Courtesy of Susie Culler
Notes and Commentary
on Dr. Anthony McWatt's Ph.D.
Critical Analysis of Robert Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality
Gregory Alvord, Ph.D.
you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest
sentence you know."
(Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast)
deem Lila: An Inquiry
into Morals (LILA) to be a masterpiece.
It is a gift to the world from Robert Pirsig.
Dr. Anthony McWatt’s Ph.D. thesis, A
Critical Analysis of Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of
Quality is a refinement and extension of that gift.
I read Pirsig’s Zen
and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZMM) in the 1980s,
enjoyed it, and then discovered LILA in the late 1990s.
LILA changed my life.
I subsequently discovered moq.org, the Metaphysics
of Quality (MOQ) website and robertpirsig.org, from which I ordered
Anthony’s thesis. In
his introduction to the thesis, Robert Pirsig states that
‘Anthony McWatt comes closer than anyone to being a dharma
successor of my own work on the Metaphysics of Quality’.
I agree with Mr. Pirsig’s assessment.
is a commentary regarding Dr. Anthony McWatt’s Ph.D. thesis. It
has evolved out of a series of e-mails that Anthony and the writer,
Greg, exchanged over a period of two years.
In reading his thesis and in writing these notes I have
been immensely helped by Anthony, to
whom I owe the illumination of much that was previously
opaque to me.
commentary assumes that the reader has read LILA and seeks
further enlightenment into the MOQ.
Additional insight has been gained through complementary
study of The Logic
of the Sciences and the Humanities (F.S.C. Northrop,
1947, Macmillan), The
Meeting of East and West: An Inquiry Concerning World Understanding
(F.S.C. Northrop, 1946, Macmillan), and Lila’s
Child: An Inquiry into Quality (compiled by Dan Glover,
It is my conviction that
a thorough reading of Anthony’s Ph.D. thesis can be
helpful in expanding one’s knowledge, comprehension, and
application of the MOQ.
I therefore recommend that one first read LILA, and
then read Anthony’s thesis, before tackling this essay,
for which I ask the reader to forgive any appearance of
this end, it is hoped that the reader will discern at least
one true sentence.
about the format of this commentary:
this commentary is based on Anthony’s thesis, the heading
styles used are taken directly from his document, as are the
page references introducing each discussion point. If I have
no comment to make on a given section, that section title
will not appear in this commentary. Text identified as
‘Anthony’s response’ are from e-mail correspondence
between Anthony and myself and are indicated in square
brackets. As is the one response from Robert Pirsig. ‘Asides’ from me are indicated in round
brackets. Finally, please note that the page numbers in the
commentary correspond to the February 2011 edition of the
Chapter 1: Why Pirsig devised the MOQ
THE NOTION OF OBJECTIVITY IN BOAS’ WORK
13 to 19. I was
struck by your cogent
explication regarding the confusion that can arise in
confusing epistemological and ontological contexts when
using terms subject,
subjective, object, etc., in SOM (Subject Object Metaphysics).
Footnote 7 on page 14, quoting David Bell1992,
prepares the reader with an identification of this problem
from a source other than Pirsig:
the various notions of objectivity that philosophers have
investigated and employed, two can claim to be fundamental.
On the one hand, there is a straightforwardly ontological
concept: something is objective if it exists, and is the way
it is, independently of any knowledge, perception,
conception or consciousness there may be of it…
is, on the other hand, a notion of objectivity that belongs
primarily within epistemology.
According to this conception, the
objective/subjective distinction is not intended to mark a
split in reality between autonomous and dependent entities,
but serves rather to distinguish two grades of cognitive
objectivity can be construed as a property of the contents
of mental acts and states. (David Bell, as quoted in
McWatt, p.14, footnote 7)
response, May 9, 2009: ‘For more about the confusion that
can arise in mixing-up epistemological and ontological
contexts when using terms subject, subjective,
object, etc., may I recommend DiSanto and Steele's Guidebook
to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. For
anyone interested in Pirsig's work, it's an excellent
reference source for a lot of other reasons as well.’]
reply to Donny on pages 502–503 in Lila’s Child, in which you state, ‘Experience creates subjects and objects,’ resonates strongly with
me. I have
repeatedly found that viewing constructs and events from the
MOQ perspective clarifies issues that previously led me into
a blank stupor when reasoning from SOM, e.g., a central
statement from Berkeley’s
idealism, ‘Esse est percipi’
(i.e., ‘to be is to be perceived’)which
I always found compelling but beyond my grasp until now.
However, Value/Quality/Experience links together
subjects and objects. Pirsig has indeed turned the smelly
sock inside out! (cf. Pirsig, 1991, p. 327, and Anthony’s Arrive Without Travelling DVD)
response, January 31, 2011: ‘The logical construction of
Berkeley’s ideas are nearly faultless.
He was only limited, as we all are, by the era he was
living in. As
such, he had little notion of cosmological evolution or
Buddhist philosophy which is the primary reason why his
ideas are less useful than Pirsig’s for a modern
page 16 of your thesis you refer to Searle (1992, p.19).
Though you have not included it (perhaps for space
reasons; perhaps not to duplicate the quotation from Cooper,
which makes a similar point), I find that Searle’s
explanation adds clarity to this ontology/epistemology
is a persistent confusion between the claim that we should
try as much as possible to eliminate personal subjective
prejudices from the search for truth and the claim that
the real world contains no elements that are irreducibly
this confusion in turn is based on a confusion between the
epistemological sense of the subjective/objective distinction,
and the ontological sense.
Epistemically, the distinction marks different degrees
of independence of claims from the vagaries of special values,
personal prejudices, points of view, and emotions.
Ontologically, the distinction marks different categories
of empirical reality…
Epistemically, the ideal of objectivity states a
worthwhile, even if unattainable goal.
But ontologically, the claim that all of reality
is objective is, neurobiologically speaking, simply false.
In general mental states have an irreducibly subjective
PRACTICAL PROBLEMS WITH BOAS’ METHODOLOGY
section includes an enlightening tale about how Margaret
Mead was duped by the Samoan natives.
2: The Metaphysics of Quality
38, paragraph 1. This
is an excellent, succinct introduction for what you plan to
accomplish with Chapter 2.
‘The section on these foundations clarifies the
MOQ’s relationship with Zen Buddhism, the employment of
James’ radical empiricism and pragmatism in the MOQ’s
notions of epistemology and Northrop’s emphasis on
reconciling the values of East and West.’
THE ‘METAPHYSICS OF QUALITY’
2.1.0, in its entirety, is spot-on (UK;
‘right on!’ in the US).
I like the opening statement, ‘[T]he term
“Metaphysics of Quality” (or “MOQ”) is the formal
term given to Pirsig’s monist system which is developed
from the postulation that mental and physical properties are
manifestations of value (rather than values being a property
of a subject or object.’
You tell us immediately that this is a monist
statement asserts a unifying principle that can’t be too
40, paragraph 2. ‘As
such, the whole universe is perceived by Pirsig as being a
moral order: “Because Quality is morality.
Make no mistake about it. They’re identical.
And if Quality is the primary reality of the world
then that means morality is also the primary reality of the
world is primarily a moral order.”’ (italics added) (Pirsig,
1991, p. 100) I
the thrill I felt reading this in LILA for the first time
– not because it was a concept that I had never conceived,
but because I had felt it in my youth – yet was unable to
get confirmation from parents, teachers, preachers, or other
ancient question, ‘How are we to live our life?’ is
referred to by Horse in the Arrive
Without Travelling DVD).
value your exposition on page 41, ‘Consequently, the term
“Dynamic Quality” is not meant to be a concept but only
a referring term’
(italics added), along with Pirsig's pithy observation that
follows. It is
very helpful. Your
use of referring term in this context defines it
perfectly, even though Dynamic Quality is ineffable,
undifferentiated, and cannot be defined.
I went back and read ZMM, pp.378–380 (1999 Quill
edition), and came away with a yet deeper understanding of
Aristotle's devaluation of ‘aretê’, the Good.
Of course, recognize here that understanding
(intellectual vis-à-vis inorganic substance;
sub = under, stance = standing) is a static pattern of value. Nevertheless,
I can refer to my experience
of this as a Quality Event, Dynamic.
2.1.1. TAOISM & ZEN BUDDHISM
have done a fine job in this section.
Future re-readings of it will serve to increase my
understanding of Zen.
I have a copy of Suzuki’s Introduction
to Zen Buddhism, but I was never able to make much sense
out of it.
45, paragraph 2 includes a good observation from page 103 of
DiSanto and Steele (1990) ‘…that Taoism perceives
objects as essentially being
slower processes than what we identify as events’
(italics added). Compare
this with Pirsig’s notion of the Quality event, in SODV:
occurs at the point at which subject and object meet.
Quality is not a thing.
It is an event. It
is the event at which the subject becomes aware of the
because without objects there can be no subject, quality is
the event at which awareness of both subjects and objects is
made possible. Quality
is not just the result of a collision between subject and
object. The very
existence of subject and objects themselves is deduced from
the Quality event. The
Quality event is the cause of subjects and objects, which
are then mistakenly presumed to be the cause of the Quality!
(Pirsig, 1995a, p.12)
subtitle of Pirsig’s first novel, Zen and the Art of
is An Inquiry into Values.
Pirsig’s analysis of the nature of
value, of how value is revealed, seems to complement
Sartre’s work. Put
simply, value is not an objective thing or entity, nor is it
subjective, emanating from ‘me’; it is an event.
above, ‘It is the event at which the subject becomes aware
of the object.’ This
conception of value explains why it is only revealed through
action, through our projects.
Value is revealed when the distinction between
subject and object melts away; when the ‘for-itself’ and
the ‘in-itself’ merge; when we are absorbed in
something, when we get it, dig it, as Jack Kerouac might say.
Pages 48–49. The
etiology of the word ‘zen’ from the Sanskrit
‘dhyana’ that is elucidated here is helpful.
I was familiar with the word ‘dhyana’ from my
study of yoga, as the seventh limb of Astanga yoga (from
Patanjali’s sutras), in which the subject and object merge
in a meditative state just prior to the eighth limb, samadhi
I had never made the connection with the word ‘zen’.
These connections are helpful.
In the same paragraph, you make a good point with the
quotation from DiSanto and Steele that the ‘enlightenment
experience doesn’t depend upon words and concepts for its
tend to be ‘head-centered.’
Quotations like this help the reader to escape the
confinement of intellectual static patterns.
From your discussion of how enigmatic Zen appears to Westerners, I am reminded of Pirsig’s
statement in LILA:
Of the two kinds of hostility
to metaphysics he [Phædrus] considered the mystics’ hostility
the more formidable.
Mystics will tell you that once you’ve opened the
door to metaphysics you can say goodbye to any genuine understanding
of reality. Thought
is not a path to reality. It
sets obstacles in that path because when you try to use
thought to approach something that is prior to thought your
thinking does not carry you toward that something.
It carries you away from it. To define
something is to subordinate it to a tangle of intellectual
when you do that you destroy real understanding. (1991,
Page 52, Pirsig’s 2000e e-mail to Anthony: ‘For
scientists, the mind of the Buddha and the Mind of God are
usually the same, even though the Buddha was an atheist.
I think it is extremely important to emphasize that
the MOQ is pure empiricism.
There is nothing supernatural in it.’
Compare this, later in the thesis, with Northrop’s
‘concepts by intuition’.
Page 52. Good
to point out that in the MOQ, the ‘soul’ can be regarded
as the intellect and survives bodily death through books,
rituals, electronic media, etc.
Page 53 paragraph 2 and bottom footnotes.
There is a wealth of information in this paragraph
and associated footnotes that completely escaped my
attention on first reading.
‘The treatment of Quality through ZMM (its
formlessness) and LILA (its forms) can, when taken together,
be read as reflecting the circle of enlightenment; both
texts are constructed as Western versions of a Zen koan
(literally puzzling story or question) in order to assist a
more Western-orientated mind [to] achieve enlightenment.’
Continual re-reading of this nugget helps solidify my
was my first exposure to the equivalence of the referring
term ‘Dynamic Quality’ with Northrop’s term ‘the
undifferentiated aesthetic continuum’, which Pirsig refers
to in SODV, page 17. Not
for nothing did Pirsig refer to Northrop as his mentor in
the Arrive Without Travelling DVD.
56, last paragraph. This
contains an important point: ‘There is a parallel here to
Descartes’ methodology in obtaining definite knowledge
though the Buddha was more radical in his ontology than
Descartes by rejecting the notion of a determinate self.’
In addition, footnote 66, page 57, states:
(1959, p.55) verifies that it’s accurate to think of the
‘self’ as being real in the ‘static’ or conventional
so though it is non-existent from a Dynamic viewpoint (svabhava-sunyata),
it’s acceptable to ‘use such expressions in our daily
life as “I”, “you”, “being”, “individual”,
to Rahula, the Buddha taught that a clinging to the self as
static and permanent is the primary cause of dukkha.
worth comparing this notion of the ‘self’ with Ayn
(Rand, 1957; Peikoff, 1991)).
THE MOQ & WILLIAM JAMES
insight: ‘Consequently, for James, there is no separation
of subject and object (or knower and known) at the moment of
PIRSIG’S UNDERSTANDING OF QUALITY
62. You make an
excellent observation with respect to Pirsig’s ZMM not
being written for the Zen Master or professional
I had read Pirsig, I dabbled a little with Zen (D.T. Suzuki’s work, 1967) and
with yoga. I had
also studied some mystic philosophers, e.g., Gurdjieff and
Ouspensky (Ouspensky, 1947).
Although I gained wonderful experience practicing the
yoga asanas, I was baffled by references (in the Zenand
Vedantic literature) to ‘nothingness’ and the
was Pirsig’s use of the term ‘Quality’ in ZMM and
later, the differentiation between Dynamic Quality and
static quality that deepened my understanding of these
importantly, it is Pirsig’s presentation that provides the
confidence that Dynamic Quality is accessible
to us ordinary people.
am a biostatistician by profession.
In cancer and AIDS research, we are constantly
processing biological and genetic information with
statistical and mathematical models.
Through his two books, Pirsig presents an
evolutionary, unified paradigm through which biological
processes can be understood in terms of his
A particularly compelling example of this division,
in LILA, clearly illustrates this:
static molecule, an enormous, chemically ‘dead,’
plastic-like molecule called protein, surrounds the Dynamic
one and prevents attack by forces of light, heat and other
chemicals that would prey on its sensitivity and destroy it.
The Dynamic one, called DNA, reciprocates by telling
the static one what to do, replacing the static one when it
wears out, replacing itself even when it hasn’t worn out,
and changing its own nature to overcome adverse conditions.
These two kinds of molecules, working together, are
all there is in some viruses, which are the simplest forms
division of all biological evolutionary patterns into a
Dynamic function and a static function continues on up
through higher levels of evolution.
The formation of semi-permeable cell walls to let
food in and keep poisons out is a static latch.
So are bones, shells, hide, fur, burrows, clothes,
houses, villages, castles, rituals, symbols, laws and
of these prevent evolutionary degeneration.
the other hand, the shift in cell reproduction from mitosis
to meiosis to permit sexual choice and allow huge DNA
diversification is a Dynamic advance.
So is the collective organization of cells into
metazoan societies called plants and animals.
So are sexual choice, symbiosis, death and
regeneration, communality, communication, speculative
thought, curiosity and art.
Most of these, when viewed in a substance-centered
evolutionary way are thought of as mere incidental
properties of the molecular machine.
But in a value-centered explanation of evolution they
are close to the Dynamic process itself, pulling the pattern
of life forward to greater levels of versatility and
freedom. (Pirsig, 1991, p.151)
find myself trying to recognize similar patterns in my
day-to-day life. For
example, writing a paper can be seen as series of dynamic
advances followed by static latches, followed by dynamic
advances, followed by static latches, and so on.
Whenever we embark on a new project, this
evolutionary progress can be gleaned from our efforts.
We write a sentence, or paragraph, then stop, or
reassess. Make a
further advance, and then stop.
If we are able to stand back and “feel” this
evolutionary process, without trying to name it at every
stage, we can make progress.
Psychologically, this produces authentic
satisfaction, without the idea of ‘competition’ entering
into the picture. Trying
to progress in this way represents an example of the
‘process of value evolution’ (Pirsig, 1991, p.157)
applied to one’s own life.
I like the following statement on page 69: ‘However,
though sunyata is
beyond understanding, in this absolute sense, Pirsig’s two
texts are designed (similar to a Zen koan) to push the
intellect towards a better understanding of the
unconditioned largely through intuitive means.’
point is well taken. ‘Moreover,
if reality is deemed to operate on the lines of dynamic
influences (rather than inert particles) then a metaphysics
built around this understanding should be more effective
when dealing with the world.
From the smallest molecules to the largest galaxies,
action, movement and change are always present so it appears
that Pirsig is justified – certainly, to some extent –
in employing a term (familiar to Westerners and especially
North American consumers) that implies this dynamism.’
This is certainly true in my case.
PIRSIG’S UNDERSTANDING OF VALUE
This value is more immediate,
more directly sensed than any ‘self’ or any ‘object’ to
which it might be later assigned… It is the primary empirical
reality from which such things as stoves and heat and oaths
and self are later intellectually constructed. (Pirsig,
i.e. unlike a negative experience,
objects such as stoves need to be learnt.
As such, Pirsig equates empirical experience
with value and rejects the traditional Western understanding
of the term which ‘enters the subject-object way of thinking
that there is an object that is experienced and a subject
that experiences it’. (McWatt, 2004, p.73)
These statements demonstrate a deep understanding of how experience
creates both objects (relatively easy to understand) and
subjects or ‘selves’ (hard for me to understand).
Greg, the writer, steeped in SOM and struggling to
escape, does not understand this, but ‘I’ do.
Pirsig maintains that the self is a collection of
static patterns as found in his response to Jason in Lila’s
The MOQ, as I understand
it, denies any existence of a ‘self’ that is independent
of inorganic, biological, social or intellectual patterns.
There is no ‘self’ that contains these patterns.
These patterns contain the self.
This denial agrees with both religious mysticism
and scientific knowledge.
In Zen, there is reference to ‘big self’ and ‘small
self is the patterns.
Big self is Dynamic Quality. (Pirsig, in Glover,
2003, p.64, annotation 29)
Having noted this, I still find the ‘I’, or
‘Self’, a useful working construct.
For example, Greg has experienced his ‘I’
observing his intellectual machinations not unlike the
‘I’ in Gurdjieff’s system (see Ouspenksy, 1949), which
is equated to the ‘master’ in the parable of the hackney
carriage (body ≈ MOQ inorganic); horse (emotional
≈ MOQ biological); driver (mind ≈ MOQ social);
and master (MOQ intellectual).
I have also found the ‘I’ or ‘Self’ useful while studying Franklin
Merrell-Wolff’s Aphorisms on
Consciousness-Without-an-Object (Merrell-Wolfe, 1973;
also found at www.merrell-wolff.org/philo.htm#aphorisms).
Merrell-Wolfe describes recognitions of ‘I am
Atman’ and ‘I am Nirvana’ as premonitions to his
Page 73 (continued).
subject-object metaphysics, this experience is between
pre-existing object and subject, but in the MOQ, there is no
pre-existing subject and object.
Experience and Dynamic Quality become synonymous…
Experience comes first, everything else [such as subjects
and objects] comes later.
This is pure empiricism, as opposed to scientific
empiricism, which, with its preexisting subjects and
objects, is not really so pure. (Pirsig, 2002h, p.548)
This denial of
pre-existing subjects and objects, usually understood to be the
conditions for experience, is essential to the
comprehension of the MOQ.
Nothing that can be intellectually distinguished from
anything else can be said to exist prior to or apart from
sensory experience. (McWatt, 2004, p.73)
summary statement, Anthony. This is very
good and is extremely
helpful in loosening the grip of SOM thinking.
77. You state, ‘It seems, therefore, that notions of
subjects and objects only arose much later on in
evolutionary history than the more primitive notions of good
and bad – probably when organisms (such as human beings)
developed sentience and then thought the subject-object
distinction would be one of value
to hold.’ You deserve credit here, Anthony.
This summary paragraph is a clincher for those of us
who, for years, have struggled with, and are still
struggling with, the distinction between subjects and
78, paragraph 2. This is also worthy of comment: ‘However,
the position of the logical positivism appears contradictory
because it seemingly can’t admit a good
reason to justify its position and, as such, is ruled out
according to its own criterion.’
Page 84, paragraph 1.
This quotation from LILA (Pirsig, 1991, p.119) still
sends shivers down my spine: ‘Dynamic Quality is the
pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, the source of all
things, completely simple and always new… It contains no
pattern of fixed rewards and punishments.
Its only perceived good is freedom.’
THE DIVISION OF QUALITY INTO THE DYNAMIC & STATIC
(1991, p.135) is quoted here: ‘“The first good, that
made you want to buy the record, was Dynamic Quality…
Static quality is what you normally expect”’.
I have had this exact experience on numerous
following statement is right on: ‘As such a balance must
be kept (ideally) between order (as too much static quality
is boring) and freedom (as too much Dynamic Quality can be
STATIC QUALITY PATTERNS
89. Diagram of
‘The evolutionary order of static quality patterns’.
This diagram is fine for the non-mathematically
oriented, but it can be improved with a four-dimensional
hypercube with each dimension orthogonal (mathematically
‘at right angles’) to the others.
Of course, it is difficult to ‘see’ a
four-dimensional hypercube projected on a page.
93. Nice summary
statement: ‘This suggests that the theory of cosmological
evolution, far from undermining the idea of a spiritual
universe, actually supports the idea of at least a universal
tendency towards sophisticated value states without having
to hold the more extreme notions of a pre-ordained design or
introduction of the notion of fuzzy logic here is
me there is no conflict in perspectives of fuzzy logic and
the MOQ. In my
view, a more compelling use of fuzzy logic is understood as
rigorous logic, i.e., symbol manipulation (à la Pirsig) of
fuzzy sets, primarily within the intellectual SPoV.
It is a big subject.
the moment I am thinking of how fuzzy sets and fuzzy logic
can, and will, make contributions to the enhancement of the
prior to Jan Lukasiewicz viewed the truth of statements A
and B as all or none, T or F, 1 or 0.
But what about statements that are partially
true? Does the
liar from Crete lie or tell the truth when he tells us that
all Cretans are liars? If
he lies he tells the truth.
If he tells the truth, he lies.
The liar paradox presents a literal half-truth (Kosko,
1992, p.4). On
page 55 of your thesis, you present the Buddhist tetralemma.
The third component, ‘A is both true and not
true’, precisely describes this half-truth.
are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths.
It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays
the devil.’ A.N.
is important to note to those unfamiliar with logic that the
term ‘fuzzy’ in ‘fuzzy logic’ does not imply
illogical or bad reasoning.
Rather it means reasoning logically and rigorously
with fuzzy sets, i.e., sets that are vague in the sense that
the elements comprising them, may belong to them only to
some degree. Let’s
consider an example in which the MOQ uses fuzzy logic to
un-ask the question applied to themind-matter
problem – with which your Chapter 3 is largely concerned.
classification of patterns [in the MOQ] is not very original,
but the Metaphysics of Quality allows an assertion about
them that is unusual. It says they are not continuous.
They are discrete. They have very little to do with
one another. Although each higher level is built on
a lower one it is not an extension of that lower level.
Quite the contrary. The higher level can often be
seen to be in opposition to the lower level, dominating
it, controlling it where possible for its own purposes.”
set theorist would say that Pirsig contradicts himself.
When Pirsig says that ‘they are discrete’, he is stating
that the classification of patterns falls into discrete,
i.e., mutually exclusive sets (as found with Aristotle’s
law of the excluded middle). In the next sentence,
however, Pirsig states, ‘They have very little
to do with one another’ (emphasis added). Uh-oh, all
bets are off. The fuzzy set theorist will claim that
Pirsig has fuzzified the sets, i.e., made the boundaries
between the sets fuzzy, instead of ‘crisp’, or discrete.
(of many) of Pirsig’s brilliant insights has to do with
his observation in LILA that...
the four systems [i.e., the inorganic, biological, social,
and intellectual] are exhaustive, they are not exclusive.
They all operate at the same time and in ways that
are almost independent of each other.
classification of patterns is not very original, but the
Metaphysics of Quality allows an assertion about them that
is unusual. It
says they are not continuous.
They are discrete.
They have very little to do with one another.
Although each higher level is built on a lower one it
is not an extension of that lower level.
Quite the contrary.
The higher level can often be seen to be in
opposition to the lower level, dominating it, controlling it
where possible for its own purposes. (Pirsig, 1991, p.153)
positivists and crisp logicians will jump all over this set
of postulates because they appear to contradict each other.
response, February 15, 2011: ‘I would say,
“Let them jump.” They will be wrong. Things can be
discrete and still have relations with other things.
A child is discrete from his parents even though he
has emerged from them, and that is the case with the levels
of static quality patterns. One can argue that
“discrete” means “completely separate and
unconnected” but nothing in this world is completely
separate and unconnected and so this definition of
“discrete” makes it an empty term. I could have said the
levels are “distinct” but that’s too weak. Everybody
knows they’re distinct. “The law” at the intellectual
level and sneezing at the biological level are discrete. It
sounds like I’m quibbling but this point is fundamental to
In one sense the ‘four systems’ are ‘almost
independent of each other’ and hence, (almost) orthogonal
to each other, implying different dimensions (in the
mathematical sense). On
the other hand, the statement that ‘each higher level is
built on a lower one’ suggests that a single dimension is
involved, as in your diagram on page 89 (the vertical
could say that I’m combining ‘high-level intellectual
static patterns of value (SPoV)’ here with:
the notion that ‘discrete’ implies increasingly discrete
levels (as in the statistical technique of analysis of
the notion that ‘discrete’ means orthogonal,
multidimensional levels that are mathematically independent.
it is precisely this genius of Pirsig that these postulates point
to the same ‘truth’ that the Buddhist tetralemma
does, or that a Zen koan does.
The static patterns are both ‘contained in’ and ‘independent of’ each other
epistemically and ontologically.
Dynamic Quality, on the other hand, is completely
independent of the static patterns, both epistemologically
there is a misprint in the UK hardbound edition of LILA (Pirsig,
1991, 418 pages) on page 153.
The term ‘discreet’ (Webster’s
Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1988: ‘having or showing
discernment or good judgment in conduct and esp. in speech;
capable of preserving prudent silence’) should be replaced
with ‘discrete’ (Webster: ‘constituting a separate
entity; individually distinct; consisting of distinct or
The word is spelled correctly in the US hardboundedition
(Bantam Books, New York 1991, 409
pages), on page 149, and in the US softbound edition
(Bantam Books, New York 1991, 468 pages), on page 173.)
MOQ, specifically Pirsig, frees us from the ambiguity that
fuzzy logicians can fall into. Let’s leap forward to
pages 158–159 of LILA:
what the Metaphysics of Quality concludes is that all
schools are right on the mind-matter question. Mind is
contained in static inorganic patterns. Matter is
contained in static intellectual patterns. Both mind
and matter are completely separate evolutionary levels of
static patterns of value, and as such are capable of each
containing the other without contradiction.
above-mentioned set theorist is very likely to say that
Pirsig is fuzzifying the sets of ‘mind’ and ‘matter’
by saying that ‘mind is contained in static
inorganic patterns’ (emphasis added) and that ‘matter is
contained in static intellectual patterns’
(emphasis added). But it is precisely Pirsig’s use
of the language in this sense and context that enlightens
the reader that the language of crisp and fuzzy sets does
not apply. (Pirsig, 1991, p. 229).
my view, the areas of fuzzy set theory and fuzzy logic
constitute, primarily, an elegant formulation within the
level of intellectual static patterns. However, there
is some Dynamic stuff going on as one sees that the notion
of fuzzy sets, by recognizing degrees of ‘truth’ in
ordinary propositions, on occasion, can extricate one from
some constraints that Aristotelian categorization often
forces us into. I am reminded, here, of Pirsig’s
observation in LILA:
the two kinds of hostility to metaphysics he considered the
mystics’ hostility the more formidable. Mystics will
tell you that once you’ve opened the door to metaphysics
you can say goodbye to any genuine understanding of reality.
Thought is not a path to reality. It sets obstacles in
that path because when you try to use thought to approach
something that is prior to thought your thinking does not
carry you toward that something. It carries you away
from it. To define something is to subordinate it to a
tangle of intellectual relationships. And when you do
that you destroy real understanding. (1991, p.66)
here, the fuzzy set theorists are not mystics. They
are attempting to use the intellect to grab onto the mystic
reality that the MOQ reveals. For
instance, imagine a three-dimensional fuzzy cube with edges
(or dimensions) based on the following definition of Pirsig:
‘The tests of truth are logical consistency, agreement
with experience, and economy of explanation.’
(Pirsig, 1991, p.102).
consistency’ may be considered as one dimension;
‘agreement with experience’ as the second; and ‘economy of explanation’ as the third.
measurement purposes, each independent (i.e., orthogonal, in
the language of mathematics) dimension can be considered on
a continuum ranging from 0 to 1.
A single proposition (or an entire set of hypotheses
or conjectures) can be placed along these three dimensions
anywhere in the 0 to 1 range, 0 indicating no truth and 1
indicating complete truth.
A statement (theory) that is completely logically
consistent, totally in agreement with experience, and
perfectly economical in expression or explanation rests at
the (1,1,1) vertex of the cube.
A good mathematical proof lies close to the (1,1,1)
vertex in the fuzzy cube.
The statement that O.J. Simpson did not murder Nicole
lies close to the (0,0,0) vertex.
another fuzzy logic example:
Does Lila have Quality?
Consider a five-dimensional hypercube with orthogonal
dimensions and corresponding bit vectors (simply a
inorganic pattern of quality (1,0,0,0,0)
Lila have Quality? Phaedrus’
response that ‘biologically she does, socially she
(Pirsig, 1991, p.303) can
be characterized as (?,1,0,?,?) in bits
don’t know whether Lila’s mental illness could be due to
some sub-biological malfunction at the level of inorganic
value but, for ease of illustration, let’s assume not.
Lila doesn’t possess much intellectual quality
though Phaedrus urges us to watch the Dynamic Quality in her
considering the five-dimensional cube described above, with
‘space’ between the vertices, perhaps Lila’s quality
(or more accurately still, the amount that Quality possesses Lila)
is a fit (fuzzy
unit) vector of (.9, .9, .2, .1, .7).
INTELLECTUAL QUALITY PATTERNS
discussion of intellectual quality patterns is fascinating.
Much to absorb here.
clarify what the intellectual level refers to within the MOQ,
it may assist the reader to understand that just as every
biological pattern is also inorganic (in the MOQ), not all
inorganic patterns are biological and just as every social
level is also biological, not all biological patterns are
though every intellectual pattern is social, not all social
patterns are intellectual.’
This verbal description may be depicted in the
following Venn diagram of crisp (or naïve) set theory.
patterns of values represented as crisp sets.
in the intellectual
oval are ‘intellectual patterns of value’.
The ‘elements’ in the social
oval are ‘social patterns of value’.
From the standpoint of elementary (naïve) set
theory, every ‘element’ of the intellectual
SPoV is also an ‘element’ of the social
SPoV On page 98,
the quotation from Pirsig (2003c) appears to place
constructs like handshaking, ballroom dancing, raising
one’s right hand, etc., in the social
oval, but outside of the intellectual
that include what Pirsig describes as ‘independently
manipulable signs’ such as grammar, logic and mathematics,
fall within the intellectual
oval, and therefore, within social,
ovals (the remaining SPoV) as well.
Mathematics and geometry, which ‘evolved their own
abstract language as they became inexpressible in the
traditional written forms of spoken language’ can also be
included in the intellectual
oval with this formulation.
99. This appears
to be Pirsig’s attempt to provide a demarcation between
intellectual and social (and ‘lower’) static patterns of
value. Fuzzy set
theorists would argue that this distinction is arbitrary.
Douglas Hofstadter (1979, 2007) could also be added here to
the list of philosophers of consciousness that are
‘conspicuous in their absence’.
100–101. A good point is made here.
Pirsig’s (continuing) argument that intellectual
abilities, such as rational analysis, evolved as a function
of society, instead of as a function of biology is extremely
difficult for those of us steeped in SOM.
It is the patterns
that are evolving, not substance.
I have struggled for a long time in understanding
Pirsig’s enigmatic statement:
‘I think therefore I am’ was a historically shattering
declaration of independence of the intellectual level of
evolution from the social level of evolution, but would he
have said it if he had been a seventeenth-century Chinese
he had been, would anyone in the seventeenth-century China
have listened to him and called him a brilliant thinker and
recorded his name in history?
If Descartes had said, ‘The seventeenth-century
French culture exists, therefore I think, therefore I am,’
he would have been correct. (1991, p.305)
do not claim to understand this.
But I am progressing to the point that understanding
may be possible when one sufficiently lets go of the grip of
SOCIAL QUALITY PATTERNS
102. Again, this
appears to be Pirsig’s attempt to provide a demarcation
between social and biological static patterns of value.
Again, fuzzy set theorists would argue that this
distinction is arbitrary though it is agreed that with too
many gradations, one can get bogged down in an intellectual
diatribe at every position.
103, another good point.
‘Though Pirsig’s system was designed primarily
(for pragmatic reasons) to explain human behaviour, it is
technically concerned with value patterns irrespective of
which entities (known and unknown) that they manifest
themselves through.’ Once
again, it is the patterns that are evolving. In
a sense, the patterns are independent of the vehicles that
transmit them, as in Pirsig’s (1991, p.156) exampleof
a program being contained in a computer, a magnetic drum, or
even the brain of the programmer.
103, last paragraph. ‘It
appears that the evolutionary purposes of social patterns of
value (such as ritual and custom) were developed to preserve
and improve biological patterns.
To the extent that social customs and institutions
reproduce, preserve, and protect the relationships within a
given society for the good of that society, they may be
regarded as “social quality”.’
like your summary paragraph here except for the words purposes
and developed, which appear to be just a bit too teleological for the
general point that Pirsig is making in LILA when he queries
“It seems clear that no mechanistic pattern exists toward
which life is heading, but has the question been taken up of
whether life is heading away from mechanistic patterns?”
(1991, p.146). [I
realize that you are talking about social quality patterns
here, and I admit I am just being picky.]
It seems to suggest an ‘end’ or ‘design’
toward which life is heading.
My opinion is that a rephrasing such as, ‘It
appears that the social patterns, such as ritual and custom,
naturally evolved to preserve and improve biological
patterns,’ is more accurate.
INORGANIC QUALITY PATTERNS
with Pirsig’s query in LILA:
you pick up a glass of water why don’t the properties of
that glass go flying off in different directions?
What is it that keeps these properties uniform if it
is not something called substance?
That is the question that created the concept of
substance in the first place. (1991, p.108)
is good to point out ‘that the atoms of the glass can be
said, metaphysically, to value
sticking together.’ The
idea of ‘valence’ in chemistry is a value-laden term for
how things are attracted to each other, i.e., hold together.
According to Webster,
the words value
and valence have a
common root: valere,
to be strong. If
an atom has a +1 valence (it is missing an electron) and
another atom has a -1 valence (it has an extra electron),
then a bond (attraction) between these two atoms would be
non-metaphysicians have no trouble in seeing that an
electron charge is not really well explained by the concept
110. I agree
with you that Pirsig’s notion of the ‘Evolution of
Values’ is perhaps unique. I
had struggled with this idea for years.
I still recall (vividly) the thrill I experienced
when, reading LILA, it occurred to me that the things most
interesting to me could be viewed from the viewpoint of
value evolution, and the moral framework derived from it.
five-point summary here of what Pirsig means by
THE MORAL FRAMEWORK DERIVED FROM EVOLUTION
on this page or perhaps on page 118, Pirsig’s brilliant
summary in LILA should have also been included:
was emerging was that the static patterns that hold one
level of organization together are often the same patterns
that another level of organization must fight to maintain
its own existence. Morality
is not a simple set of rules.
It’s a very complex struggle of conflicting
patterns of values.
This conflict is the residue of evolution.
As new patterns evolve they come into conflict with
old ones. Each
stage of evolution creates in its wake a wash of problems.
(emphasis added) (1991, p.167)
worthwhile point is that as the MOQ is a morality based on
evolution, it may, at some future time, become evil because
it will have outlived its usefulness.
This is related to Pirsig’s example in LILA that
the search is not to find the ‘real’ painting, but to
keep those that are of value:
if Quality or excellence is seen as the ultimate reality
then it becomes possible for more than one set of truths to
exist. Then one
doesn’t seek the absolute ‘Truth.’
One seeks instead the highest quality intellectual
explanation of things with the knowledge that if the past is
any guide to the future this explanation must be taken
provisionally; as useful until something better comes along.
One can then examine intellectual realities the same
way one examines paintings in an art gallery, not with an
effort to find out which one is the ‘real’ painting, but
simply to enjoy and keep those that are of value.
There are many sets of intellectual reality in
existence and we can perceive some to have more quality than
others, but that we do so is, in part, the result of our
history and current patterns of values. (1991, p.103)
THE MOQ & PRAGMATIC TRUTH
125. This page
is full of depth and meaning.
‘Truths change – they evolve.’
I find this to be true in my own personal experience.
As I go through my daily life, I find that I am
happier when I adjust the degree of certainty regarding
certain truths. That
‘the new truths are of more value
than the previous ones’ is a continuing experience with
125. This is an
apt quotation from DiSanto and Steele.
I went back and read that section in DiSanto and
Steele and found another paragraph on the same page of their
book which I find very helpful in further explaining the
influence of James on Pirsig:
James’s voluntaristic philosophy, Pragmatism, truth
is thought of as belief that works, belief that leads to
fruitful and satisfying consequences.
If you want to
know whether a particular belief or hypothesis that you are
entertaining is true, be attentive to the consequences of
the belief. [italics added]
If the consequences—in attitudes and actions, and
in the products of attitudes and actions—are good, if they
are somehow satisfying, then you can say that the proposed
belief is true; and if the consequences are not satisfying,
you can say that the proposed belief is false.
It is precisely here that some aspects of fuzzy logic
apply. The truth
or falsity here does not have to be 0,1; black or white.
truth can be seen as a ‘movement’ along the 0,1
later you find that a fruitful belief has become a fruitless
or destructive one or, vice versa, a fruitless or
destructive belief has become a fruitful one, you can say
that the truth has changed.
The idea that truth changes needn’t be a source of
Truth isn’t to be thought of as some sort of
eternal quality that certain beliefs have and others
don’t; it is to be thought of as something that happens
(or fails to happen) to a belief as the consequences of the
belief get played out. Truth
is a process. (DiSanto and Steele, 1990, p.170)
UTILISING COSMOLOGICAL EVOLUTION IN PRAGMATISM
had studied The
Principles of Psychology (James, 1890 ) and some
other works by James (McDermott, 1967).
But not until Pirsig did I understand why I liked
James so much. I
am less familiar with Spinoza.
response, October 16, 2009: ‘Spinoza was simply put in the
Ph.D. as the examiners (certainly the internal one) wanted
to see evidence of how Pirsig's philosophy related to a
traditional Western philosopher.’]
finishing up Chapter 2, I started to reread ZMM.
I am amazed at the nuggets that are replete in ZMM
that had escaped my attention.
I also reread Pirsig’s SODV paper.
In my work as a biostatistician, I am constantly
educating my staff and clients, gently, of the impact their
values have on their scientific interests and inferences.
And, of course, I’m always reading through Lila’s
first contribution appears on page 258 in my copy [Glover,
was impressed by a contribution that you made in response to
Ken on page 301 of Lila’s
concatenated pieces from LILA, your contribution in Lila’s
Child, and SODV to form a sequence that synthesizes some
key concepts for me. I’ve
included it below:
saw that not only a man recovering from a heart attack but
also a baby gazes at his hand with mystic wonder and
remembered the child Poincaré referred to who could not
understand the reality of objective science at all but was
able to understand the reality of value perfectly.
When this reality of value is divided into static and
Dynamic areas a lot can be explained about that baby’s
growth that is not well explained otherwise.
can imagine how an infant in the womb acquires awareness of
simple distinctions such as pressure and sound, and then at
birth acquires more complex ones of light and warmth and
hunger. We know
these distinctions are pressure and sound and light and
warmth and hunger and so on but the baby doesn’t.
We could call them stimuli but the baby doesn’t
identify them as that. From
the baby’s point of view, something, he knows not what,
compels attention. This
generalized ‘something,’ Whitehead’s ‘dim
apprehension,’ is Dynamic Quality.
When he is a few months old the baby studies his hand
or a rattle, not knowing it is a hand or a rattle, with the
same sense of wonder and mystery and excitement created by
the music and heart attack in the previous examples.
the baby ignores this force of Dynamic Quality it can be
speculated that he will become mentally retarded, but if he
is normally attentive to Dynamic Quality he will soon begin
to notice differences and then the correlations between the
differences and then repetitive patterns of the
it is not until the baby is several months old that he will
begin to really understand enough about that enormously
complex correlation of sensations and boundaries and desires
called an object
to be able to reach for one.
This object will not be a primary experience.
It will be a complex pattern of static values derived
from primary experience.
the baby has made a complex pattern of values called an
object and found this pattern to work well he quickly
develops a skill and speed at jumping through the chain of
deductions that produced it, as though it were a single
jump. This is
similar to the way one drives a car.
The first time there is a very slow trial-and-error
process of seeing what causes what.
But in a very short time it becomes so swift one
doesn’t even think about it.
[Compare this with James’ thoughts on habit (Dover
1950, p.104).] The
same is true of objects.
One uses these complex patterns the same way one
shifts a car, without thinking about them.
Only when the shift doesn’t work or and
‘object’ turns out to be an illusion is one forced to
become aware of the deductive process.
That is why we think of subjects and objects as
can’t remember that period of our lives when they were
this way static patterns of value become the universe of
Elementary static distinctions between such entities
as ‘before’ and ‘after’ and between ‘like’ and
‘unlike’ grow into enormously complex patterns of
knowledge that are transmitted from generation to generation
as the mythos, the culture in which we live.”
(Pirsig, 1991, pp.122–123).
(Ant’s) response to Ken in Lila’s Child:
As with many entities, there are two
aspects of time in the MOQ: the Dynamic and the static.
The Dynamic aspect is what Northrop would say is a
‘concept of intuition,’ that is to say, the immediately
sensed perception that events in our experience happen in
The MOQ says all of reality
flows from Dynamic Quality and that everything we perceive
is some type of (temporary) static pattern. (Glover, 2003,
Pirsig in Ant’s post:
The MOQ really has no problem
with time. The
MOQ starts with the source of undifferentiated perception
itself as the ultimate reality.
The very first differentiation is probably “change.”
The second one may be
“before and after.”
From this sense of “before and after” emerge more
complex concepts of time.
is brilliant, crisp, clear; even I can understand it.]
Time is only a problem for the
SOM people because if time has none of the properties of an
object then it must be subjective.
And if time is subjective, that means Newton’s laws
of acceleration and many other laws of physics are
in the scientific world wants to allow that.
All this points to a huge
fundamental metaphysical difference between the MOQ and
the MOQ is truly empirical.
Science is not.
Classical science starts with a concept of the objective
world, atoms, and molecules, as the ultimate reality.
This concept is certainly supported by empirical
observation but it is not the empirical observation itself.
(Glover, 2003, p.302)
And here is the relevant section from Pirsig’s SODV
bottom box shows inorganic patterns. The Metaphysics of
Quality says objects are composed of “substance” but it
says that this substance can be defined more precisely as
“stable inorganic patterns of value.” This added
definition makes substance sound more ephemeral than
previously but it is not. The objects look and smell and
feel the same either way. The Metaphysics of Quality agrees
with scientific realism that these inorganic patterns are
completely real, and there is no reason that [this]
box shouldn't be there, but it says that this reality is
ultimately a deduction made in the first months of an
infant's life and supported by the culture in which the
infant grows up. I have noticed that Einstein in his 1936
essay Physics and Reality also held this view. (1995a,
3: The metaphysical problems of SOM
chapter is well constructed.
Close reading has helped me to understand certain
technically difficult aspects of the MOQ and, further, how
the MOQ provides a model that helps to extricate us from
some problems with SOM.
From the beginning (on page 146), you argue that
‘the MOQ dissolves the main metaphysical problems that
concern SOM, largely by shifting the terms of the debate.’
This is a cogent and incisive observation that you
proceed to support with skill.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MIND-MATTER PROBLEM
development of the mind–matter problem as a penetration
point into the problems with SOM is good.
For instance, Descartes’ cogito,
ergo sum was a powerful tool for me to elevate myself
from the crippling doubt I experienced in my youth, but (and
I suspect this was also true with many others) I was baffled
by the problem of ‘substance’.
The ego and the world are two created, finite
substances, and their ontological basis is God, the infinite
am extracting the following quote from Julian Marias’ History
of Philosophy (1967, Dover, p.220), ‘What
is res, what is substance? Per
substantiam, nihil aliud intelligery possumus, quam rem quae
ita existit, ut nulla alia re indigeat ad existendum. (Principia,
I, 51)’. That is, ‘By substance we can understand
nothing other than a thing which exists in such a manner
that it has need of no other thing for its existence.’
substance is defined by independence; to be a substance
means not to need
another thing in order to exist.
With Descartes, the physical world is determined by
‘res infinita’ (God) is accompanied by two finite
substances: the thinking substance (‘res cogitans’) and
the extended substance (‘res extensa’).
I understood it at first, the problem of the
‘communication between the substances’ was more
concerned with the problem of communication between (1) God
and (2) man and the world.
Later, I saw that the problem that created more angst
in me was the problem of communication between the mind (‘res
cogitans’) and the body (matter; ‘res extensa’), as
you have developed it here.
If the substances are completely
independent, how can they communicate with each other?
You point out (p.148, paragraph 2), ‘the assumption
of complete difference between mind and matter is erroneous.’
Common sense tells me my mind has an influence on my
body. ‘I can
think. I can put
together this sentence.
I can walk.’ I
can demonstrate this in my conscious experience as I move
from the chair and walk across the room.
The mind communicates with matter.
‘I can pick up this glass.’
I pick up the glass.
My own rejection of ‘the assumption of complete
difference between mind and matter is erroneous’ is
‘common sense’. However,
the ‘common sense’ argument is not good enough for a
doctoral dissertation in philosophy, so you state:
grounds for this objection are primarily based on the
observation that if cosmological evolution is true, it
indicates that over the course of about twelve billion
years, intellectual value patterns (minds) evolved from
inorganic value patterns and, as such, can’t be absolutely
different ontologically. (p.148, paragraph 2)
first reaction to ‘if cosmological evolution is true’ is
that it begs the question (’petitio principii’).
However, on reflection, it appears that it is more of
an ‘infinite regress’ problem.
Who is God’s mother?
How far back do you go before you get to some
axiomatic statement from which you can start?
This is precisely the difficult task that confronts
you. So my first
adverse reaction is muted somewhat.
The objection is supported by Searle (1992), who
spends his entire first chapter asking what is wrong with
the philosophy of mind, and who then proceeds to point out
that the recent history of materialism shows the same
mistake being made over and over.
metaphysicians were not willing to give up as easily as
Descartes, and suspected that the difficulties in the problem arose from the
initial separation of mind and body in the Cartesian
metaphysical system. If
one refused to grant that mind and body were really
different kinds of entity, then one would not have any
trouble accounting for their interrelations.
is, indeed, the approach that Pirsig takes when dealing
with the problem. (p.149)
quotations from Nagel and Popkin & Stroll provide
further clarity as to the nature of the problem.
In this way, your one-sentence paragraph in the
middle of page 149, clinches for the reader what approach
Pirsig takes and how you will be elucidating the problem.
149. The bottom
half of page sets the stage for further examination of the
metaphysical assumptions employed by Galileo and Newton.
GALILEO & NEWTON
3.2.0 includes a good summary of the three-termed relation
(in private sensed space and time)’, ‘public material
objects (in public mathematical space and time)’,
and the ‘observer’
work here on the Lockean spirit.
The paragraph at the top of page 152 is especially
Lockean mental substance, therefore, is the kind of entity identified
with the observer or spirit which generates consciousness and produces
sense perceptions when exposed to material substances.
It is only with the event of quantum mechanics and
the theory of relativity that viable alternatives to Newtonian
physics became available.
As we will observe, in the remainder, the presumed
properties of material substances were
radically revised in light of these new theories opening
the door to the possibility that material substances do have the capacity, when placed in the right
configuration, to generate sense perceptions.
next paragraph is an excellent summary of the mind-matter
corresponds to my own conceptualization of the problem
before I had read Pirsig.
such, the two substances of mind and matter are regarded as
mutually exclusive and, being absolutely
distinct (like a phantom walking through a door), unable to
affect each other. However, in direct contradiction to this assertion, experience strongly
indicates otherwise. (italics added)
this to the ‘common sense’ notion described earlier.
This section also sets the stage for a common ‘substance’
(Quality, value, ‘UnGround’) through which mind and matter
NEGATION OF PHYSICALISM
introduction/presentation here of Northrop’s concepts of
intuition and postulation is enlightening and well
137 is also an excellent quotation in its expansion on the definition of ‘concepts
other words, they are concepts the complete meaning of which
is given by something which can be immediately apprehended.
Such concepts we shall call concepts by intuition,
where intuition means, not a speculative hunch, but the
immediate apprehension of pure empiricism, which occurs
in direct inspection or pure observation.
Descriptive, natural history biology with its classification
of genera and species constructed in terms of directly observable
characteristics is an example of a science
[using concepts by intuition].
(F.S. C. Northrop, as quoted in McWatt, p.154, footnote
my own work in biostatistics, I am constantly cautioning
staff and clients of the error of confusing concepts by
‘intuition’ with concepts by ‘postulation’.
A relevant, powerful quotation related to this point
is in Northrop:
when one deductively formulated theory in science is
replaced by another deductively formulated theory in the
same science, even though the same words may be used in the
two theories, all these words undergo a complete sea-change
with respect to their meanings.
For example, the word ‘electron’ in the
deductively formulated electromagnetic theory of Lorentz has
quite a different meaning and designates quite a different
scientific object from what is designated by the same word
in the deductively formulated theory of quantum mechanics.
The reason for this is that the word ‘electron’
is a concept by postulation, not a concept by intuition.
And a concept by postulation is one the meaning of
which is designated only in the postulates of some specific
deductively formulated theory.
Hence, when one changes the postulates of a given
science, even though the same words may be used, each word
undergoes a change in its meaning.
The different possible kinds of concepts by
postulation will concern us in the next chapter. (1983,
discussion/brief review of the ‘ontological certainty of
consciousness’ is good.
It is not an issue that I have ever had a problem
with, but I can see why it may have been necessary to
address it in the dissertation, for clarity and
am not familiar with Clark and Barrett.
response, January 31, 2011: ‘Stephen Clark
was my primary advisor at Liverpool University for the Ph.D.
He’s now retired.’]
am only slightly familiar with David J. Chalmers.
I have a book called Explaining Consciousness – The Hard Problem, edited by Jonathan
Shear, in which Chalmers writes the lead article,
‘Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness’, followed by
26 papers from other authors, and a final ‘response’
article from Chalmers called
‘Moving Forward on the Problem of Consciousness’.
quotation from Chalmers, which you have included on
p.157–158, is something that I feel I can agree with, on
It seems to me that we are surer
of the existence of conscious experience than we are of
anything else in the world.
I have tried hard at times to convince myself that
there is really nothing there, that conscious experience
is empty, an illusion.
There is something seductive about this notion, which
philosophers throughout the ages have exploited, but in
the end it is utterly unsatisfying.
I find myself absorbed in an orange sensation, and
something is going on.
There is something that needs explaining, even after
we have explained the processes of discrimination and action:
there is the experience.
(David J. Chalmers, as quoted in McWatt, pp. 157–158)
in your footnote 143, page 158, you suggest that Chalmers
originally held a physicalist position but eventually
rejected it. So
it appears that Chalmers is ‘on our side’, at least with
respect to the one quote you have selected.
am excited about Northrop’s explication of concepts by (1)
intuition and (2) postulation.
I am only now starting to grasp how thorough you have
been in introducing these concepts of Northrop’s to help
untangle the mind-matter problem, and to approach a
solution, without relying exclusively on the MOQ.
159, first paragraph. Your statement that ‘Chalmers’
observation is of particular interest from the viewpoint of
Northrop’s philosophy…’ and the quotation by Northrop
that follows (‘“Such a concept has no meaning apart from
a specific deductively formulated theory.”’) provide a
concise synopsis. Your
identification of the phenomenal
sense of ‘seem’ as a concept by intuition and the psychological
sense of ‘seem’ as a concept by postulation, is very
continues through to page 160.
The next quotation from Northrop is powerful:
The scientific object, the star
called the sun, which is a three dimensional spherical mass
composed of molecules with a mean free path between them
defining an exceedingly high interior temperature, is
a theoretically inferred object [emphasis added].
In short, the astronomer’s sun is not an empirically
immediate pure fact, but a highly complicated theoretical
inference from pure fact.
existence of this astronomical ball of matter is only indirectly
verified, through its deductive consequences checked against
immediately inspected data such as those in… the sunset.
(F.S.C. Northrop, as quoted in McWatt, p.160)
also like the quotation from G. E. Moore for further
clarification of concepts by intuition vs. concepts by
moment’s reflection is sufficient to show that these light
vibrations are not themselves what we mean by yellow.
They are not what we perceive.
Indeed, we should never have been able to discover
their existence, unless we had been struck by the patent
difference of quality between the different colours.
The most we can be entitled to say of those
vibrations is that they are what corresponds in space to the
yellow which we actually perceive. (G.E. Moore, as quoted
in McWatt, pp.160–161)
purchased The Meeting
of East and West (Northrop, 1979) after viewing
Pirsig’s recall of F.S.C. Northrop in the Arrive
Without Travelling DVD.
In giving your dissertation a proper read, I have
since purchased Northrop’s The
Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities (Northrop,
1983). What a
& THE MIND-MATTER
you for addressing this topic as briefly as possible.
I remember once asking a professor of behavioral
psychology once what an ‘emotion’ was.
He told me that it was a ‘physiological
interpretation to an interiorly perceived state’.
I have always been amused by how the behaviorists
employ strings of ‘concepts of postulation’ to explain
the fact that there is ‘no mind’.
I reviewed Searle’s (1992) section on behaviorism
and chuckled at the old joke (page 35) about the brief
exchange between two behaviorists after making love: ‘It
was great for you, how was it for me?’
That section ends with the commonsense objection of
the ‘superspartan’, who was able to endure pain without
giving any sign of being in pain.
163. You state,
‘Moreover, in light of Occam’s razor, the further
requirement of a God to provide ideas of matter is
superfluous if values
(as employed by the MOQ) are
regarded as holding matter together.’ (italics added)
As previously stated, the idea of ‘valence’ in
chemistry is a value-laden term for how things are attracted
to each other, i.e., how they hold together.
If an atom has a +1 valence (it is missing an
electron) and another atom has a -1 valence (it has an extra
electron), then a bond (attraction) between these two atoms
would be created.
THE MOQ & THE MIND-MATTER PROBLEM
introduction with the observation by Searle is good.
It naturally flows into Pirsig’s position in
dealing with the ‘debate’.
The segue (bottom of page 166) into Heisenberg’s
uncertainty principle, is also good.
The quotation from John Barrow on page167 gives a
nice summary on the essential dichotomy of the dualists’
position, ‘“The Uncertainty Principle gives the minimum
extent to which the world can be divided into the
dualists’ conception of the observer and the
example at the end of the paragraph, ‘For instance, it’s
not possible to predict where a single “particle” will
hit a photographic plate (after being fired through a two
slit diffusion screen) with any certainty’, is
is a good demonstration of precisely this point on YouTube
with Walter Lewin (professor of physics, emeritus, MIT):
development through pages 168-169, with your references to
Popper, to make the point that ‘the MOQ recognises that
material “substances” and mental
“substances” inhere in a larger context of value
patterns that, in addition, incorporates social and
biological aspects of an evolutionary relationship.’
Try as I might, it is sometimes (often) hard not to
fall into the SOM Weltenshauung (‘world view’).
I appreciate the care with which you have developed
Chapter 3 so that you could introduce your committee to the
difficulty of the nature of the problem with SOM.
understanding has increased through reading your
dissertation closely. Paragraph
2 on page 169 provides an excellent epistemological summary.
I had never really understood the historical
development of the mental ‘substance’.
My thinking was more influenced by the German
idealists (Kant, Hegel), Berkeley, Ouspensky, and Gurdjieff,
as well as by my own study of physics.
I never thought of the mind as a ‘substance’.
From my study of physics, I had discovered the
‘immateriality’ of ‘matter’ early on, and therefore,
thought more in ‘idealistic’ terms for a long time.
summary on page 169 of Northrop’s (1947, pp. 44–45) statement regarding the
Buddhist ‘dialectic of negation’, and relating it to
ergo sum, is very helpful to me.
As mentioned above, I had studied (and practiced)
yoga for years and had read much Vedantic philosophy, but
was always baffled by the ‘nothingness’ of Samadhi.
From reading your dissertation and studying Lila’s Child (especially Pirsig’s remarks), I now understand
better the concept of ‘self’ as a construction of the
static patterns, and ‘Self’ as Dynamic Quality.
around on page 170, the summary is cogent:
‘As such, mental substances and material
substances can be perceived as ontologically
identical [emphasis added], i.e. intellectual quality
patterns and inorganic quality
patterns respectively.’ Spot on, Anthony!
observation on page 171: ‘Furthermore, though such
concepts can be abstracted from my immediate surroundings,
it is always a fact… that even in this process, my actual
experience as a physical body or a social entity is
continually mingled within relationships in the
(1966), as pessimistic as he is, writes
effectively on this subject.
172. Well done,
once again. It
never ceases to amaze me how I (we?) continually fall into
SOM. We think of
the objects as ‘out there’.
In the SODV paper, it is clear that Pirsig is
addressing an audience that is steeped in SOM when he states:
the Metaphysics of Quality the world is composed of three
things: mind, matter, and Quality. Because something is not
located in the object does not mean that it has to be
located in your mind. Quality cannot be independently
derived from either mind or matter. But it can be derived
from the relationship of mind and matter with each other.
Quality occurs at the point at which subject and object
meet. Quality is not a thing. It is an event. It is the
event at which the subject becomes aware of the object. And
because without objects there can be no subject,
quality is the event at which awareness of both subjects and
objects is made possible. Quality is not just the result of
a collision between subject and object. The very existence
of subject and object themselves is deduced from the Quality
event. The Quality event is the cause of the subjects and objects, which are
then mistakenly presumed to be the cause of the Quality!
[emphasis added] (1995a, p.12)
don’t really know anything of ‘out there’.
We know only the experience that we have.
We know only the Quality event.
Epistemology and ontology are one.
mentions on page 17 of SODV that ‘Northrop’s name for
Dynamic Quality is “the undifferentiated aesthetic
‘continuum’ he means that it goes on and on forever.
By ‘undifferentiated’ he means that it is without
And by ‘aesthetic’ he means that it has quality.
I have read the SODV paper several times, but did not
connect Dynamic Quality with Northrop’s
‘undifferentiated aesthetic continuum’ until I went
through Chapter 3 of your Ph.D. more closely.
is another author that I am not familiar with.
I like your observation on page 173 that ‘the body
as nerves and the body as experience are one and the same
174, second paragraph. The
beginning sentences of this paragraph point to a big and
important network of ideas for me.
I have been struggling with the epistemological and
ontological implications of Pirsig’s hot stove example for
a long time. You
state that Pirsig, unlike Whitehead, presumes ‘that the
Quality event occurs before
subjects and objects are aware of each other: “The Quality
event is the cause of the subjects and objects, which are
then mistakenly presumed to be the cause of the Quality!”
(Pirsig, 1995a, p.12)’
been thinking about the ‘before’ in your statement for 50 years.
can be taken in many contexts.
It is the cause, of course, but the cause here does
not exclusively precede the effect in ‘time’.
Your ‘before’ dissolves time. The
Quality event is independent of time.
It stands prior
on page 174, you write, ‘As noted in the previous chapter,
that does not entail, as idealist metaphysics would have it, that
intellectual patterns create experience but rather experience
creates intellect.’ (emphasis added)
This is good, Anthony.
173–175. I am
not qualified to assess the quality of Whitehead’s
I realize that my perspective is limited compared to
these giants. Having
said that, my perspective is that though Whitehead is
brilliant, Pirsig hits bull’s eyes on targets that
Whitehead only sees. I
have not been able to assimilate Whitehead, but he is fun to
read. I can
randomly flip to a page in Whitehead’s Process and
Reality and encounter pure poetry.
For example, on page 85, he states:
breath of feeling which creates a new individual fact has an
origination not wholly traceable to the mere data.
It conforms to the data, in that it feels
the data. But
the how of feeling, though it is germane to the data, is not fully
determined by the data.
The relevant feeling is not settled, as to its
inclusions or exclusions of ‘subjective form,’ by the
data about which the feeling is concerned.
The concrescent process is the elimination of these
indeterminations of subjective forms.
passage describes poetically how Dynamic Quality is
constantly in operation, even in the case of a simple
perception or observation of a datum.
I have experiences like this frequently as I analyze
real, honest-to-Good scientific data in my biostatistical
FREEDOM & DETERMINISM
and Determinism. Another
big subject. I
find myself often musing on Freedom, how to break free from
a static pattern, experience the Quality event, and then,
somehow, retain enough of the static to be able to access
the Dynamic, if such activity be moral.
like your summary of Bergson on page 176: ‘…each
evolutionary advance of the nervous system provides an
organism with a larger choice of actions which, in turn,
open up more potentialities which allows “consciousness to
pass more freely.”’
It’s also worth noting that earlier on this page, Bergson states:
the facts that we have just noticed must have already
suggested to us the idea that life is connected either with
consciousness or with something that resembles it.
Throughout the whole extent of the animal kingdom, we
have said, consciousness seems proportionate to the living
being’s power of choice [i.e., freedom].
up the zone of potentialities that surrounds the act.
It fills the interval between what is done and what
might be done. Looked
at from without, we may regard it as a simple aid to action,
a light that action kindles, a momentary spark flying up
from the friction of real action against possible actions.
But we must also point out that things would go on in
just the same way if consciousness, instead of being the
effect were the cause. We might suppose that consciousness,
even in the most rudimentary animal, covers by right an
enormous field, but is compressed in fact in a kind of vise:
each advance of the nervous centres, by giving the organism
a choice between a larger number of actions, calls forth the
potentialities that are capable of surrounding the real,
thus opening the vise wider and allowing consciousness
to pass more freely [my
this second hypothesis, as in the first, consciousness is
still the instrument of action; but it is even more true to
say that action is the instrument of consciousness; the
complicating of action with action, and the opposing of
action to action, are for the imprisoned consciousness the
only possible means to set itself free. (Bergson, 1998)
me pose a ‘non-intellectual’ example of consciousness passing
more freely in my own case.
About five years, ago, after my kids got out of the
house, I took up ballroom dancing with my wife.
After a year of that, we evolved to a species of
dance called ‘West Coast Swing’ (to distinguish it from
‘East Coast Swing’).
Now, I am continually working on improving my
patterns with this dance.
A basic pattern is called an ‘under-arm turn’.
How can I perform this (static) pattern better?
I attempt to open myself (my consciousness) to
Dynamic Quality. I
‘choose’ to be attracted to the higher-quality under-arm
turn (already a static pattern to the advanced dancer, but
one I don’t yet have sufficient access to) just as iron
filings are attracted to a magnet in Pirsig’s causal sense
(1991, p.107: ‘“B values
precondition A”’ [italics added]).
I value movement toward a higher-quality
manifestation of this pattern.
us say that I am sufficiently open to Dynamic Quality.
I have freedom to move to the (for me) as yet
unstructured (but not chaotic) patterned possibility.
I experience the kinesthetic joy associated with
executing the under-arm turn ‘better’.
I am conscious of this event.
I experience the Quality event.
Dancer and dance are one (which is analogous to the
illustration on page 162 of the thesis, which shows music
requires both the sound of musical instruments and
note in passing that your consideration of preference and
determinism (top of page 176) as being on the same continuum
presents an eloquent example of fuzzy logic at work.
Of course, it is not the logic that is fuzzy, but the
notion that freedom, in this context, is a fuzzy set,
existing along a 0/1 continuum, with 0 (no
freedom) and 1 (Dynamic Quality, complete
freedom) at the extremes.
A fortiori, think of the four static levels and Dynamic Quality as
continuums within their respective domains (dimensions),
each orthogonal to the others; organic orthogonal to (and
‘above’ the) inorganic; social orthogonal to the
organic; intellectual orthogonal to the social; and Dynamic
orthogonal to all the static levels.
Dynamic Quality can and does ‘infuse’ any, or
all, of these dimensions at all times.
MOQ puts an end to this ancient freewill vs. determinism
controversy by showing that both preference and probability
are subsets of value.
As the distinction between subject and object becomes
relatively unimportant in the MOQ, so does the distinction
between probability and preference.
There is no basic difference between mind and matter
with regard to free will, only a difference in degree of
freedom. (Pirsig, 1997c)
you for ending this section with Pirsig’s comment to you
on May 3rd, 1997 (cited as ‘Pirsig, 1997c’ on p.178).
It is hard to see how this summary can be improved.
3.4.2. ‘HUME’S PRINCIPLE’
section. Page 179:
MOQ differs from traditional ethics in regarding all reality
as moral; there is no amoral realm (objective or otherwise).
In consequence, all facts can be described in value terminology from inorganic
patterns of value (low order of morality i.e. as noted
above, largely determined patterns with few preferences) to
social and intellectual patterns of value (higher orders of
considerable autonomy with numerous preferences).
worth comparing this quotation with the relevant quotation
Make no mistake about it.
And if Quality is the primary reality of the world
then that means morality is also the primary reality of the
world. The world
is primarily a moral order. (Pirsig, 1991, p.100)
reading your thesis, I was not fully aware that the
‘is/ought’ problem had been attributed primarily to Hume
as ‘Hume’s Principle’.
179, paragraph 2, begins with ‘As cosmological evolution
is a scientific fact…’.
happen to agree with this statement.
However, my reaction is that it makes an assertion
(possibly begs the question) that is debatable to some and
is really not necessary as support for what follows.
I can envision one or more of the examiners taking
you to task on this minor point.
For me a statement such as ‘Taking
cosmological evolution as the basis for the moral grading of
the four static levels in the MOQ, a “thing” ought
(in moral rather than a prudential sense) to be treated
according to the level of evolution it is
at’ works just as well.
big section. Like
many others, for years I struggled with cause and effect.
I still remember the thrill I experienced when I
first read this passage in LILA:
the Metaphysics of Quality ‘causation’ is a metaphysical
term that can be replaced by ‘value.’
To say that ‘A causes B’ or to say that ‘B values
precondition A’ is to say the same thing.
The difference is one of words only.
Instead of saying ‘A magnet causes
iron filings to move toward it,’ you can say ‘Iron
filings value movement
toward a magnet.’ Scientifically
speaking neither statement is more true than the other.
It may sound a little awkward, but that’s a matter
of linguistic custom, not science.
The language used to describe the data is changed but
the scientific data itself is unchanged.
The same is true in every other scientific
observation Phædrus could think of.
You can always substitute ‘B values precondition
A’ for ‘A causes B’ without changing any facts of
science at all. The
term ‘cause’ can be struck out completely from a
scientific description of the universe without any loss of
accuracy or completeness. (Pirsig, 1991, p.107)
and Modern Science (Dover, 1979) provides an excellent
review of the subject. I
read this many years before I read LILA.
It is interesting to read through Bunge’s book and
substitute ‘value’ or ‘attraction’ for ‘cause’
in the appropriate way and see how many things become clear.
your last paragraph on page 181, you make the point,
‘However, when Hume is stating that causation is
“illusory”, he’s simply asserting the similar claim of
Northrop’s and Pirsig’s that it’s only illusory in the
sense that it’s a concept used to order certain sensory
perceptions (and, therefore, subject to the vagaries of
Descartes’ demon).’ Northrop deals with causality in
field physics in its bearing upon biological causation.
In this limited connection, he relates, ‘The
concept of causality as it appears in a specific scientific
theory involves two factors:
(1) the relation of necessary connection between the
states of a system at different times, and (2) the
definition of state at a given time.’ (1947, p. 219)
agree with you in that Nagel misses the point.
The summary on pages 181–183 is concise for such a
massive subject. I
am smiling at your statement on page 183:
with freedom and determinism, causal necessity and
(absolute) randomness can be placed as the opposing limits
of a value (or propensity) continuum.
If causation is the case of a propensity equal to 1,
randomness would be the case of a propensity equal to 0.
you cannot deny it! You
are using a fuzzy argument (which I agree with) to make your
the intellectual SPoV, we have the notions of freedom,
determinism, causal necessity, and randomness.
We could insert the word probability for propensity
in your paragraph. Probability is a rich construct within the intellectual SPoV.
The degree to which a situation, thing, thought, or
event is free, on the 0/1 continuum, is the degree to which
it is not determined. But
free and determined are
not really yes-or-no, black-and-white concepts, except in
the old thinking.
it is necessary to mention Bertrand Russell’s theory of
‘causal lines’. I
like the second paragraph on page 184.
In fact, I think it is inspired.
You have clarified, to some extent, the source of
much confusion between the epistemological and ontological
arguments regarding causality.
‘As such, an advantage with the MOQ’s account of
causal processes, in this respect, is that it is formulated
in ontological terms rather than epistemic terms: values are
considered empirical (even at the inorganic and biological
levels) and observers aren’t required at these levels to
provide inferences.’ Excellent.
perhaps pertinent to note that as the mechanical philosophy
of SOM is revised in the MOQ, the closely related mechanical
notion of causation correspondingly alters.’
I don’t think there is any ‘perhaps’ about it.
All the interpretations change with the MOQ.
Your quotation from Popper on page 185 is compelling.
of the future and its competing possibilities, that attract
us, that entice us’ is indeed an exercise I use to try to get into touch
with Dynamic Quality, without ‘willing’ a penetration
into it. If I
try to write this next sentence better, or try to execute
this dance step better, I hope to be attracted to the
ineffable, ‘undifferentiated aesthetic continuum’.
CHALMERS’ ‘HARD QUESTION’ OF CONSCIOUSNESS
187. Nice job
here of clarifying further for me how ‘“an experienced
inner life”’ gradually developed from expectations of
low-level biological patterns to enable them to better
achieve certain preferred possibilities in their
distinction is made between
the organism’s greater freedom depending on mobility,
hence consciousness evolving in entities with mobility
(animals) and not in plants.
188–189. Good argument.
Otherwise intelligent things that Chalmers might say
or ask are seriously undermined by his dismissal of
evolutionary criteria. Chalmers’
argument that if a physical replica of himself appeared a
million years ago, it ‘“would have been just as
conscious”’ is nonsense.
[If a bullfrog had a hip pocket, he’d carry a .45.]
You’ve done fine job in showing the implausibility
of Chalmers’ tenets.
conclusion provides a well-constructed summary with a (at
least partially) ‘fuzzy logic’ approach. I
do not mean that it is vague; I simply mean that it
recognizes the continuum, with no discrete cuts, as a valid
cognitive model. I
find it compelling:
the MOQ is more accurate still, as it not only recognises
both the ‘extremes’ (of mind and matter) as high quality
ideas but (as shown by cosmological evolution) recognises
that they are different manifestations of the same
(evolving) type of ‘value events’ (i.e. Quality).
Though such events are also recognised by Whitehead,
Popper and Russell as a more productive way of examining the
post-Newtonian universe than SOM, Pirsig’s system is the
only ‘process’ philosophy to operate without direct
reference to ‘subjects’ and ‘objects’.
you point out that ‘Pirsig recognises that not everything
that can be shown
to exist can be written about or conceptualised.
Over and above the known aspect of reality, there’s
also the ineffable and the unknown which are recognised in
the MOQ by the referring term “Dynamic Quality”’ (p.
190), and which Northrop refers to as ‘the
undifferentiated aesthetic continuum’.
I like your ‘over and above’ – you can
visualize this as ‘something, he knows not what’ (Pirsig,
1991, p.122 emanating from above, orthogonal to, the 0/1
continuum line shown
to 1 continuum of the known or conceptualized world (SPoV).
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
model also suggests that Dynamic Quality can imbue any
particular level without necessarily affecting others –
similar to coming down from above on your diagram on page 89 of your thesis.
through your thesis has greatly expanded my own understanding.
Your final quotation from Pirsig on page 191 puts a
finishing touch on a concept from Pirsig that has taken me a
long time to understand.
Appendix: The MOQ & Time
exposition and clarification of Time in the MOQ is
brilliant. Lots of really good stuff here.
response, July 9, 2010: ‘As ever, many thanks for the
positive feedback. The subject of Time was a
philosophical area not given any coverage in ZMM, LILA or
anywhere else (at least by Robert Pirsig) so it was one of
the first subjects I looked at when studying for the
A.1. DYNAMIC QUALITY & TIME
point out that Pirsig perceives the concept of time as a
sophisticated development of the concept of change.
How true. Northrop
dances with this concept in 1947, Chapters XI – XIV.
A.3.1. SENSED TIME
let me describe a personal experience I had (years ago) that
relates to your observation on pages 224–225.
has been noticed in humans that an increase of adrenaline
production slows the passage of sensed time so that in times
of danger there is an increased ability to act.
Undoubtedly, this is why people involved in car
accidents or other life threatening situations talk about
‘time slowing down.’
my youth I was a springboard diver.
On one occasion, I happened to be at an outdoor pool
that had a separate diving well (i.e., the diving well was
separate from the main pool where people could swim laps,
kids could play, etc.).
I was on the three-meter Duraflex springboard (this
is not the platform!), three meters off the water. I
was about to do a ‘1½ reverse pike dive’.
In a reverse dive, the diver moves forward but throws
his/her head backwards
– toward the board.
To the uninitiated, this dive looks scary because the
(good) diver is literally spinning above the board until he
opens, at which point his body is propelled forward, beyond
the end of the board, while still above it.
Greg Louganis hit his head doing this dive (his was a
2½ reverse pike) in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
You can view this on YouTube.
I was about to perform this 1½ reverse pike dive.
I took my approach, and as I stretched up, from the
‘lift’ (take-off), I was immediately struck with a
primal/profound fear that I was going to die – I was
certain I was going to hit the back of my head on the board.
(A primary perception of negative quality.)
I experienced exactly what you describe.
Time ‘slowed down’.
I could ‘hear’ voices from all over the pool, not
just words but short phrases as well.
It felt as if my consciousness radiated out from an
unknown center. It
felt like I had, not ‘all the time in the world’, but
‘all the time that I needed’.
I was acutely aware of the fact that I had remained
balled up in a tight tuck position, instead of in a pike
position, and that I was doing everything that I could to
avoid hitting my head on the board.
I was consciously aware of this for quite some
remember thinking, ‘when is this going to end?!”
Finally, I hit the water, on my upper back and neck
hitting the board. Pshew!
had numerous other experiences of this type, though not to
the same degree.
response, July 9, 2010:
‘The illustration you give of time slowing down
with a potential diving error is exactly the type of
scenario I had in mind when writing that section on sensed
237. When Pirsig
comments that on the day before Newton was born, apples did
not obey the law of gravity, but only fell, he is pointing
to the notion that the ‘law of gravity’ is simply an
intellectual static pattern of value.
As far as the apple and the earth are concerned, the
‘law of gravity’ is not necessary for the event of the
M. (1979). Causality
and Modern Science (Third Edition), Dover, New York.
R. L. & Steele, T.J. (1990). Guide
to Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, William
Morrow, New York.
Douglas R. (1979). Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, Basic Books, New York.
William (1890). Principles
of Psychology, Henry Holt, Boston. Reprint, Dover New
York, 1950 (paperback).
B. (1992). Neural
Networks and Fuzzy Systems: A Dynamical Systems Approach to
Machine Intelligence, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs.
D. (2003). Lila’s
Child: An Inquiry
into Quality, compilation, 1stBooks.
John J. (1967) The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition, A Modern
Library Edition, Random House, New York.
A. M. (2004). A
Critical Analysis of Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of
Quality, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Liverpool,
(1988). Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster,
F.S.C. (1983). The
Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities, Ox Bow Press,
Woodbridge, Connecticut. First published in 1947 by
Macmillan, New York.
F.S.C. (1979). The
Meeting of East and West: An Inquiry Concerning World
Understanding, Ox Bow Press, Woodbridge, Connecticut.
First published in 1946 by Macmillan, New York.
Ouspenksy, P.D. (1949). In
Search of the Miraculous: Fragments
of an Unknown Teaching, Harcourt, Brace & Co., New
Robert M. (1999), Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values,
Quill/William Morrow, New York. First published in 1974 by
Robert M. (1991) Lila:
An Inquiry into Morals (U.K. Hardbound Edition), Bantam
Robert M. (1995a)
Data and Values, paper presented at the ‘Einstein
Meets Magritte’ conference at Vrige University, Brussels,
June 1, 1995, http://www.quantonics.com/Pirsigs_SODV.html.
J.R. (1992). The
Rediscovery of the Mind, The MIT Press, Cambridge,
A. N. (1978). Process
and Reality, The
John D. (1988). The World within the World, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Jacques (1983). A Stroll with William James, Harper & Row, New York.
Henri (1998). Creative Evolution, trans. By Author Mitchell, Dover, New York.
‘Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness’ in Explaining
Consciousness – The Hard Problem, Jonathan Shear
(Ed.), MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Paul R. (1974) Naïve
Set Theory, Springer-Verlag, New York.
Douglas R. (2007). I Am A Strange Loop, Basic Books, New York.
Bart (1994). Fuzzy Thinking, Flamingo, London.
Julian (1967). History of Philosophy, Dover, New York.
Franklin (1973). Pathways Through To Space, Julian Press, New York.
Franklin (1973). The Philosophy of Consciousness Without An Object, Julian Press, New
Leonard (1991). Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Meridian (Penguin), New
Ayn (1957). Atlas Shrugged, Random House, New York.
Walpola (1959). What the Buddha Taught (1978 paperback edition), The Gordon Fraser
Gallery, London & Bedford.
Arthur (1966). The World As Will and Representation, in two volumes, trans. By
E.F.J. Payne, Dover, New York.
Daisetz T. (1964). Introduction to Zen Buddhism, Grove Press, New York.
see the introduction for the Ph.D. thesis, please click on
the image below: