LS Re: The definition of Quality

clark (
Wed, 17 Dec 1997 18:20:16 +0100

> From: Dave Thomas <>
> To: Multiple recipients of <>
> Subject: LS Re: The definition of Quality
> Date: Tuesday, December 16, 1997 5:08 PM
> Ken
> Thanks for the some more insight into quantum effects. Others have also
> helped
> out and the post from MW Workman has a link to an essay on the current
> status
> of the quantum theory in the world. I think I've gone far enough off on
> the
> tangent of quantum theory in so much as it appears that even the people
> doing
> the work are not able to agree on its implications.
> On to another issue that I have noticed in your posts, the Earth as an
> organism or Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis and how that relates to Pirsig.
> > In fact, the Earth (or Lovelock's Gaia) would be a healthier organism
without us.
> >From a MoQ or Pirsig perspective I would have to take exception to this.
> "..right from the beginning,..evolution has always had a puzzling aspect
> that
> it has never been able to eliminate. It goes into many volumnes about
> how the
> fittest survive but never once answers the question of why... Why, for
> example, should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon, hydrogen,
> oxygen and nitrogen struggle for billions of years to organize
> themselves into
> a professor of chemistry? What is the motive?....Chemistry professors
> are
> unstable mixtures of predominantly unstable compounds which, in the
> exclusive
> presence of the sun's heat, decay irreversibly into simpler organic and
> inorganic compounds. That is a scientific fact. The question is: Then
> why does
> nature reverse this process? What on earth causes the inorganic
> compounds to
> go the other way?" (Lila Bantam Hardback pp140-1)
> Pirsig then goes on to propose in his MoQ that there is a constant
> struggle
> within nature to evolve toward ever greater levels of freedom or Dynamic
> Quality. And that this direction is morally good. So on one hand, if
> there is
> this purpose our organism Earth would not be "healthier", "better",
> "more
> alive" without us because without us those simple stable compound would
> be
> less free. While on the other hand there is little question our current
> dominant social and intellectual values have had serious impact on the
> social,
> inorganic, and biological levels of Earth's other systems. Based on this
> I
> feel that the various ecological movements fall into a similar class as
> your
> comment about quantum theory.
> > The quantum discussion on the Lila Squad is purely a human concern
which the Earth and the Universe blithely ignores.
> Though it may seem so I'm not flip-flopping here. Under MoQ if all men
> were to
> disappear from Earth tommorrow it would not be a "healthier" place
> because it
> would have lost one of its highest level of freedom. But the Earth and
> the
> Universe would go blithely along most probably evolving some other
> sentient
> being here in a billion years or so. So from my perspective all
> ecological
> movements are not about hugging trees or warm fuzzy bunnies but pure and
> simple self interest.
> That being said I do not think the current, or any, political, economic,
> or
> other social and intellectural value systems can or will make
> significant
> progress in the area of ecology until such time as their is complete
> rethinking and adoption of a new metaphysical/philosophical base.
> In my opinion the Metaphysics of Quality could well be that new base.
> Dave
> --
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  You have raised the points that have been bothering me about Pirsig's
concept of quality as it relates to the human situation on Earth and our
responsibilities to our fellow species. I think that I understand Pirsig's
concepts even though I have not yet mastered the ability to express myself
in those terms consistently.
  If you are not familiar with Lovelock and Lynn Margulis's proposal
concerning the Gaia Hypothesis I just took a quick look and there is a good
amount of material on the net. Just type in 'Lovelock'.
  Your question of why is the question that we humans have been asking
throughout the known history of the human race. I think we are making
progress but not very much. That is the question that is also bothering me.
  I agree with your statement that ecology is pure self interest. I think
that fits the case exactly. I think that self interest is why we should
try to think coherently about our situation here and try to come to some
resolution of the problem. I also think that many, if not most, of the
ecology 'nuts' out there are barking up the wrong tree.
  Pirsig's question about the 'why' of evolution (why the fittest survive)
is easily answered in the study of Biology. They survive because they
possess qualities or traits that enable them to exploit the ecological
niche in which they find themselves better than their rivals, or that allow
them to fit comfortably alongside their rivals. But that still does not
answer the larger question of "WHY".
  I think that this is one of the weak points of Pirsig's concept. He did
not understand or did not give enough thought to this larger question. He
himself stated to the Lila Squad that he had not mined all of the
possibilities of the Quality principle. I think that this is an area that
cries out for us to attempt to pin down, or at least advance a little
further. I do not think that it is enough to say that Quality is
responsible for us being here. I am also a little uneasy about that aspect
of the MOQ idea. We have taken the moral and truth idea of Quality a little
too literally. I feel that it gives us a good tool and a good direction in
which to work but, as I say, I am a little uneasy about calling it God or
the Ultimate Truth and Morality. If we dod this then the 'many Truths'
concept will lead us into a quagmire.
  I have to go help a neighbor fix a leaky water line. This is all just off
the top of my head. I will think about it. I think that you have raised the
correct questions. If you are interested lets pursue them a little further.
I agree with Pirsig as far as he goes. I just think he needs extension. He
will agree with that I think. Ken Clark

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