From: Sam Norton (email@example.com)
Date: Mon Feb 14 2005 - 09:58:26 GMT
From the first few reactions (thanks to all) nobody seems to object to
equating feelings, in the MoQ, with physical sensation. I agree with this,
but I wanted to be tentative to begin with, in case there was another way of
reading him that I hadn't thought of. So when Pirsig says "In the MOQ
feeling corresponds to biological quality" he is making "feeling" an
abstract term covering physical sensations. As DMB put it: "I think its
pretty clear that he is talking about what we feel in our bodies. Things
like pleasure, pain and instinct are aspects of our biological selves." To
flesh that out just a little, would people agree that the realm of feeling
is what we share with other animals (ie, that which is normally describably
by looking at nervous systems, musculature, etc)?
I think this definition of "feeling" is workable in the MoQ, but it does
raise some questions that would be worth unpicking (rephrasing my original B
B: Does it do what Pirsig wants it to do? That is, in the MoQ, DQ is
primary, and this is "felt" (think of the baby before S/O thinking) - but if
DQ is the source from which other levels are derived, is that derivation
direct (so we have DQ -> Intellectual level) or is that derivation indirect
(so we have DQ -> biological level -> Intellectual level)? So far as I had
understood it, the levels have independent "access" to DQ, but my concern is
that Pirsig is making the biological level primary to our understandings,
hence the quote that he thinks is so good from Copleston: "the experience in
question can be regarded as an obscure, virtual knowledge of reality which
is the 'presupposition' of metaphysics and which the metaphysician tries to
recapture at a higher level."
Let me put it like this, the pre-intellectual understanding would seem to be
equated with biological quality. If so, then there is no independent access
of the intellectual level to DQ.
D: We need to distinguish "emotion" from "feeling", simply because, as DMB
points out, there are many ways in which we understand emotion which cannot
be equated with biological quality. "If we are punched in the face, for
example, it seems most people would feel physical pain but also would feel
humiliated, embarrased, angry, amused or any number of "mental" reactions
depending on the context of such an event." I would quibble with the word
"mental" as I think it begs the question, but otherwise I accept this. That
is, (and this could be hugely expanded on) there is a realm of human
behaviour and experience, commonly classified as "emotional" which cannot be
reduced to biological quality. The emotion of pride, with its converse
emotion of humiliation, cannot be understood without reference to wider
sociological factors - it would seem a prime example of a social level
pattern. Similarly, at the intellectual level, the aesthetic appreciation of
a mathematical equation cannot be reduced to either the biological or the
social, it is a pattern of Quality classified (determined) by fourth level
What is interesting, however, is that there are undoubted biological
manifestations of these emotions - think of blushing with shame. So that
might be classified as the biological manifestation (consequence) of a
social pattern. Then with the intellectual satisfaction of solving a
problem, which will also have physiological correlates (euphoria etc), that
would be the biological manifestation of an intellectual pattern (or, more
precisely, a change in an intellectual pattern - DQ).
This suggests to me that if we are to take on board an equation of "feeling"
with biological Quality, then we need to use "emotion" as a broader term,
transferable across the upper three levels. So there might be a biological
emotion of lust or fear which produces biological feelings; and a social
emotion of pride or humiliation which produces biological feelings; and an
intellectual emotion of satisfaction or aesthetic appreciation which also
produces biological feelings. In each case what is primary is the emotion
(an effect produced by the interaction between different patterns of each
level) with the biological quality following on afterwards.
I don't think the above should be all that contentious. What might be,
however, is this expansion of point D to connect with point B. That is, if
I, in my reading, come across something new which allows an increase in my
understanding, and I feel pleasure from this, does this pleasure not flow
from the intellectual patterns of my understanding? Which is a mundane
demonstration of the secondary quality of biological patterns, at least in
this example. And therefore, there must be independent access of
intellectual patterns to DQ, and our awareness is not ultimately dependent
on biological patterns.
That is, our primary awareness of value, of good or bad, is not equivalent
to "feeling" understood as biological Quality. So if we are to stick with
the definition of "feeling" as biological Quality, we must be careful to use
some other term when describing our primary discernments of value. And
therefore when, after Copleston says "We may very well ask, however, what
Bradley means by saying that reality is spiritual, and how this statement is
compatible with describing reality as sentient experience. And to answer
these questions we must recall his theory of an immediate basic
feeling-experience or sentient experience in which the distinction between
subject and object, with the consequent sundering of ideal content from that
of which it is predicated, has not yet emerged" and Pirsig asserts [[This is
Dynamic Quality.]], we must respectfully disagree. For DQ is not only
accessed by "feelings".
Which is a long way of saying that our "experience" of Quality must not be
equated with the biological level. Quite how we are to then understand
"experience", precisely as something *distinguished* from biological
Quality, I don't know. But I'm sure we can have fun talking about it.
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