Re: MF Discussion Topic for February 2005

From: Sam Norton (
Date: Mon Feb 14 2005 - 09:58:26 GMT

  • Next message: "MF Discussion Topic for February 2005"

    Hi all,

    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
    and D).

    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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