RE: MF Response to Glenn, etc.

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sat Oct 16 2004 - 21:40:55 BST

  • Next message: David Morey: "Re: MF Response to Glenn"

    Howdy Focusers:

    1. It teaches that philosophy must begin with universal doubt; whereas
    scholasticism had never questioned fundamentals. (Aye)

    Glenn said:
    It's fair to say that almost no philosopher expressed
    as much doubt as Descartes, but I find the same vein
    in Pirsig because he warms to the Greek Sophists who
    were themselves often aligned with Philosophical
    Skepticism. Pirsig agrees with Protagoras' "man is the
    measure of all things" and he shares Gorgias' belief
    that all knowledge originates from sense experience,
    both of which suggest that people set the standard for
    truth and value and that this will vary from person to
    person. He's into 'scientific erasors' and 'many
    truths' and all of this presupposes a constant
    doubting and re-evaluating posture. AT LEAST IN THEORY

    dmb says:
    I disagree. It seems to me that "universal doubt" is an extraordinaryly
    radical kind of skepticism and so I think Gorians and the Sophists represent
    an inaccurate comparison at best. Further, As Pierce puts it, the Cartesian
    assertion is that philosophy MUST BEGIN with this radical skepticism. Pirsig
    doesn't make that assertion and indeed does NOT begin his MOQ with
    "universal doubt". And then there's the second half of that sentence....

    I think we have to step back and first ask ourselves what the whole sentence
    means. It seems to me that Pierce is pointing out a distinction that Pirsig
    also points out. The age of scholasticism was all about the marriage of
    theology and philosophy. Augustine sought to bring neoPlatonism into
    christianity and Aquinas sought to christianize Aristotle. In Pirsigian
    terms, the social and intellectual levels were distinguisable in the middle
    ages, but the intellectual level was not yet independent. Descartes
    represents the break with the church, the break from theology, the break
    from the social level. Cartesian doubt, then, represents the independence of
    the intellect and the beginning of modernity. Pirsig laments the way Modern
    philosophy "threw the baby out with the bathwater", the mistaken perception
    that intellect was "born without parents" and he corrects Descartes and
    instead insists that he can only think because French culture exists.

    a. What makes human beings human, the only thing that makes them human and
    that defines their distinctive nature, is their capacity for rational
    thought. (Aye)

    Matt said:
    ...I think Pirsig might try to argue that what makes humans human is their
    reaction to DQ (as when he says, "patterns can't by themselves perceive or
    adjust to Dynamic Quality. Only a living being can do that." Lila, p.185).

    dmb says:
    As Glenn said, "humans are not the only living beings". I think Pirsig makes
    it clear that social and intellectual levels are what make humans
    distinctive from other living beings. And again we see the differnce between
    modern Cartesians and Pirsig. Unlike them, Pirsig sees a whole level of
    reality between "biological man" and the capacity for rational thought. This
    is what makes him postModern and postCartesian.

    b.Thought is essentially disembodied, and all thought is conscious.(Aye,aye)

    Matt said:
    Pirsig's picture of a person is a stack of patterns built on top of each
    other, inorganic, biological, social, intellectual. In this way, I think he
    would argue that a thought is always embodied.

    Glenn replied:
    You'd think so, but I believe in response to one of
    McWatt's PhD viva questions in which Anthony answered
    much like you did above, Pirsig answered that a human
    is defined only as the union of his social and
    intellectual patterns (the complete purview of mind).
    There is no mention of a mind being embodied or
    dependent on a body or brain at all.

    dmb says:
    I'm with Matt here. The fact that Pirsig didn't "mention" bodies or brains
    in the letter means nothing at all. Surely he was putting the emphasis on
    what makes humans distinct from other creatures who also have bodies and
    brains. I think Pirsig would disagree with both assertions. Things like
    bodies, languages and intellectual descriptions are all embedded in an
    evolutionary relationship so that our consciousness is very far from
    disembodied AND we are the product of layers and layers that have been laid
    down over the centuries and we're part of a larger fabric that would could
    hardly be conscious of. Do you not recall this quote from last month's

    ..."You're sort of another culture, he said. A culture of one. A culture is
    an evolved static pattern of quality capable of Dynamic change. That's what
    you are. That's the best definition of you that's ever been invented. You
    may think everything you say and everything you think is just you but
    actually the language you use and the values you have are the result of
    thousands of years of cultural evolution. Its all in a kind of debris of
    pieces that seem unrelated but are actually part of a huge fabric."

    e. Some of our ideas are innate and therefore exist in the mind at birth,
    prior to any experience. (Nay)

    Glenn added:
    ...the tabula rosa image in the baby passage where baby is only receptive to
    Dynamic Quality is my basis for answering this way. According to Pirsig a
    newborn can not even perceive objects right away, and apparently it's not
    because the newborn is biologically semi-blind. Pirsig generally credits
    little to innate biology and credits a lot to culture. For example, Pirsig
    says in a letter to Skutvik that "I had always assumed that this blockage of
    direct quality perception was social, but in Mexico a few years ago I talked
    to a neurologist who argued that it was physiological."

    dmb says:
    Here, I think Pirsig is saying that the illusion of seperateness and
    dividedness may not begin with cultural filters. He's saying that neurology
    may reveal that biological patterns are also prevent direct perception of
    DQ. But all of this speaks to the nature of mysticism and the illusions it
    seeks to overcome. Its not about innate ideas. If the MOQ asserts that all
    our ideas are culturally derived, then it seems that innate ideas are an

    f. Other ideas are internal representations of an external reality. (Aye)

    Glenn said:
    I agree that there is no corroborating evidence for
    this in his writing, but somehow I can't see Pirsig
    disagreeing with this.

    dmb says:
    But it seems pretty clear that were talking about the SUBJECT's "internal
    representations" of an "external" OBJECT. Of course Pirsig disagrees with
    it. This is one of his largest targets and he hits it from many angles. But
    most explicitly, he says that the abstract symbols that are manipulated in
    the intellect are even tied to experience, let alone an external reality. He
    insists that the test of truth for our intellectual constructs does NOT
    depend on correspondece to the objective world. This is what he wants to
    REPLACE. From LILA, page 356...

    "If objects are the ultimeate reality then there's only one true
    intellectual construction of things: that which corresponds to the objective
    world. But if truth is defined as a high-quality set of intellectual value
    patterns, then insantity can be defined as just a low-quality set...and you
    get a whole different picture of it."

    h. Nothing about the body, neither imagination nor emotion nor perception
    nor any detail of the biological nature of the body, need be known in order
    to understand the nature of the mind. (Aye)

    Matt said:
    My instinct would be to say no just because of Pirsig's description of the
    petyote experience in Lila, where he makes mysticism biologistic.

    dmb says:
    What?! Pirsig does nothing of the sort. In fact, he explains that this is
    exactly where the hippies went wrong; they confused biological quality with
    Dynamic Quality. And in any case, this assertion is just another way of
    expressing the disembodied and orphaned intellect, which is discussed above.


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