RE: MF Towards a Narrative of SOM

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sat Oct 23 2004 - 23:52:07 BST

  • Next message: David Morey: "Re: MF Towards a Narrative of SOM"

    Matt said:
    At this point, I can give a small suggestion about Sam's second question: is
    Pirsig consistently non-SOM? I would simply point out that in ZMM, he
    attempted to attain a balance between Phaedrus (who was "a Platonist by
    temperament") and the narrator (who was "pretty much Aristotelian in this
    sense"), but Part IV of the book centers almost entirely on Phaedrus'
    Platonic obessions. The end of the book sees the Platonic Phaedrus
    triumphing psychically over the narrator and in Lila, of course, there is no
    narrator, only Phaedrus. I think Pirsig's mistake was to gradually
    overemphasize his theoretical obsessions in place of his practical
    aspirations and this plays out thematically in his books and particularly in
    his creation of a systematic, wholly general "Metaphysics of Quality".

    dmb says:
    Sorry, but I really don't see what answer this is supposed to suggest. Is
    Pirsig consistent or not? More importantly, I think you're misreading
    "Phaedrus' Platonic obsession" in a fairly disasterous way. Take a look at
    the quote from which your assertion is derived. And then look at some
    related quotes that help flesh out its meaning...

    "Plato is the eternal Buddha-seeker who appears again and again in each
    generaton, moving onward and upward toward the 'one'. Aristotle is the
    eternal motorcycle mechanic who prefers the 'many'. I myself am pretty much
    Aristotelian in this sense, preferring to find the Buddha in the quality of
    the facts around me, but Phaedrus was clearly a Platonist by temperment and
    when the classes shifted to Plato he was greatly relieved. His Quality and
    Plato's good were so similar that if it hadn't been for some notes Phaedrus
    left I might have thought they were identical." ZAMM p.331-2

    "The difference was that Plato's Good was a fixed and eternal and unvoving
    idea, whereas for the rhetoricians it was not an idea at all. The Good was
    not a form of reality. It was reality itself, ever changing, and ultimately
    unknowable in any kind of fixed, rigid way." ZAMM p.342

    "Philosophical mysticism, the idea that truth is indefinable and can be
    apprehended only by non-rational means, has been with us since the beginning
    of history." ZAMM p.207

    "I want to say in brief, that the ultimate journey taken by Phaedrus and
    described by the narrator was the MYSTICAL self, ...Mysticism is always
    associated with some sort of unitive consciousnsness, a consciousness
    experientially united with ultimate reality." Guidebook to ZAMM p.26

    dmb continues:
    See what I'm getting at? Plato was not a theoretical speculator, he was a
    philosophical mystic who tried to nail down DQ. Plato's hatred of the
    rhetoriticians (the sophists) did not come from there refusal to violate the
    ineffability of the mystical reality so much as from their inability to
    explain what the hell they were doing even though many of thenm could
    provide a mystical experience for their "customers". Plato took his Good
    from them. He was trying to get a handle on the Dynamic, on the mystical
    reality. So, to take him merely as a speculative generalist is to misread
    his essential message. And consequently Pirsig's message too. Seriously. One
    cannot exclude mysticism from Pirsig's thinking and still expect to retain
    anything resembling the MOQ. Its just too central to everthing. In many
    ways, the books begin and end in that teepee. Even for Plato. And one of the
    most objectable things about SOM is that such things aren't even on the

    The Chairman had taken over the class by the time they were reading Plato's
    "Phaedrus". A "false note" creeps in and our Phaedrus notices that "the
    Chairman has completely bypassed Socrates' description of the One and has
    jumped ahead". I'd suggest that materialist and literalist, even smart ones
    like the Chairman, have been mis-reading Plato in this way for a long, long
    time. As I understand it, the mysticism in Plato and in the ancient world in
    general, has by-passed and overlooked by MOST philosophers. There are lots
    of reasons for that, the invention of substance not being least among them,
    but its still a profound mis-reading of Pirsig's work.

    It seems to me that the two temperments are resovled in the MOQ, with its
    static/Dynamic split, where Buddha is both the many and the One.

    And if we're looking for the roots of the metaphysics of substance, I'd
    suggest that Aristotle is the main crank.

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