RE: MF Discussion Topic for September 2004

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Fri Oct 01 2004 - 04:34:48 BST

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    Glenn and all MOQer FOCers:

    Pirsig says:
    1) "There is no direct scientific connection between
    mind and matter."

    Glenn refutes:
    There is a direct scientific connection. Magnetic
    resonance imaging shows that a person's brain changes
    when his mind thinks about something different (say,
    by flashing images of idyllic pastoral scenes followed
    by graphic scenes of war).

    dmb says:
    MRI detects brain activity, not thoughts. Such instruments can only show
    which areas of the brain are active and such, but the actual feelings and
    ideas are beyond them.

    Pirsig says:
    2) "The world of objects imposes itself upon the mind
    with no social mediation whatsoever... But a close
    examination shows it isn't so."

    Glenn refutes:
    Actually, a simple example shows it *is* so. A cat has
    a mind and isn't socializable, yet the world of
    objects imposes itself on the cat because it can see
    objects and manouvre around objects and chase objects
    with no problem.

    dmb says:
    But a mouse does not understand the world in terms of objects, neither
    metaphysically or by virtue of common sense. To describe that little
    critter's activity in terms of subjecs and objects is just a human
    description of what a mouse does. Who's to say he's not One with the cheese
    or whatever? And if a mouse is an unsocialized creature, then we're only
    talking about biology responding to inorganic and organic nature and not
    about "mind" at all. (Mice are pretty smart, but I think its safe to say
    that Pirsig would not include them as participants in the social and
    intellectual levels.

    Pirsig says:
    3) "Our intellectual descriptions of nature are always
    culturally derived."

    Glenn objects:
    This is true, but only in the obvious sense that ideas
    build upon one another like Schliemann's strata. The
    underlying aim of this statement, however, is to
    expose the "myth of objectivity", and this is
    unconvincing. Whose to say that, given enough time,
    isolated cultures that remain independent won't
    eventually reach the same intellectual descriptions of
    nature that the West has reached.

    dmb says:
    Pirsig isn't saying our intellectual descriptions are so dependent on
    culture, otherwise, we'd have Chinese physics, Spanish physics, etc. and
    other such messes. But objectivity is the target of his comment. He's
    recognizing the single most important discovery of the postmodern era; That
    "the limits of my language are the limits of my world". As I understand it,
    this is not in dispute by anyone, even if the implications are hotly
    disputed. Its not really such a crazy idea when you think about it. How
    could we be anything other than the product of a long evolutionary struggle,
    especially our minds and our intellectual descriptions of the world? Of
    course philosophy doesn't just spring out of brains. That's all he's saying,
    that culture and language have shaped our minds since long before
    intellectual descriptions were ever concieved. And our intellect comes along
    only after that mind was formed and sufficiently evolved. That's what gives
    us the capacity to make 4th level contructions in the first place. The myth
    of objectivity did not take that into account and has, I think, been
    thoroughly shattered by postmodernity.

    Glenn asks:
    David, you seem to agree with the sentiment that
    objectivity is a myth even though you said later in
    the same post that "we can't deviate from the true Tao
    even if we want to" and some other mumbo-jumbo about
    "the principle of rightness, the Quality that holds
    the world together". Wilber chimes in with
    "[worldviews] are actually CONSTRAINED by the currents
    of the Kosmos". Apparently scientists are not privy to
    such wonderfulness as Tao trueness, Quality glue, and
    Kosmos currents and must accept a second rate kind of
    truth that depends on the acceptance of their culture.
    Please explain.

    dmb answers:
    I don't understand the question. I don't see how anything forces scientists
    to "accept a second rate kind of truth". I hope I've explained that our
    intellectual truths do not depend on the ethnicity of the thinker. I don't
    think that's Pirsig's view and didn't mean to imply any such thing. But I do
    think scientific truths depend upon the accpetance of the culture in a much
    larger sense and in a much more specific sense. The larger sense is the
    evolutionary and historical growth of culture and language, while the
    specific sense is the scientific culture with its own evolutionary history.

    The "mumbo-jumbo" about not deviating from the Tao, from Quality, is aimed
    at one of the implications of postmodernisms great discovery. It was aimed at
    the idea that language is merely arbitrary and conventional, that it only
    serves power structures, pragmatic concerns and other nihilistic postitions.
    I think Pirsig and Wilber are NOT questioning any scientific data, they're
    just saying that language and culture are NOT arbitrary. They're saying no,
    its not meaningless or disposable. Its who we are and its evolution, like
    everything else, is constrained by the rightness of the cosmos. And this
    even implies that SOM and the myth of objectivity and all that, even though
    we are talking about it in terms of mistakes and disasters, has a rightness
    to it as well.

    Thanks for asking.


    PS Matt, I think you don't understand Pirsig well enough to "castrate" him.
    That's not the problem. Your brand of pragmatism is the nihilistic kind. It
    is fundamentally hostile to mysticism and the MOQ. And vice versa. But the
    "animus" doesn't come from this disagreement. In fact, it could be lots of
    fun to disagree about that. The anger comes from frustration over your
    incomprehensible style, which is vividly display in your latest posting.
    Ruby slippers? Huh? Once again, I have no idea what you're TRYING to say.

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