The MOQ Shop


UK hardback edition


Pirsig PhD Introduction


MOQ Textbook Introduction


Papers on this website:

Selections from the 1993 AHP transcript

PhD Commentary

An Open Letter to Sam Harris

Art & the MOQ by Robert Pirsig

An Introduction to
 Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality

An MOQ Summary by Robert Pirsig

Khoo Hock Aun's Paper

David Buchanan's Art & Morality Paper

Pirsig Annotations on Copleston

Gavin Gee-Clough's "Brisbane Winter" Paper 

 Henry Gurr's MOQ presentation


Sneddon Thesis

- Part One


Sneddon Thesis - Part Two

David Buchanan's 2006 Paper

Observer Interview

Notes on the tetralemma

The MOQ & Time

The MOQ & Education

Pirsig & Pragmatism

Chai at the Lazy Lounge









































































































The transcript of the “Metaphysics of Quality: A New Paradigm for Values & Healing” discussion featuring Robert Pirsig with Leland ‘Chip’ Baggett - Part 4



Continued from Part 3...


This is the fourth [and final] tape of the “Metaphysics of Quality: A New Paradigm for Values & Healing” with Robert Pirsig and Chip Baggett.

Comment: Adaption is another layer of craziness.

Pirsig: Well, that's what I was saying when I was in high school. I said, look, I've got this MOQ, well, I didn't have it at that time but I said, you guys are trying to bring me back to normal but maybe I am way ahead of you. This was the feeling I had. And there is this whole normative idea which Maslow fought as far as I can see as one… he said, well find out what's good with the people that you have. And that just brought tears to my eyes actually when I read that. Boy, that meant so much to hear because I never heard it. It was always the question of 'What is wrong with Bob?' you see, throughout that whole thing. And I kept saying Bob is alright. What's wrong with you people? And it's a long fight. It's a hard battle.

Comment: It's typical. As I have experienced it in the past, the typical psychotherapeutic relationship seeks to take power from the client first. And then substitute that psychotherapist's spiritually developed value system for the client's own. If I look back now at it it's a very practically, questionable practice and yet it is almost universal by my reality.

Pirsig: Yes, I absolutely agree.

Chip: Does it seem to you that the Dynamics of Quality answers that question?

Comment: I think that this is a half of the ride called re-orientating into a different quality of relationship.

Pirsig: That almost walks into this last section I have to read here, if I can get into that. The MOQ describes how insanity itself is a static cultural pattern whose transcendence is not necessarily evil:

"When an insane person or a hypnotised person, or a person from a primitive culture advances some explanation of the universe that is at complete odds with current scientific reality we do not believe that he's jumped off the end of the empirical world. He's just a person who's valuing intellectual patterns that, because they are outside the range of our own culture, are perceived to have very low quality. We superimpose our cultural values on him. Some biological or social or Dynamic force has altered his judgement of Quality and has caused him to filter out what we call normal cultural intellectual patterns just as ruthlessly as our culture filters out his."

"Obviously no culture wants its legal patterns violated and - when they are - an immune system takes over in ways that are analogous to a biological immune system. The deviant, dangerous source of the illegal cultural patterns is first identified, then isolated and finally destroyed as a cultural entity."

"That's what mental hospitals are partly for. Also heresy trials. They protect the culture from foreign ideas that, if allowed to grow unchecked could destroy the culture itself." (see LILA, Chapter 26)

"The MOQ says that as long as the psychiatric approach is encased within a subject-object metaphysical understanding it will always seek a patterned solution to insanity, never a mystical one. For exactly the same reasons that Choctaw Indians don't distinguish blue from green and Hindi-speaking people don't distinguish ice from snow, modern psychology cannot distinguish between a patterned reality and an unpatterned reality and thus cannot distinguish lunatics from mystics. They seem to be the same. They are very close." (see LILA, Chapter 26)

"If objects are the ultimate reality then there is only one true intellectual construction of things: that which corresponds to the objective world. But if truth is defined as a high quality set of intellectual value patterns then insanity can be defined as just a low quality set of intellectual value patterns then you get a whole different picture of it."

"When the culture asks: 'Why doesn't this person see things that we do?', you can answer that he doesn't see them because he doesn't value them. He's gone into illegal value patterns because the illegal patterns resolve value conflicts that the culture is unable to handle. The causes of insanity may be all kinds of things, from chemical imbalances to social conflicts but insanity has solved these conflicts with illegal patterns which appear to the client or the patient to be of higher quality." (see LILA, Chapter 29)

"It seemed to him that when you add a concept, to Phædrus this is, when you add a concept of 'Dynamic Quality' to a rational understanding of the world, you can add a lot to the understanding of contrarians." (see LILA, Chapter 29)

And I guess to some extent you can identify as 'contrarians' some of the patients.

Now I'm getting… I'm sorry to tell you your business but it's partly my business because I was one of the contrarians; one of the patients, and it seemed to me, from my own experience that I was being the victim of an ad hominem argument.

This is the essence of it. The ad hominem argument in logic and philosophy is the argument against the person: "Joe says: 'The sun is shining', 'Joe is a communist', therefore what can we say about the sun? We can't say anything about the sun. What the person is, is irrelevant to the truth of what the person says. A fundamental principle of logic. Yet, when you are placed in an insane asylum whatever you say is no longer considered as a possible truth, it is only a symptom. And the hardest thing I had to face was talking to family, talking to friends telling them: Look I am telling you the truth. And they'd say: "Jeez, why can't we reach you?" or something to that effect…

So hopefully the… this is an area I don't know anything about other than as a patient. I don't see clients come in the door and I'm sure if I did I would have a radically different opinion of many of them because it's a tough job I feel. I would get very gloomy at the end of the day, listening to other people's problems - hour after hour. So I don't see that side of it. But I'm hoping that this way of looking at things, this Dynamic-static way of looking at things, will open up this particular aspect. This is one of the many ways in which you can open up the view that we have of mentally ill people and say, well, let's see what they value. Let's see what they don't value.

Now, in the case of Lila, I did not pick a real Joan of Arc here. She was pretty bad - in many ways. But as I said here, and let me get back into it:

"There are three ways Lila can go, he thought. First, she can go into permanent delusions, cling to this doll and whatever else she's inventing, and eventually he'd have to get rid of her. That way she'll probably spend the rest of her life in a mental hospital like some caged animal."

"Now, her second alternative, he thought, was to cave in to whatever it was she was fighting and learn to 'adjust'. She'll probably go into some sort of cultural dependency, with recurring trips to her psychiatrist or some kind of 'social counsellor' for therapy, accept the cultural 'reality' that her rebellion was no good, and live with it. This way she could continue to lead a 'normal life' continuing her problem, whatever it was, within conventional cultural limits." (see LILA, Chapter 29)

"What Phædrus "was hoping for that by some miracle of understanding Lila could avoid all the patterns, her own and the culture's and just put them behind her."

In the method you said, just grow out of them. Grow out of the conflict. Get Dynamic. Put this thing: I'm right-you're right conflict behind you and just say, let's drop that. Let's go on to what's-new- for-today type of thing.

This is what is really being recommended here. He says, "the question is of whether she's going to work through whatever it is that makes the defence unnecessary or whether she's going to work around it. If she works through it she'll come out at a Dynamic solution. If she works around it she'll just head back into the old karmic cycles of pain and temporary relief." (see LILA, Chapter 29)

"If you compare the levels of static patterns that compose the human being to the ecology of a forest, and if you see the different patterns sometimes in competition with one another, sometimes in symbiotic support of each other, but always in a kind of tension which will shift one way or the other, depending on evolving circumstances, you can also see that evolution doesn't take place only within societies, it also takes place within individuals. It's possible to see Lila as something much greater than a customary sociological or anthropological description would have her be. Lila then becomes then a complex ecology of patterns moving toward Dynamic Quality. Lila individually, herself, is in an evolutionary battle against the static patterns of her own life." (see LILA, Chapter 29)

"And Lila's battle is everybody's battle, you know? Sometimes the insane and the contrarians and the ones who are closest to suicide are the most valuable people society has. They may be precursors of social change. They've taken on the burdens of the culture onto themselves and in their struggle to solve their own problems they are solving problems for the culture as well." (see LILA, Chapter 29)

And that's pretty much what I have to say with this metaphysics.

(clapping and applause)

Chip: It was a few months after I'd read it… before I got the pun about Lila. Is it okay if I share this?

Pirsig: Yes.



Chip: Remember what Lila's last name is? B-l-e-w-i-t-t, I believe. Lila Blew-it!!! She went back with Rigel...

Pirsig: She wasn't ready to emerge from her static patterns. She was still locked into them. She still longed for this man who she slept with in childhood… immorally. She was still longing for her child. She still longed for social acceptance. For Lila "Quality" was acceptance by society. And so she wasn't ready to keep on going. And she went back to Rigel. Now, when the Washington Post interviewed me they said: "What happened?". And I said, I don't know! I stopped the book at that point.


Question: To be charitable to the psychiatrist and psychologist and any body else with 20 years of education and 20 years of practice, doing some things in a certain way they evolve a paradigm. They are IN a paradigm and that, very often, eventually becomes static and as far as I can tell they can't see that that's what they're in. It is very difficult to tell somebody that there is another way of seeing things... And it seems to me a real paradox here: Yes, people are stuck in static patterns. How do you make them see it?

Pirsig: How do you get them out of it? This is always a problem. It's wonderful to have solutions but those solutions will come into conflict with whatever static system you are going to be in. And this is kind of what is going on right now… There are psychiatrists, patients, everybody, they are a part of society and society has a right to defend itself, this is a rather conservative view but society has a right to defend itself against people who will tear it to pieces. And many mentally ill people are such people. They are dangerous; many of them. They are destructive of other people's lives in many cases. They don't often get brought to psychiatric attention until somebody else is just going through hell with them and they have to solve this problem.

Comment: How are they going to handle it after they choose. If they choose the destructive route then…

Pirsig: As a representative of society I say according to the MOQ you have a moral right to do so.

Chip: But prior to that, and the large majority of people that come in for therapy aren't being destructive to society. They're part of it. And they are coming in because they are in conflict themselves. So I think that the morality of the MOQ is not to impose something on them, but to facilitate their resolution of the conflict within themselves about that. And I think, in response to you, I think there are a number of ways, actually, that people can break out of a static pattern or discover one which is to create a contrasting or paradoxical experience. And you would then have the contrast. Just like the exercise. There is a contrast.

I found another one too is humour. Because, when you think about what humour … is like. I'm thinking of three levels of humour. The first kind of humour that you learn as a kid. I remember riddles, like: "What's black and white and re(a)d all over?" "A newspaper ha, ha, ha!" And then later it gets a little more sophisticated. The whole idea of humour is that you're… colliding two static patterns. One static pattern says: this is the way we're thinking, therefore this is the meaning ascribed to words, ideas, concepts all within this context. "What's black, and white and red all over" we're thinking colours. So you're in one particular static pattern. Then the answer which is basically the punch line of the joke is, "a newspaper". What happens is you've completely collided a whole frame of reference because "red" is now a verb ("read") and not a colour. You've collided one context with another and so, what happens is that the moment of collision creates a Dynamic state. So we laugh. I think it's a release of tension.

Chip: Yes, I think it's like the moment when you're caught in a static pattern, the moment of Dynamic experience is ecstatic (7) on some level. So you get a chuckle instead of an orgasm, but it's… the same thing, it's a Dynamic moment. You get a little more sophisticated even with puns. I know a guy who was in college years ago and he told me about this. They were in a trailer, they rent a trailer when you're in college and that and they were always, this was back in the sixties, they were always around and had been smoking dope for a while and one guy was just a punster. I mean he was just driving everybody crazy because there'd be one pun after another pun, after another pun and so they'd all had just decided we've had enough. So the group said, okay, wait a minute, no more puns, we're going to put you in this closet, close the door and you cannot come out until you come up with an original pun. So they reversed it on him. They'd say, now you have to come up with a pun or else you'll stay locked in there. So they put him in there and because they had been smoking for a while they sort of forgot he was there and continued the party. And about thirty minutes later they hear from the closet: "O-pun the door!"

It was just like… even then he'd changed the context.

Question: I'm having a hard time as a non-therapist understanding… like social or whatever... then what? It's the "then what" I am having a problem with. Once one can define it as 'biological' or 'social' then what?

Pirsig: You're not satisfied with just the definition? You want more?

Comment: What does that mean next? So what?

Pirsig: Well. I think intellect is a guide for society and if you have a good set of intellectual principles, a good metaphysics, that you are going to guide society better. I am hoping that this MOQ will be… (aside: one of the reasons I am so happy about the Berkeley students, is I am hoping that this MOQ will become) integrated into society. I am here today to help integrate this MOQ into society. I see it going into the Law. There's a huge problem with morals - all the time - and if they can use the MOQ to improve decisions made on the bench… Boy! That's a real gain for all of us you see, for society.



So you say, okay, once you understand these relationships, what next? With "next" comes the action and the action in this case will be social action. And I don't mean rush out and grab a banner or anything. I just mean there should be a natural filtration into, first of all the intellectual system and then from the intellectual system… (aside: I kept telling my publishers: "Look, don't let this book go. This is a kind of a trickle down book. It's going to start with the intellectuals at a very high level and they are going to tell people at a little lower level and they are going to tell people at a little lower level. So I got panned all over England partly because the book sounded so anti-Victorian… it was their grandmother you know, their queen. They didn't like that but one place really praised it. They said: "This author is a great thinker" and that was Oxford [University]. You see it's going to trickle down from Oxford through the rest of English society. Then I hope it is going to go into… common life by the mechanisms which we now have, by which things go into common life.

I was shut out at the University of Chicago. My normal dharma, my normal career was to go and get a PhD, present this thesis and move on into the intellectual world and teach at a University. They shut me out. So I said, okay, I'll go around you… I'll go around you [and] I'll appeal to the public…

I'll tell you another story. Now this was after I went to the hospital there - at the University of Chicago - the psychiatrist interviewed me and… I told him the story of this conflict which occurred there. So he went over to see the Chairman of the Committee for Analysis of Ideas and Study of Methods. He came back and said: "I have never seen such a bastard in my life'. He says, 'the guy screamed at me, he shouted at me."

This psychiatrist went to the President of the University of Chicago, and he got that man reversed and I was re-allowed into the University of Chicago as a result of his efforts. I have never forgotten that. There was a moral action on the part of this man. He didn't just study me and say "I see what his problem is". He took it upon himself to change that person's mind. The Chairman of the Committee for Analysis of Ideas and Study of Methods died some time ago. He never would communicate with anybody who wrote to him about my book. He was a very famous philosopher, a very famous figure but a totally static person of the most outrageous Right. He was Richard McKeon, I don't know if you ever heard of him. He was the Aristotle man at the University of Chicago. He is the guy who organised the Great Books. And for me to walk into his class and tell him: "Let's get rid of Aristotle" was just outrageous and of course you know who they got rid of…

Question: How does, once you know about the Metaphysics of Values, in that context, it is an intellectual issue and a social issue, so now what?

Pirsig: Well, we want to improve the world.

Chip: But his question is: "What is the criteria by which he makes a decision?"

Comment: Where do we go from here because we are acknowledging here …

Pirsig: Well, pick an issue and we'll help you.

Question posed by member of the audience (difficult to hear) is about individual rights versus collective rights.

Pirsig: Yes, well you can take him to court. There's a moral decision. And when you get to the court you can tell your attorney "Look this guy is violating my social rights.

Understanding of the MOQ you are going to give your attorney a better brief in court. How's that for an action? You can… I come from a legal family that's why I argue this way. My father was Dean of the Law school at the University of Minnesota and he said: "Who wins in court is the guy who know the most law". And if you know a complete metaphysics to guide your entire legal structure - when you walk into that courtroom - you are going to win your case. That's what he said. And he did very well. While he was Head of Legal Aid Society in Minneapolis, he never lost a case in all the time he was there. And they asked him why and he said: "I know more than them"…

Comment: You've speculated about why your books have trickled down… and I was sort of surprised that you were surprised about students. And what I want to suggest to you is that people, I think that I talk to are really very interested, not only what you do, but you. There is some texture there that is very appealing, particularly with such unusual ideas. And my suggestion is that maybe your reclusiveness… may be working against the sales of your books. In fact I'm convinced…

Pirsig: I'm sure you're right… My reclusive-ness tends to keep me out from it. It's a real personal struggle. As Chip knows it's an enormous effort for me to get before an audience. It's a life-long struggle. It started when I was, before I was… well I don't know of a time when I didn't have any trouble with this. I went into teaching to try to overcome it. I went into journalism to try to overcome it. It always wins. So I just live with it you know, but I don't enjoy it. It's difficult for me.

Question: Really?

Pirsig: Oh, is it ever!

Comment: You look so at ease…

Pirsig: Ah, but you don't see my heart going pitty pat, pitty pat…. The reason I have been reclusive was to write LILA. LILA has required total isolation. I don't answer the telephone. Wendy, my wife over here I introduced to you, has made this book possible by sheltering me from the outside world. All my mail is delivered to another address. I pick and select. I keep myself alone and in that circumstances I have been able to concentrate - to the degree necessary - to reach this MOQ. Now, this may change because if I go on writing then I would stay reclusive as it is necessary to do the kind of thinking that's going on here.

On the other hand, if I stop writing then I have a duty to become socially active, to go to student groups, to enter the social world. So I am kind of coming down a hill here, from insanity to Dynamic Quality down into the intellectual level and now we're getting down into the social level. Pretty soon I'm finding my mental powers (I'm about sixty-five)… my mental powers are starting to slip a little. Not a whole lot but just a little. And I don't think I could write another LILA.
So maybe my duty at this point is just take these ideas that I now have and do what I can to integrate them.

End of side one, Tape Four.

Question posed by member of the audience: You were saying something about - in the writing of LILA - that you considered writing it from "a woman's point-of-view"?

Pirsig: No I didn't, that would be impossible… although I did try to psych myself into Lila's situation in the book, that was perhaps the most difficult part, of actually "zenning" myself into Lila's situation. Now that's a strange verb. I'll illustrate that by the statement that in the Zen poetry they say, if you want to write about bamboo you just go out and sit there and become a bamboo, and then write. And this was part of the isolation and reclusion that was involved was just getting to [the character of] Lila. Lila was a very hard person to write about. She started out being very friendly, good natured, moral, a fine person. But every time that I looked at her I said: "This isn't right. In the Dynamic sense this is not right. Artistically it is not right." And it haunts me and I… There is one chapter there that Wendy and I know… I must have re-cited it two or thirty times as I [wrote the book]… It's the chapter in which Lila first appears on the boat as it's heading out from Kingston and it's where her personality is first introduced. I must have a stack of papers that high of that one chapter. Over and over and over again. Lila getting meaner and tougher and harder to deal with and gradually arriving at what could be called her artistically true self. Of all the critics I've had, nobody said I got Lila wrong. (Pirsig and audience: laughs)

Pirsig continues: I heard the feminists in New York were seething about Lila. My agent told me about it and she really knows what's going on. I was quite disturbed and distressed by that. But usually… that movement is getting ideological. It started out just beautiful but… it's ending up as a kind of ideology where 'if you don't do what we say we're going to get you', you know. That kind of stuff.

Comment: I thought you made an excellent case that our society here has come to a dead end. It's stuck at the intellectual level and that we're desperately all waiting for the arrival of a transition to the Dynamic level… (Pirsig interjects: "well yeah, it's not quite right… but it's good enough…") So it seems to me that everything that you've laid out sort of sets the foundation to a heavy focus on consciousness, being present, meditation and all of the "inner" Arts that are the antecedents to having a level of experience of Quality; living to some degree in the Dynamic state. But, I'm interested to see… intrigued… if that assumption is right?

Pirsig: Ways of becoming more Dynamic? Each person has his own personal situation. It's when you try to generalise about how to become Dynamic I find that what works in one case doesn't work for somebody else. This was a question I think (referring to Chip) you brought up. How can you make people more Dynamic? What can you do? An answer that flies through my mind is, well set a good example! And that is kind of the law of Zen. The Zen master, he doesn't have any particular teaching. He just sets you a good example. He just lives his own life as best he can. The most Dynamic, the most good high quality way he can and it kind of radiates out. Chip's favourite is Krishnamurti and he was one of mine too. You can even just look at a photograph of that person [and] there was some feeling that this guy was living right.

Question: For me the most Dynamic people are infants, children, and [unfortunately] they grow out of that so the question becomes "How do we prevent that from happening"?

Pirsig: A child has to grow up from its purely biological Dynamic self into a social usefulness. It is just required and when it happens you can watch these lovely tots turn into little bastards [laughs]. As they grow older they start being mean in ways they weren't when they were little and you feel very sorry for it and you find it gets more and more difficult. But then, after a certain time, I think it must be - I don't know if it's any particular time - you find that they get tired of that and suddenly they start to shift back toward a more Dynamic thing. It's an evolution in each person. It seems before they can get to this ultimate Dynamic level they have to have their static [life] in order because, like Lila, they'll sort of… fall… you know they get hung up on some static problems instead of getting free. Yes?

Comment: I would like to know about gumption. You relate that to different types… intellectual gumption… natural gumption… some people don't have much social gumption…

Pirsig: Well I certainly don't have much social gumption and I don't have much physical gumption. I have a hard time doing exercises which I must do, but I'm working on a boat right now. So these… various gumptions vary quite a bit. I have friends who are athletes who just… you know they can hardly wait to get out and work out on a trapeze. Now how can you live that way you know? And, at the same time they must wonder what is he doing sitting there writing on a book all day? They'd go crazy if they had to do that.

So… this gumption is a kind of a Quality thing. It's a response, I think as I defined it in ZMM, it's a response to Dynamic Quality. You get filled with "theos", enthusiasm, which is gumption… the same thing… I guess, again, it's different for each person. It's different for each person and each of the [static] levels has its own kind of gumption. I hadn't thought of that before. (8)


Comment: Can I ask a question? You mentioned in the motorcycle book about "stuck-ology" and would you talk a little about that as there is something there…

Pirsig: Okay, now that's a good subject. That came out of direct experience. I had been stuck many times as every mechanic has. And I noticed that at those particular times when I'm really stuck, when things have really gone bad and I'm really in a mess if I just stop… there's sometimes a sudden Dynamic explosion. That is an unexpected instant, I just…I went and looked up at the clouds when [it] looked like I was in for a really big bill because of something I'd done. And I just… stopped. I said, if I do anything more on this I am going to get mad. And if I get mad you know what's going to happen next, I'm going to get worse. So I just stopped and I didn't have anything in mind. Now there was no particular program of anything I was going to do next. Because what I was going to do next was fix this motorcycle. And so I was just stopped and that moment I was stopping there was a peak experience as Maslow would say: A Dynamic kind of thing which occurred.

Now, the stuckness, to continue on this line, is a natural part of life… I'll relate it to my writing. The question came up, 'how do you handle writer's block?' which is a perfect case of stuckness. I said the way to handle writer's block is consider that your sitting zazen. It's the same stuff. When you're staring at a wall and you can't do anything because your thoughts are running down, it's identical to writer's block.

So what I get in the morning, I know I am going to be stuck, I know I can't do my writing and I can either go crazy with energy that's being blocked, or I could simply say, alright, I'm going to sit zazen and call it writing. And I just sit it out. And you read what famous writers say about writing and there isn't a one that I know that doesn't say: "Sit it out!". Get there, find some regular hours, keep those hours and if nothing happens, nothing happens. But the only way you're ever going to get a book written, if any of you are interested, is just find a spot, find a chair, keep the same chair, same place, come same time, same day and sit there. And most of the days when I wrote LILA I would start at eight o'clock in the morning and once in a while I'd hit "it" for no reason. All of a sudden… wham, I'm off.

But other days it would be nine o'clock, there is a tree outside the window and it's starting to cover up a farmhouse that's way across the valley and I wonder "Should I cut that tree down or should I let the farmhouse continue?". I noticed that the farmhouse has a red roof. And I could say in a Western context: "God you are stalling" you know, "you are really copping out on this thing". But this is zazen. This is what happens when you sit in a zendo. All these thoughts come down and gradually during the morning one thing comes up, another thing comes up. They diminish, they go down and you finally say, well, you've had it, you may as well start writing. [laughs] And so at that point I'll get some writing done and usually it would be pretty good. Not always but sometimes pretty good. And then the next day I look at it and it will never be as good as it looked when I wrote it but I'll try to hang on to it and I'll say: "Okay, this goes".

Every bit of LILA went through this notebook. This is my one static institution. It all passed through it and into other notebooks and other places. It's a very Dynamic notebook in a sense. It is in one door and out the other. But, I would sit there with this notebook and I would have this page in front of it and I'd just look at it and sometimes there would be an oracle that would come, that's an invention of my own. It's a kind of an inner mind that says "boy, you are stupid" or "get to work" or "you can hang it up for today". It's telling me things. I call it 'the oracle'. And the oracle will talk for a while and I'll get half a page of that and that'll die out.

But eventually it's a calming down and this "stuckness" all this time, to get back to your original question, is working for me. Not working against me. So it can be a valuable thing if you know how to handle it. But if you say, I've got to get this… if you set a deadline, I've got to get this done tomorrow. There is a kind of writer who does plough through. But I don't think they do as good a job. I don't think they ever sit among the bamboos. I think they go ploughing through the bamboos. And sometimes they get a good impression and sometimes they don't…

Comment: Two things: I want to acknowledge what I believe to be a major contribution of your work in the consciousness of our culture. And, secondly, I want to state that I believe that you can't really come to Quality unless you do the kind of work with self. You can't just sell it as: 'here's an idea'. You have to wear this kind of relationship you have with yourself in a rhythmic way, every day. Sometime. And when we do this we can have a fuller relationship with Quality.

Pirsig: I said all along [to myself]: 'You better not write a book about Quality without having some in this book'. All the time, every paragraph, every sentence I had to apply what I was talking about. And it's not easy. What's particularly hardest is to kill what you thought was your best stuff. That really hurts. You know, something you just cried over, it was so beautiful the day before. And you'd say, 'Holy Christ, this piece of trash!' (laughs) It's a hard job.

Well, we're getting kind of close.

Chip: Two more questions?

Pirsig: Okay.

Question: Back to the therapeutic enterprise and conflict resolution. What do you have to say about the kind of knowing that exists in the static state versus the kind of knowing that exists in the Dynamic state? One point of view is that you have people in the Dynamic state and they know everything they need to know to resolve their conflict. Would you agree with that?

Pirsig: If it's a truly Dynamic state then that's rare. That's enlightenment. A completely Dynamic state. Then they have everything they need to solve their problems.

Chip: I've given that some thought and it's related back to what you said. One way of looking at it, if you want to look at knowledge in the two realms, Dynamic versus static. I think knowledge in the static realm is knowledge of the information that you have. In a Dynamic state, knowing is a process you engage in. It's not the same thing as knowledge.

Pirsig: That's pretty good.

Chip: And if you've got that, if you enter a Dynamic state there is knowing occurring. In that sense knowing is a verb. In the static state it's a noun. It's something you have and possess.

Question: Could you talk a little about the technique used in LILA for the research…

Pirsig: That chapter [about the slips] worked out pretty well. I was surprised. I was afraid I would bore everybody but… it's about the system of slips that I used. I have a little wooden box, I didn't bring it today but it's another relic like [my notebook] through which all information about ZMM and LILA passed. This little box of course was expanded in large trays which I carried all around the boat.

The basic unit of that particular process is a comparison. You take two slips and you say: "Which one comes first?". And I don't know of any rational way in which you can pass a rule as to which one comes first but it seems like you always know. And now you get two slips and that's the beginning of your story. Next, you take your next slip and you compare it with the first one. And you say: "Which one comes first?". And you get an answer and if it's behind the first one you compare it with the second one. And pretty soon you have a three-slip story. And this was the basic process. Now, I argued in that chapter, I remember that this is building a story from the ground up. The data, the information of experience is what's giving rise to the structure of the story. Too often I think a writer will say: "Here is what I want to do in a story" and they're going to cram their data into it, in such a way that it's going to fit… Your book becomes kind of a procrustean bed in which you say, well I got this far and I started this far, here's my outline and, by God that's how it's going to finish up… I would have come up with a second rate book that way.

What I said is: "Alright, here are my slips, they are born of an instant, I'll be doing something and all of a sudden, my God, that's an idea, I'll write it down! I put it in the box. And I just collect them and collect them and collect them." And I learned that the most important process is: never try to sort your slips out at the same time you're collecting them. That's very interesting, that as soon as you try to organise your thoughts the creative process dies…

The ideas seem to come in flights. All of a sudden there's a pile of them coming you can hardly write them down fast enough… [you say to yourself:] "I hope I can hang on to that next one, let me get this one written." Other times you just get complete emptiness, this void. And then I say, this is a time I better start organising. And sometimes in the process of organising all of a sudden that flight will start up again of new slips because something in the problem of organisation will get these new slips going.

As LILA emerges at first it was going to be about Indians. Well, there's still some Indians in there (laughs) but they're getting squeezed farther and farther into the front end of the book. Ah, that got to be a long process... Lila didn't appear until quite late. ZMM started with a title…. of all things to start a book with! I was sitting with John Sutherland at a motorcycle [shop] and he was talking about Zen in the Art of Archery and his motorcycle wasn't working very well and what I said was "Boy, what that guy needs is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." Later I thought: "that's a pretty good title" so I said I'd write a little essay on it…

Then I was using these slips in my work as a technical writer. I was a job shop technical writer working on computers, and they always give you a job shop technical writer, [who has] no time. They get a manual out in one month on this computer and you've never heard of the computer or seen it. And you're just caught with a deluge of problems and I said "I can't solve these problems but at least I can figure out what they are." I just started jotting down problems as fast as I could on these slips. And then after I began to get a kind of a hold of what kind of job I'm getting into, then I can start organising slips and figuring out what I'm going to do next. You can only do one thing at a time and whatever is the top slip is the thing to do. And then having this box and having these slips I was able, at that time, to use the same structure to construct the book ZMM. It started with slips. 

First there was an essay. And then I said, "Boy, I'm never going to get this in an essay, maybe I ought to write a story." So I wrote a long story and I said: "This story is too dull, it doesn't go anywhere. It's just a lot of philosophy that nobody is going to read." So I had just taken a trip with my son to California and I said: "Why don't I put this essay inside this trip I took with my son to California?" And I did that. And then I looked at it and said "There are too many 'I's in this book. It's all about me. What I need is a character called 'he'." So this character called Phædrus came in and he kind of got up and ran away with the book, you see? But if I'd started out with that book saying what I was going to have in the beginning it never would have occurred. It never would have occurred. It was a process of living myself, of having a static structure in the box of slips and in the outlines I kept reformulating, but ultimately say: "If I see something better, I'll do it".

Chip: On that Dynamic note…it's time that I want to give you my personal thanks to Bob. Not only for the brilliant work in the books but also for you as a person, for being here, I want to thank you.

(Loud Applause!!!)

Pirsig: Much appreciated! Glad you all came.


This is the end of the transcript for “The Metaphysics of Quality: A New Paradigm for Values & Healing.


(7) ecstatic… ex static, I like that!

(8) For an outline of gumption and stuckness see chapters 24- 26 of ZMM.

References to chapters are taken from the hard cover publication of "LILA: An Enquiry into Morals" by Robert M. Pirsig, Bantam Press, 1991.



(Transcribed by Andre Broersen with minor amendments by Dr Anthony McWatt, February 2013)



 For more details about Chip Baggett's humanistic work and the AHP, please visit the following websites at: &



The Metaphysics of Quality: A New Paradigm recording (AHP93-003) from which this transcript is derived can be purchased (on cassette) from: