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Some Notes and Commentary 

on Dr. Anthony McWatt's Ph.D. Thesis 

A Critical Analysis of Robert Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality


W. Gregory Alvord, Ph.D.

April 2011

"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know." 

(Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast)




I 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, the Metaphysics of Quality (MOQ) website and, 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.

This 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.

This 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, 2003, 1stBooks).

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 philosophology.


To this end, it is hoped that the reader will discern at least one true sentence. 



A Note about the format of this commentary:  


As 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 thesis.




Chapter 1: Why Pirsig devised the MOQ




Pages 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:


Among 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…


There 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 achievement…  Here 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)


[Anthony’s 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.’]


Your 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) 


[Anthony’s 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 audience.’] 


On 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 confusion:


There 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 subjective.  And 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 ontology’. (Searle, 1992, p.19)





This section includes an enlightening tale about how Margaret Mead was duped by the Samoan natives. 




Chapter 2: The Metaphysics of Quality




Page 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.’ 





Section 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 system.  This statement asserts a unifying principle that can’t be too often stated.


Page 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. The world is primarily a moral order.”’ (italics added) (Pirsig, 1991, p. 100)  I remember 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 authorities.  (Aside: The ancient question, ‘How are we to live our life?’ is referred to by Horse in the Arrive Without Travelling DVD).    


I 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.    





Pages 43–58.  You 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. 


Page 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 :


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 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)  


The subtitle of Pirsig’s first novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 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.  As Pirsig states 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 (enlightenment).  But 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 flowering.’  I 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 relationships.  And when you do that you destroy real understanding. (1991, p.66)


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 understanding.


Pages 54–55.  This 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. 


Page 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:


Rahula (1959, p.55) verifies that it’s accurate to think of the ‘self’ as being real in the ‘static’ or conventional sense (sammuti-sacca) 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”, etc.’  According to Rahula, the Buddha taught that a clinging to the self as static and permanent is the primary cause of dukkha.


(Aside: It’s worth comparing this notion of the ‘self’ with Ayn Rand’s ‘Objectivism’ (Rand, 1957; Peikoff, 1991)).         





Page 58.  Another insight: ‘Consequently, for James, there is no separation of subject and object (or knower and known) at the moment of immediate perception.’  The  ‘Event Horizon’!





Page 62.  You make an excellent observation with respect to Pirsig’s ZMM not being written for the Zen Master or professional philosopher.  Before 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 Zen and Vedantic literature) to ‘nothingness’ and the  ‘absolute.’  It 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 terms.  More importantly, it is Pirsig’s presentation that provides the confidence that Dynamic Quality is accessible to us ordinary people.


I 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 ‘static-Dynamic’ division.  A particularly compelling example of this division, in LILA, clearly illustrates this:


The 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 of life.


This 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 libraries.  All of these prevent evolutionary degeneration.


On 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) 


I 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.’  Agreed.   


Pages 69–70.  Your 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.





Page 73.

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, 1991, p.66)


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 Child:


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.’  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  Merrell-Wolfe describes recognitions of ‘I am Atman’ and ‘I am Nirvana’ as premonitions to his transcendental breakthroughs. 


Page 73 (continued).


In a 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)


Excellent summary statement, Anthony. This is very good and is extremely helpful in loosening the grip of SOM thinking. 


Page 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 objects.


Page 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.’  LOL!  Beautiful!





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.’  





Page 86.  Pirsig (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 occasions.  Your 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 chaotic).’








Page 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.


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 pure chance.’ 


Page 95.  The introduction of the notion of fuzzy logic here is interesting.  To 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.


At the moment I am thinking of how fuzzy sets and fuzzy logic can, and will, make contributions to the enhancement of the MOQ.  Logicians 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.  (Aside:  ‘There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths.  It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil.’ A.N. Whitehead)  


It 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 the mind-matter problem – with which your Chapter 3 is largely concerned.


This 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.” (Pirsig, 1991, p.153). 


A 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.


One (of many) of Pirsig’s brilliant insights has to do with his observation in LILA that...


although 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.


This 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)


The positivists and crisp logicians will jump all over this set of postulates because they appear to contradict each other.  


[Robert Pirsig's 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 the MOQ.']


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 direction).  You could say that I’m combining ‘high-level intellectual static patterns of value (SPoV)’ here with:


(1) the notion that ‘discrete’ implies increasingly discrete levels (as in the statistical technique of analysis of variance) with:


(2) the notion that ‘discrete’ means orthogonal, multidimensional levels that are mathematically independent. 


But 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 and ontologically.


(Aside: 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 unconnected elements’).  The word is spelled correctly in the US hardbound edition (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.)


The MOQ, specifically Pirsig, frees us from the ambiguity that fuzzy logicians can fall into.  Let’s leap forward to pages 158–159 of LILA:  


So 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. 


The 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). 


In 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:


Of 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)  


Except 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).


‘Logical consistency’ may be considered as one dimension; ‘agreement with experience’ as the second; and ‘economy of explanation’ as the third.


For 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. 


Here’s another fuzzy logic example:  Does Lila have Quality?  Consider a five-dimensional hypercube with orthogonal dimensions and corresponding bit vectors (simply a ‘model’ here):


Static inorganic pattern of quality (1,0,0,0,0)

Biological quality (0,1,0,0,0)

Social quality (0,0,1,0,0)

Intellectual quality (0,0,0,1,0)

Dynamic Quality (0,0,0,0,1)


Does Lila have Quality?  Phaedrus’ response that ‘biologically she does, socially she doesn’t,’  (Pirsig, 1991, p.303) can be characterized as (?,1,0,?,?) in bits (binary or bivalent digits). 


We 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 character.  So, 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). 





Your discussion of intellectual quality patterns is fascinating.  Much to absorb here. 


Page 98.  ‘To 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 social.  So 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.  



Static patterns of values represented as crisp sets.


The ‘elements’ 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 oval.  Constructs that include what Pirsig describes as ‘independently manipulable signs’ such as grammar, logic and mathematics, fall within the intellectual oval, and therefore, within social, biological, and inorganic ovals (the remaining SPoV) as well. 

Page 98.  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. 

Page 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’. 


Pages 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:


Descartes’ ‘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 philosopher?  If 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)


I 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 SOM thinking.    





Page 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. 


Page 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) example of a program being contained in a computer, a magnetic drum, or even the brain of the programmer.


Page 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”.’ 


I 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.





Page 108.  Continuing with Pirsig’s query in LILA:


If 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)


It 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 created.  Most non-metaphysicians have no trouble in seeing that an electron charge is not really well explained by the concept of ‘substance’. 





Page 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.


Pages 113–114.  Nice five-point summary here of what Pirsig means by higher-quality patterns.





Page 117.  Somewhere on this page or perhaps on page 118, Pirsig’s brilliant summary in LILA should have also been included:


What 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)


Page 120.  A 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:


But 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) 





Page 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 me. 


Page 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:


In 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. 


(Aside:  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.  The becoming truth can be seen as a ‘movement’ along the 0,1 fuzzy continuum.) 


If 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 intellectual embarrassment.  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) 





I had studied The Principles of Psychology (James, 1890 [1950]) 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.


[Anthony’s 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.’] 


While 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 Child.  (Your first contribution appears on page 258 in my copy [Glover, 2003].)


I was impressed by a contribution that you made in response to Ken on page 301 of Lila’s Child.  I 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:


Phaedrus saw that not only a man recovering from a heart attack but also a baby gazes at his hand with mystic wonder and delight.  He 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.


One 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. 


If 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 correlations.  But 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. 


Once 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 primary.  We can’t remember that period of our lives when they were anything else.


In this way static patterns of value become the universe of distinguishable things.  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).


Anthony’s (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 succession…


The MOQ says all of reality flows from Dynamic Quality and that everything we perceive is some type of (temporary) static pattern. (Glover, 2003, pp.301, 302)


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.   [This 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 subjective.  Nobody in the scientific world wants to allow that.


All this points to a huge fundamental metaphysical difference between the MOQ and classical science:  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 paper:


The 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, p.14)




Chapter 3: The metaphysical problems of SOM


This 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.    





Page 147.  Your 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 substance. 


I 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.’ 


Thus, 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 extension.  The ‘res infinita’ (God) is accompanied by two finite substances: the thinking substance (‘res cogitans’) and the extended substance (‘res extensa’). 


As 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:


The 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)


My 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.


Other 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.  (Popkin & Stroll , 1956, p.99)


This is, indeed, the approach that Pirsig takes when dealing with the problem.  (p.149)


The 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. 


Page 149.  The bottom half of page sets the stage for further examination of the metaphysical assumptions employed by Galileo and Newton. 





Section 3.2.0 includes a good summary of the three-termed relation between ‘perceptions (in private sensed space and time)’, ‘public material objects (in public mathematical space and time)’, and the ‘observer’ (p.150). 





Nice work here on the Lockean spirit.  The paragraph at the top of page 152 is especially good:


The 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. 


The next paragraph is an excellent summary of the mind-matter problem.  It corresponds to my own conceptualization of the problem before I had read Pirsig.


As 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) 


Compare 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 can communicate. 





Page 154.  Your introduction/presentation here of Northrop’s concepts of intuition and postulation is enlightening and well formulated.  Footnote 137 is also an excellent quotation in its expansion on the definition of ‘concepts by intuition’: 


In 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 137)


In 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:


Moreover, 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, pp.62–63)




Pages 156–157.  The 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 completeness.  I am not familiar with Clark and Barrett. 


[Anthony’s response, January 31, 2011: ‘Stephen Clark was my primary advisor at Liverpool University for the Ph.D.  He’s now retired.’] 


I 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’. 


The quotation from Chalmers, which you have included on p.157–158, is something that I feel I can agree with, on first reading: 


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)  


And 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. 


I 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. 


Page 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 good.  This 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.  Furthermore, the 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)


I also like the quotation from G. E. Moore for further clarification of concepts by intuition vs. concepts by postulation:


A 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)  


(Important Note:  I 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 gold mine!)





Thank 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.    


Page 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 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 observed.”’


Your 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 appropriate.  There is a good demonstration of precisely this point on YouTube with Walter Lewin (professor of physics, emeritus, MIT):


Nice 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.           


My 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.


Your summary on page 169 of Northrop’s (1947, pp. 44–45) statement regarding the Buddhist ‘dialectic of negation’, and relating it to Descartes’ cogito 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. 


Coming 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!


Good 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 environment.”  Schopenhauer (1966), as pessimistic as he is, writes effectively on this subject. 


Page 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:


In 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)


We 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. 


Pirsig mentions on page 17 of SODV that ‘Northrop’s name for Dynamic Quality is “the undifferentiated aesthetic continuum.”’  By ‘continuum’ he means that it goes on and on forever.  By ‘undifferentiated’ he means that it is without conceptual distinctions.  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. 


Merleau-Ponty 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 “substance”.’ 


Page 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)’


I’ve been thinking about the ‘before’ in your statement for 50 years.  Your ‘before’ 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 to time. 


Continuing 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.


Pages 173–175.  I am not qualified to assess the quality of Whitehead’s

philosophy.  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:


The 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.


This 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 work.  





Freedom 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. 


I 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:


But 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].  It lights 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 emphasis].  In 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) 


Let 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. 


Let 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 the melody).


I 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.


The 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)


Thank 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. 





Nice section. Page 179:


[T]he 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 morality i.e. considerable autonomy with numerous preferences).


It’s worth comparing this quotation with the relevant quotation from LILA:


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.  The world is primarily a moral order. (Pirsig, 1991, p.100)


Before reading your thesis, I was not fully aware that the ‘is/ought’ problem had been attributed primarily to Hume as ‘Hume’s Principle’.


Page 179, paragraph 2, begins with ‘As cosmological evolution is a scientific fact…’.


I 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. 



3.4.3. CAUSATION  


Another 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:


In 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)


Mario Bunge’s Causality 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.


In 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)


I 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:


As 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. 


Anthony, you cannot deny it!  You are using a fuzzy argument (which I agree with) to make your point.  Within 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. 


Pages 183–184.  Yes, 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. 


Page 185.  ‘It’s 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.  The  ‘lure 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’. 





Page 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 environment.  The distinction is made between  the organism’s greater freedom depending on mobility, hence consciousness evolving in entities with mobility (animals) and not in plants.


Pages 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.





The 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:


Arguably, 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’.  (McWatt, p.190).


Further 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 here:


0 to 1 continuum of the known or conceptualized world (SPoV).


0 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1


Materialism                                                                                 Idealism

Physical Matter               (Biology)                (Society)                     Mind



This 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.  


Reading 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


Your exposition and clarification of Time in the MOQ is brilliant. Lots of really good stuff here. 


[Anthony’s 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 Ph.D.’]





Pages 219–220.  You 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.





Please let me describe a personal experience I had (years ago) that relates to your observation on pages 224–225.  You state:


It 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.’


In 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. 


Anyway, 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 ‘time’.  I remember thinking, ‘when is this going to end?!”  Finally, I hit the water, on my upper back and neck – without hitting the board.  Pshew!


I’ve had numerous other experiences of this type, though not to the same degree.


[Anthony’s 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 time.’]





Page 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 apple falling. 





Bunge, M.  (1979). Causality and Modern Science (Third Edition), Dover, New York.


DiSanto, R. L. & Steele, T.J. (1990). Guide to Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, William Morrow, New York.


Hofstadter, Douglas R. (1979). Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, Basic Books, New York.  


James, William (1890).  Principles of Psychology, Henry Holt, Boston. Reprint, Dover New York, 1950 (paperback).


Kosko, B. (1992). Neural Networks and Fuzzy Systems: A Dynamical Systems Approach to Machine Intelligence, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs.


Glover, D. (2003). Lila’s Child: An Inquiry into Quality, compilation, 1stBooks.


McDermott, John J. (1967) The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition, A Modern Library Edition, Random House, New York. 


McWatt, A. M. (2004). A Critical Analysis of Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Liverpool, November 2004.


Merriam-Webster (1988).  Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Springfield.   


Northrop, 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.


Northrop, 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 York.


Pirsig, Robert M. (1999), Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, Quill/William Morrow, New York. First published in 1974 by William Morrow.


Pirsig, Robert M. (1991) Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (U.K. Hardbound Edition), Bantam Press, London.


Pirsig, Robert M. (1995a)  Subjects, Objects, Data and Values, paper presented at the ‘Einstein Meets Magritte’ conference at Vrige University, Brussels, June 1, 1995,


Searle, J.R. (1992). The Rediscovery of the Mind, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Whitehead, A. N. (1978). Process and Reality, The Free Press.




Related Reading


Barrow, John D. (1988).  The World within the World, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


Barzun, Jacques (1983).  A Stroll with William James, Harper & Row, New York.


Bergson, Henri (1998).  Creative Evolution, trans. By Author Mitchell, Dover, New York. 


Chalmers, David.  (1997). ‘Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness’ in Explaining Consciousness – The Hard Problem, Jonathan Shear (Ed.), MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Halmos, Paul R. (1974) Naïve Set Theory, Springer-Verlag, New York.] 


Hofstadter, Douglas R. (2007). I Am A Strange Loop, Basic Books, New York.  


Kosko, Bart (1994).  Fuzzy Thinking, Flamingo, London.


Marias, Julian (1967).  History of Philosophy, Dover, New York.


Merrell-Wolfe, Franklin (1973).  Pathways Through To Space, Julian Press, New York. 


Merrell-Wolfe, Franklin (1973).  The Philosophy of Consciousness Without An Object, Julian Press, New York.


Peikoff, Leonard (1991).  Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Meridian (Penguin), New York. 


Rand, Ayn (1957).  Atlas Shrugged, Random House, New York.   


Rahula, Walpola (1959).  What the Buddha Taught (1978 paperback edition), The Gordon Fraser Gallery, London & Bedford.


Schopenhauer, Arthur (1966).  The World As Will and Representation, in two volumes, trans. By E.F.J. Payne, Dover, New York.  


Suzuki, Daisetz T. (1964).  Introduction to Zen Buddhism, Grove Press, New York.





To see the introduction for the Ph.D. thesis, please click on the image below: