Literature/1974/Pirsig

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Pirsig, Robert (1974). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. William Morrow & Co.

Excerpts[edit]

  • Science is "value free." The inability of science to grasp Quality, as an object of enquiry, makes it impossible for science to provide a scale of values. (Section 29)
  • The halo around the heads of Plato and Socrates is now gone. He sees that they are consistently doing that which they accuse the Sophists of doing ... using emotionally persuasive language for the ulterior purpose of making the weaker argument, the case for dialectic, appear the stronger. We always condemn most in others, he thought, that which we most fear in ourselves. (p.378)
  • Areté implies a respect for the wholeness or oneness of life, and a consequent dislike of specialization. It implies a contempt for efficiency...or rather a much higher idea of efficiency, an efficiency which exists not in one department of life but in life itself.
  • Dialectic, which is the parent of logic, came itself from rhetoric. Rhetoric is in turn the child of the myths and poetry of ancient Greece. That is so historically, and that is so by any application of common sense. The poetry and the myths are the response of a prehistoric people to the universe around them made on the basis of Quality. It is Quality, not dialectic, which is the generator of everything we know. (p.391)
  • Everything is an analogy.

Critiques[edit]

Literature/1982/Norris [^]

Influences[edit]

  • This book was quite a revolution 35 years ago when it was the first introduction a lot of people got to Eastern philosophy. This is another book that I was exposed to in college and is the non-scientific equivalent to "Godel" in opening up a new world to me. The main theme of the book that stays with me is the difference between Western, reductive thinking and the Eastern, holistic style. As noted above, I was being immersed in the world of mathematics which appealed to my analytic nature. I was in love with the idea that you take a big problem, break it into a bunch of little problems, solve each of the little problems and then build it back up to understand the whole. Pirsig argues that this approach is not complete. Using the motorcycle as a metaphor, he tries to explain a concept called "Quality", by which he means that a machine or organism is more than just the sum of its parts. There is a “Quality” of being a motorcycle that cannot be explained by understanding spark plugs, carburetor, pistons, etc. I was totally blown away by the concept when I read it for the first time, and I still go back to it to this day. [1]

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