From: Matt Kundert (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Oct 28 2004 - 18:16:01 BST
In the focus question for this month and in his first contribution, Sam
forwarded as his motive the goal of linking Pirsig's philosophy up with
others, something Pirsig has expressed little use for (I've gone some way to
respond to Pirsig's sour attitude towards academia, symbolized best by his
neologism "philosophology," in my recent Forum paper "Philosophologology").
We've all, to a certain extent, extended invitations to other philosophers
and the process is pretty idiosyncratic, all depending on who we've read and
what kind of philosopher we think of ourselves. So, I thought I'd simply
suggest a few philosophers I had ideas of colligating Pirsig next to at one
time or another, besides the obvious few suggested by Pirsig (James, the
Sophists, Poincare, Northrop, etc).
Kuhn -- In the philosophy of science, Kuhn has had a dramatic effect on how
philosophers think, pushing us several steps closer to a historicist view.
To my mind, Pirsig reflects much of this historicism in ZMM and in the
philosophy of science, I think this would be the first place to start a
conversation (also Mary Hesse with her work on the grouding of science in
Nietzsche -- Often pinpointed as the father of post-modern philosophy,
Nietzsche and Pirsig show many similarities. Four things that might be
interesting to explore are their claims to the effect that its "rhetoric all
the way down," their use and abuse of the Greeks (and how both, in a certain
light, fail to overcome them), their poor relations with professional
philosophers (Nietzsche wasn't considered a philosopher until Heidegger
devoted four volumes of lectures to him), and their experiences of insanity.
Freud -- Since we've all become commonsensically Freudian, I think a useful
comparison might be between the way Pirsig treats the pysche (particularly
in Lila with his "philosophy of insanity") and the guy who changed the way
we think about the mind.
Foucault -- There are two interesting potential connections. On the
cultural level, Foucault's treatment of psychology and its institutions in
Madness and Civilization (which, so I'm told, had a revolutionizing effect
on European mental institutions) and Pirsig's in specifically ZMM (because
the two books are from close the same time period) and also in Lila. On a
more philosophical level, the curious connection between Foucault's
treatment of power and Pirsig's treatment of value. What I'm thinking of is
how both men ubiquitize their key term, enmeshing everyone into webs of
power/value, yet the key terms are mirror images of each other. "Quality"
is a term that carries positive connotations and Pirsig always speaks of our
relation to it as being very personal. "Power," on the other hand, carries
tremendous negative connotations and Foucault talks of it as being the
relation between struggling participants. (I only thought of this
comparison between Foucault and Pirsig the other day, and I find it very
intriguing. I think the differences between the two could probably be
summed up nicely as being the difference between Foucault being French and
Pirsig American and how those backgrounds infect and change essentially the
Spinoza -- It would interesting to explore the connections between these
two's monisms, particularly as I don't think Pirsig quite escapes the
rationalism that is part and parcel of Spinoza's philosophy.
Dewey -- The one thing I've been struck is how close Pirsig and Dewey seem
philosophically, particularly between Dewey's Experience and Nature and
Heidegger -- David's favorite, he's already drawn much attention to the
favorable connections between the two. I would only highlight the
comparison of Heidegger and Pirsig's use of "care," Heidegger's "Being" and
Pirsig's "Quality," and their diagnostics of technology and the mind-set
that goes along with it.
Wittgenstein -- Sam's favorite, like David he's done much in paving the way.
I think the most interesting thing to me is how (like Heidegger) they seem
to be going in two different directions in their lifecycles, Wittgenstein
becoming more historicist the older he gets and Pirsig the opposite.
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