From: Glenn Bradford (email@example.com)
Date: Mon May 16 2005 - 05:12:08 BST
Narrator in ZMM:
"We *do* need a return to individual integrity, self-reliance and
In one of the afterwords of the 25th Anniversary Edition of ZMM, Pirsig was
asked if this quote was intended to provoke a political reaction. Pirsig's
dumbfounded response is
"I don't know of any political reaction that opposes 'individual integrity,
self-reliance and old-fashioned gumption'.
and Democrats seem to claim that is their position.
Nobody takes the
stump to shout 'What we need is more dull conformity!'"
Not to mention graft, free-handouts, and laziness. To suggest, as Sam's
question seems to, that the MOQ might be leaving integrity, self-reliance,
and old-fashioned gumption behind is truly puzzling.
The answer is 'no'. Sam's argument that arete (and self worth?) is a solely
social construct and cannot co-exist with intellectual ideas was not
compelling to me.
First, Pirsig's own claim that the narrator of ZMM is dominated by social
values is hard to believe, as he spends way too much time in his head. For
example, while he seems to have a keen intellectual awareness of his son's
problems, he doesn't make any attempt to connect with him socially.
Second, Sam is at least partially incorrect to think that Pirsig has
enthroned into the MOQ the Socratic idea that intellectual ideas are
independent of society. Pirsig is only stating that this idea gained
popularity historically as it was necessitated by a political battle, but
his own opinion is that it is a myth.
Recall his line that
Descartes' ideas depended on French culture. Of course in another part of
the book he does speak about the levels growing apart and taking on an
independence, but he does so then without reference to Socrates.
It seems to me that Sam is troubled by the intellectual level. Pirsig is
certainly ambivalent about it himself, as it has spawned so many ideas that
he takes issue with, such as materialism, amoral science, Marxism,
causation, Neo-Darwinism, and objective reality. In fact the only
intellectual ideas he specifically endorses in Lila are freedoms defined by
the American Bill of Rights.
While individual integrity, self-reliance and old-fashioned gumption are
cliches that the narrator speechifies to win general approval of his
audience, as Pirsig readily admits, we should be confident in believing also
that he means them to be something the MOQ encourages.
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