Some great news for the week is that there looks to be a great Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance documentary in the works. See above a clip of an interview with David Buchanan who I've spoken with many times online over the years.
David has an unparalleled understanding of the Metaphysics of Quality - particularly around how it relates to the philosophical tradition of american pragmatism. I'm sure with his involvement (no matter how small) the quality of this documentary will be greatly increased!
I believe the creators are currently looking for funding which you can do whilst they travel the route of the book - here.
Best of luck to them and hopefully this will kick off some well needed - renewed interest in Pirsig's original book.
Phædrus didn't know quite what to make of this clash. But it certainly seemed to be close to the area he wished to work in. He also felt that no values can be fixed but that this is no reason why values should be ignored or that values do not exist as reality. He also felt antagonistic to the Aristotelian tradition as a definer of values, but he didn't feel this tradition should be left unreckoned with. The answer to all this was somehow deeply enmeshed in it and he wanted to know more.
Robert Pirsig - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
And in along the same lines in the movie..
'Hutchins' envisaged something like a military academy for the mind. One grounded in a demanding core curriculum.'
Rob Montz - 'Silence U Pt. 3: Can the University of Chicago solve the campus free speech crisis?'
Despite a very clear disagreement about the metaphysical place of Quality - it's clear however, that the Metaphysics of Quality (MOQ) supports the University of Chicago's latest stand for free speech discussed in the documentary. As always - we can use the language of the MOQ to break down the problem into its core evolutionary components and beautifully show why it's moral..
Firstly, the MOQ agrees that students around the world shouldn't need to be shielded from certain ideas they find painful or confronting. Such thinking comes from one of biological suffering where society morally supports and comforts those in pain. But ideas are intellectual, not biological, and so it's moral for our culture to allow a voice to ideas that are challenging to confront and this will eventually change our ideas for the better.
'Those species that don't suffer don't survive. Suffering is the negative face of the Quality that drives the whole process. All these battles between patterns of evolution go on within suffering individuals.. And Lila's battle is everybody's battle, you know?'
Robert Pirsig - Lila
And secondly, the MOQ also agrees that students shouldn't demand universities refuse to 'give a platform' to ideas they disagree with. Whilst universities and colleges are cultural institutions, they are much more than this and seeing them as exclusively cultural, is to undercut the intellectual values they are set up to protect and preserve. In other words - it is true that who they give a platform to is in some way a cultural statement, however few cultural statements could be better than for an intellectual forum to actively demonstrate the intellectual value of free speach. Giving a voice to those ideas on the periphery or in opposition to those they agree with is just such an intellectual demonstration.
Thirdly, if they are concerned about the strength of certain bad ideas to take hold within the culture, then it's possible they have not appropriately confronted the issues themselves or rightly asked that of others. Which indeed according to the MOQ is the intellectually moral, and perhaps socially difficult thing to do.
And so finally, in this battle for free speech - in all cases it's clearly between those who are seeing things through a social lens at the expense of intellectual morality. Of course equipped with the Metaphysics of Quality - students could avoid grave errors in logic such as this and be far more likely to choose those ideas that are the best. But until that point, the MOQ still uniqely and rightly calls those seeing things through the social lens as immoral and acting against the intellectual quality of evolution and what's right.
In the absence of a metaphysics which places morality at its core - it's been necessary for our culture to have a traditional conception of political correctness to keep discrimination in check. Without some kind of contraints on our language to act as a continual reminder to treat others with dignity and respect - our culture would not have made the advancements it has in terms of improving the rights and wellbeing of minorities.
One. It has started to be taken too far. Originally intended to protect the minority - certain minorities have begun to make unreasonable demands seeing themselves as victims requiring continual and overly dependent support.
Two. Having spent the majority of the last 50 or so years on improving social injustice issues, american politics has neglected the importance of social equality and the rich/poor divide. Therefore this gap has grown so far that the disadvantaged and poor are fed up with the focus on Political Correctness and rightly see an exclusive focus on this as part of the problem. Recognising this trajectory - this was predicted by Rorty in his book Leftist Thought in the 21st Century, 1998:
"One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words ‘nigger’ and ‘kike’ will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet."
Richard Rorty - Leftist Thought in the 21st Century, 1998.
Three. With our current metaphysics we're unable to easily determine the line between protecting what's good about a minority and validily criticising it from the standpoint of our culture so that it can assimilate into our culture. Whilst the Metaphysics of Quality doesn't resolve these disputes once and for all - it provides us with a beautiful logical language to discuss these issues.
For example, the MOQ provides us with a clear distinction between biological people and the cultural values with which they identify. One of those things does not matter and cannot change, but the other does matter and can change. Criticism of that which can change for something better is considered moral in the MOQ. Whilst criticism of a person simply, for example, because of the color of their skin is logically racist, evil and immoral.
So the general solution isn't to throw away the value of Political Correctness. As mentioned - it's moral and supported by the MOQ. Instead we should aim to solve these problems in a different way. Solving cause One would likely be with certain education reforms and certainly reform the way we have traditionally taught discrimination resolution.
Solving cause Two isn't to throw away political correctness but to simultaneously tackle social income inequality at the same time. In fact oftentimes, it's minorities who are economically disadvantaged as well - thus tackling both of these problems will likely take pressure off them as scapegoats for a suffering majority. This will also also improve their social mobility with a smaller wage gap between them and their neighbours.
Finally, solving cause Three would involve further cultural dialogue using the moral language of the MOQ to guide us in a better, moral direction.
Well some must exist, surely? Nope. None. Not one. It's an uncomfortable truth but it's true. And the sooner we acknowledge this the better.
You could say that the articles of the declaration of Human Rights that all nations have agreed on, demonstrate that they do exist. But at a pragmatic level - words are so very easy to weasel out of. One country or culture says one thing, while another culture says and means something completely different. Who's to say something just isn't lost in translation? And unsurprisngly that's the exact problem continually facing the organisation put in place to implement Human Rights.
But beyond the written words of Human Rights that have been translated into hundreds of languages - there's no way to logically say something is a right for all people, and something else, is not.
Of course we can identify the main culprit here as our metaphysics. We have a metaphysics which fails to acknolwedge the importance of values and morality. There's historical reasons for this but this is the situation we find outselves in - in the 21st Century. This makes world governing bodies such as the United Nations often impotent in finding agreement amongst nations about what's right and wrong and what a violation is and is not. And this isn't a problem that's going to go away. In fact - it's only going to continue and become more and more apparent until we start to use a language and logic which transcends cultures and helps to shine a light on the right, and moral, path forward.
Luckily the Metaphysics of Quality beautifully provides just such a path and language. It's an elegant, logical, philosophical framework within which we can make such judgements across all cultures and languages and say (generally speaking) whether something is moral or not.
This is the what Robert Pirsig lays out in Lila where he writes:
There is no such thing as 'human rights.' There is no such thing as moral reasonableness. There are subjects and objects and nothing else.
This soup of sentiments about logically non-existent entities can be straightened out by the Metaphysics of Quality. It says that what is meant by 'human rights' is usually the moral code of intellect vs. society, the moral right of intellect to be free of social control. Freedom of speech; freedom of assembly, of travel; trial by jury; habeas corpus; government by consent - these 'human rights' are all intellect-vs.-society issues. According to the Metaphysics of Quality these 'human rights' have not just a sentimental basis, but a rational, metaphysical basis. They are essential to the evolution of a higher level of life from a lower level of life. They are for real.
Robert Pirsig - Lila
It's really very hard to understate the size of these words so I'll repeat them. There's no such thing as moral reasonableness or human rights. There's subjects and objects and nothing else (See The Story for why).
But sadly until very recently the unique insight and beauty of the Metaphysics of Quality in solving this particular problem of Human Rights has been largely ignored by the academic community.
Of course that was until a recent graduate - Matthew Lafontaine wrote a masters thesis called - 'Human Rights as the Safeguard of the Intellect Against Society'. It lays out a very thorough and concise explanation of just how the Metaphysics Of Quality provides a far superior foundation for Human Rights than our current understanding and metaphysics.
It has been posted online and if you're intellectually inclined - I recommend giving it a read here.
This is a great paper by Matthew and I hope that one day the insights provided in it are recognised.
All going well - one day at the United Nations (or similar) it will use the Metaphysics of Quality as a foundational language of morality across all nations. From it they will be able to determine and easily talk about what countries are indeed being evil and immoral vs those that are not. Not from a he said / she said metaphysically unsound perspective, but one that has a logical and moral philosophical foundation which cannot be denied.
"An idol, that's what this doll was. It was a genuine religious idol of an abandoned religion of one. It had all those formidable characteristics that idols always have. That's what spooked him. Once they've been ritualized and adored, these idols change in value. You can no more throw them away casually than you can throw an old church statue on the dump.
He wondered what they actually did with old abandoned church statues. Did they have a desanctification ceremony of some sort? "
Robert Pirsig - Lila
It's good to take care for the objects around you and dispose of them in the same caring manner you possesed whilst they were valuable to have around.
The Japanese appear to uniquely appreciate this within their modern culture. Such an appreciation is supported by the Metaphysics of Quality.