The MOQ Shop



MOQ papers on this website:

Evolution, Time & Order Paper

The 1993 AHP transcript-Part One

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 & Education

Pirsig & Pragmatism

Chai at the Lazy Lounge


Other MOQ Conference Papers:

Robert Pirsig's Welcome Speech

Dr McWatt's Handout

Henry Gurr's Handout

Ian Glendinning's Paper

David Buchanan's Paper

Mati Palm-Leis's Paper

Gavin Gee-Clough's Paper








MOQ Conference Concluding Thoughts

Liverpool University, July 7th 2005

by Khoo Hock Aun

My name is Khoo and I must thank Anthony for inviting me as part of the MOQ Discussion group to be here and [looking at Robert Pirsig] to be here with the great man himself. [laughter]
One of the thoughts I had coming over here from Malaysia this morning, or rather last night (!), was the scarcity of Asian voices in the MOQ Discussion Group and even here.  I have the suspicion that when Mr Pirsig wrote “Zen [and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”] and “Lila” and described a universal Metaphysics of Quality, I wondered whether it was specifically written for the Western structured mindset as opposed to [also appealing to] the East Asian structured mindset or philosophy.
Now I just want to make a few comments if I can [and] at the same time address each of the speakers that went on before; all of whom made very excellent points.  We can find no disagreement with them from the Eastern philosophy point of view or Asian culture.  In fact, all of that which has been said resonates very much with Buddhism or Zen or Hinduism or Taoism or whatever you can call East Asian cosmology, so to speak. 
I once posted  on MOQ [Discuss] about the synchronicity of Lao Tzu, the Buddha and the Sophists of the pre-Socratic era [having] all arose at about the same time: 500 years BC… so was there a certain cycle in the whole evolution of mental development that brought all these about independently in three parts of the world?  In a sense, the Sophists, the Buddhists and the Taoists… looked at the harmony and the unity of the universe before the subject-object divide came up, and, of course, in the Western sense we know who won the battle and that's how the world emerged as we have today. So, sometimes I wonder if there were a Socrates or an Aristotle or a Plato who emerged in India or in China… during the time of the Buddha, would we have a different world scenario compared to what we have today? 
The MOQ (the Metaphysics of Quality), is a very much-ingrained thing in Asian cosmology.  It's something they live with everyday. [So in East Asia] we don’t find that there’s such a wondrous philosophical bent to it that you need to develop a whole philosophy or metaphysics around it.  Now, I say that in the context of the fact that I am actually educated in the Western sense. I don't speak, I don't write Chinese… English is my first language.  I mean that's the Malaysian school situation I was from.  One studies physics and most elemental scientific traditions and you draw your conclusions about Western science and technology. And there you have Robert Pirsig writing about Eastern philosophy and Asian civilisation in a Western context which I can understand.  Imagine that I needed him to explain to me what Zen Buddhism is all about [laughter].  That's phenomenal!  I mean if he can do that for me can he do the same for other Western [structured] minds?
But mind you there is this thing about East Asian tradition; people are encouraged to have enlightenment under the Bodhi tree and seek their own knowledge or wisdom.  And there is, of course, several strata and subsets of achievement.  (Academic achievement is one of these.  I think this distinction between a doctoral graduate and others and whether he should be called doctor or not; is actually really a social issue against an intellectual issue. Some like to joke about it; there’s this derogatory term about PhDs being permanently head damaged [laughter] and so on and so forth.  That might be true to a certain extent because you have already evolved a group of certain social structures but I won't go into that.)
Now the point is, what has happened is that we believe there was a time when [East] Asian civilization and philosophy had its bright moments [though] as far as it's concerned right now, it is in their “Dark Ages”.  However, cycles are a fact of life, even in Asian or Eastern philosophy. I don't know [if] philosophers (or any observer of reality) may observe that the whole thing is all cyclical [and that] there is an up and there is a down. Right now I believe Asian philosophy is in recession, in retreat.  Why?  I mean Western technology has brought me here [to Liverpool] in 12 hours and although I can call home with the cell phones and [similar technology], this scientific tradition is fast moving into Asia right now; to the extent that Asian intellectuals are finding a lot more merit in Western intellectualism. So have they forgotten what Asian intellectualism is all about?
Now, why am I going through that?  I am not trying to draw a distinction between East Asian philosophy and Western philosophy.  In fact they could be [considered] just like the left and right side of the brain: the Yin and Yang of things.  So, what's happened is that Asian philosophy (or for lack of a better phrase, a more generic-universal philosophy) is diminished… for which the most desirable state is harmony [and] is what basically Feng Shui or Asian geomancy is all about. There's a whole complex basis of belief from the Hindu Vashtu to [the present]...  It's amazing that I can explain this in whatever limited English that I have. But whatever explanation is achieved will surely not give this viewpoint justice because it will then, with whatever words attributed to it, make it less than what it actually is.  That's a perpetual struggle.   And the wonder is that Mr Pirsig has actually managed to convey that viewpoint to the Western mindset; to able [it] to understand that underlying reality. 
I was very much impressed that the University of Chicago had these “Greatest Books of the Western World” as a collection for its liberal arts program. The sales people for Encyclopedia Britannica used to sell that back in Asia.  And I know it is an impressive… set of volumes… You would think that all of the World’s knowledge is in these “Greatest Books of the Western World” [laughter]!  So, I was wondering (I don't know whether I posted this on MOQ Discuss) why we don't have the “Greatest Books of the East Asian World”?  I don't know which books these are.  [Moreover,] I don't know who would want to do such a project or which benefactor would support this.  But then again, why don't we have the “Greatest Books of both the Eastern and the Western Worlds”?  Because surely I think this is what you [looking at Robert Pirsig] actually struggled to get the world to recognize… 
So, the question is now, where do we go from here?  The alienation I think that you [still looking at Pirsig] mentioned in the first few chapters of “Zen” still exists today.  The subject-object divide is still so ingrained and it's going to permeate around the world and into Asia as well.  But, at the same time, there is this philosophic substratum in Asia that I know [despite being] in recession, is all there.  Even although I am in a way Western educated, in a sense that underlying philosophy of harmony and unity is [still] hard wired into my genes and my outlook.   
So, conferences like this are a start and I was just wondering that you should continue [laughter] and perhaps have the next one in Asia where you actually [still] have the original context of this metaphysics...  So that's all I'm going to say. [applause]

Thank you very much.



(With many thanks to David Harding for transcribing Khoo's original words from the film footage.)

Khoo, Bob and Mayli, MOQ Conference Thursday July 7th 2005