us explicitly that
    > it is intended to illustrate each level's independence. "An excellent
    > analogy to the independence of the levels, Phaedrus thought, is the relation
    > of hardware to software in a computer." This is where the "Machine Language
    > Instruction Repertoire" comes into the picture. More below...
    > Mark 18-5-04: I agree. I had to laugh at this point because Sam is here
    > taking a literal reading of Pirsig. But Sam knows that a literal reading of the
    > Bible is easier to avoid!

    Well, if it is a case of my taking an analogy too seriously ("literally"), you'll need to do a bit
    more explaining of a) how and where the analogy breaks down and b) describe how DNA operates (or
    RNA?) in MoQ terms _without_ using Pirsig's language. After all, it is Pirsig, your guru, who writes
    ""the biological patterns of life and the molecular patterns of organic chemistry have a 'machine
    language' interface called DNA." Perhaps Pirsig's "conclusions are the result of a literal reading
    of an analogy" as well.

    > So Pirsig writes, "A primary occupation of every level of evolution seems to
    > be offering freedom to lower levels of evolution. But as the higher level gets
    > more sophisticated it goes off on purposes of its own." I don't think Pirsig
    > explicitly says this anywhere, but it seems to me that this 'purpose' can be
    > expressed in terms of laws, eg the law of physics at the inorganic level; the
    > law of natural selection at the biological level.
    > Mark 15-5-04: This is just plain wrong Sam, for it is precisely the laws of
    > the Inorganic that the Organic are moving away from. Pirsig uses the example of
    > Birds escaping gravity and Humans going to the Moon.

    You misunderstand my point. Can I suggest you read my original post more closely? (Or Lila)

    > Mark 15-5-04: All this is in The edge of chaos but there has been no mention
    > of it from you Sam? Why tell me something i already know about? Not only this,
    > but as i say, the notion of coherence and SQ-SQ tension clears up your
    > problems AND gives concrete examples of evolution in action on a mundane level. I am
    > baffled. Please explain?

    Well, I've read the Edge of Chaos properly once, and I just had another glance at it. I like the
    analogy of the sweet spot, and thinking of it as SQ/SQ coherence, but I have to confess that some of
    your more arcane language I find more confusing than helpful (in particular I wonder if you've
    equated Quality with DQ - but that takes us back to the earlier argument.) Your attitude of
    colonising all discussion and shoe-horning it into your arcana is hardly a generous one. Normally
    people try to persuade others of the truth of their ideas rather than insisting on a change in
    vocabulary; it's as if you've set yourself up as the one true disciple of Pirsig. No wonder you're
    arguing with DMB - that's the niche he had cornered for himself.

    Now that I've actually read one of his books, however, I do fully agree that "There is very clear
    and deep blue sparkling water between the MOQ and Wilbur."


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