[MD] kill all intellectual patterns

david buchanan dmbuchanan at hotmail.com
Sun Dec 2 13:33:08 PST 2012

Mark said to Horse:
Pirsig gives us examples of how this is discussed.  There are many writings throughout the ages that does this.  What do you think many discussions of God are.  This is done through rhetoric.  Please remember that no thing can be defined.  What we work with are agreed on analogies.  Certainly we can find agreement within Quality.  A metaphysics of Quality is exactly of Quality.  That is what it discusses. I hope this makes sense to you.  But please ask questions if it does not.

dmb says:
No, it doesn't make sense and it directly contradicts Pirsig's explicit comments on the matter. You persist with this line of thought even though I've explained this several times. Why solicit comments on the issue if you're just going to ignore them?

Look, Pirsig speaks to this issue directly AND he shares this stance with other philosophical mystics. This is what he shares in common with philosophical mystics. Pirsig says,...

"The central reality of mysticism, the reality that Phaedrus had called "Quality" in his first book, is not a metaphysical chess piece. Quality doesn't have to be defined. You understand it without definition, ahead of definition. Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions.  ..Quality is indivisible, undefinable and unknowable in the sense that there is a knower and a known, but a metaphysics can be none of these things. A metaphysics must be divisible, definable, and knowable, or there isn't any metaphysics."

Do you understand what Pirsig is saying here, Mark? This explains why "Quality" can't be discussed. Metaphysics must be definable but Quality is direct experience PRIOR to and INDEPENDENT of all intellectually definable concepts. He says the same thing in the first book too, although it's explained in different terms. Pirsig says "Quality is the source of substance of everything. It is the basis of all our concepts, of our static reality, of the world as we understand it. All of our analogies were formed on the basis of Quality, as Pirsig explained it to the faculty in Bozeman. This is the context in which he says,..

"Now, to take that which has caused us to create the world [Quality], and include it within the world we have created, is clearly impossible. That is why Quality cannot be defined. If we do define it we are defining something less than Quality itself." (ZAMM, chapter 20)

But metaphysics must be definable and knowable or there isn't any metaphysics. Quality remains undefined even though Pirsig builds a metaphysics around that central term. Quality is the focal point around which metaphysical concepts are re-arranged. The MOQ is a system of concepts despite the fact that Quality itself is direct experience and not a concept, not a metaphysical chess piece. Quality itself is not discussed or analyzed, but reason and rationality sure are. His quest was a search for the ghost of reason. And his project is an improvement of reason, a root expansion of rationality, a new spiritual rationality in which science and philosophy are no longer "value-free". 

"He did nothing for Quality or the Tao. What benefited was reason."

"the thing to be analyzed, is not Quality, but those peculiar habits of thought called 'squareness' that sometimes prevent us from seeing it. ..The subject for analysis, the patient on the table, was no longer Quality, but analysis itself." 

"Quality was healthy and in good shape. Analysis, however, seemed to have something wrong with it that prevented it from seeing the obvious."
 "He did nothing for Quality or the Tao. What benefited was reason."

"He [Phaedrus] felt that the solution started with a new philosophy, or he saw it as even broader than that...a new spiritual rationality...in which the ugliness and the loneliness and the spiritual blankness of dualistic technological reason would become illogical. Reason was no longer to be "value free." Reason was to be subordinate, logically, to Quality." 

"I'm trying to say is that the solution to the problem isn't that you abandon rationality but that you expand the nature of rationality so that it's capable of coming up with a solution."
 "Now I want to show that that classic pattern of rationality can be tremendously improved, expanded and made far more effective through the formal recognition of Quality in its operation."

These passages are quite explicit and clear. The MOQ or Pirsig's project is an improvement in the ways we think. To improve philosophy, science and technology THROUGH A FORMAL RECOGNITION OF QUALITY IN ITS OPERATION. That's what he means by "rhetoric", the excellence in thought and speech that results from recognizing that Quality is central to its operation. 

The "solution to the problem ISN'T that you abandon rationality", he says. Quite the opposite. You "EXPAND the nature of rationality." He talks about this root expansion in terms of the mathematical sciences, via Poincare, and of course in terms of motorcycle maintenance but he continues with this project in Lila too. The textual evidence from the second book SHOULD be equally clear and compelling, especially where Pirsig says...

"I think that it will be found that a formal acknowledgment of the role of Quality in the scientific process doesn't destroy the empirical vision at all. It expands it, strengthens it and brings it far closer to actual scientific practice."

The MOQ "says that Dynamic Quality [is] the value-force that chooses an elegant mathematical solution to a laborious one, or a brilliant experiment over a confusing, inconclusive one" and "Dynamic value is an integral part of science. It is the cutting edge of science itself."

This project puts Quality at the center of art and religion too. Pirsig's comparisons between Quality and the Tao, between Quality and the ineffable mystic reality, and his contrast with Hegal's Absolute, which was completely rational in the classic sense, shows us that the MOQ agrees with philosophical mysticism and the perennial philosophy. His extended lessons in creative writing, as depicted in the Bozeman classroom scenes, show us how Quality is central to art as well. When we add the art of rationality to this, we see that Quality has a way of uniting what SOM had kept apart: art, science and religion are now connected because Quality is the source and substance of all three. 

The idea of truth works the same way. It is the central organizing principle of the intellectual level in general, in the sciences and in philosophy. Like art and religion, the MOQ's truths have intellectual quality because Quality is recognized as central to its operation. 

Quality has to be central if we are going to properly think and talk about Pirsig's metaphysics BUT that is very different from trying to conceptualize pre-conceptual experience or trying to talk about pre-verbal experience. Logically speaking, that's impossible. You can have that experience and that experience is exactly what improves rationality but Pirsig explains over again that Quality cannot be defined, that it is prior to definitions and concepts. That is the sense in which DQ is said to be an undivided experience, i.e. prior to the divisions and distinctions imposed by concepts and definitions. We want concepts and definitions because that's what distinguishes a word from all the other words and that's what marks off one idea from another. But Quality isn't like that. It's undifferentiated, undivided, continuous and flowing. But discussions can never work like that. 

The Tao that can be named is not the real Tao, the mother of heaven and earth.  		 	   		  

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