Building a Rationally Moral Society
Can we use intellect to structure society and determine moral codes of behavior?
That goal's certainly been the dream of intellectuals since the 1920's. They advocated using our intelligence rather than blind adherence to tradition to determine the best way to behave in society. As Pirsig notes in Lila:
The new intellectualism of the twenties argued that if there are principles for right social conduct they are to be discovered by social experiment to see what produces the greatest satisfaction... The scientific test of a 'vice' should not be, 'Does society approve or disapprove?' The test should be, 'Is it rational or irrational?'
For example, drinking that causes car accidents or loss of work or family problems is irrational. That kind of drinking is a vice. It does not contribute to the greatest satisfaction of the greatest number. On the other hand, drinking is not irrational when it produces mere social or intellectual relaxation. That kind of drinking is not a vice. The same test can be applied to gambling, swearing, lying, slandering or any other 'vice.' It is the intellectual aspect not the social aspect that dictates the answer...
It was expected that with the new application of reason, sex could be handled much like other commodities without the terrible tensions and frustrations of social repression exposed by Sigmund Freud.
But the unleashing of biology from its social level shackles has not proven to be as straight forward as the intellectuals had hoped. Because our current intellectual culture and the metaphysics that supports it still has no way to intellectually determine what is both good and bad behavior - and so it has therefore been the product of both..
From the perspective of a subject-object science, the world is a completely purposeless, valueless place. There is no point in anything. Nothing is right and nothing is wrong. Everything just functions, like machinery. There is nothing morally wrong with being lazy, nothing morally wrong with lying, with theft, with suicide, with murder, with genocide. There is nothing morally wrong because there are no morals, just functions.
Now that intellect was in command of society for the first time in history, was this the intellectual pattern it was going to run society with?
As far as Phaedrus knew, that question has never been successfully answered.
Pirsig thought a solution to this would be to look back, beyond the Victorians, to the Puritans who saw the value in the vices for what they were aiming to achieve.
Drinking, dancing, sex, playing the fiddle, gambling, idleness: these are biological pleasures. Early Puritan morals were largely a suppression of biological quality..
What the Metaphysics of Quality concludes is that the old Puritan and Victorian social codes should not be followed blindly, but should not be attacked blindly either. They should be dusted off and re-examined, fairly and impartially, to see what they were trying to accomplish and what they actually did accomplish toward building a stronger society. We must understand that when a society undermines intellectual freedom for its own purposes it is absolutely morally bad, but when it represses biological freedom for its own purposes it is absolutely morally good.
So the difference in approach between the MOQ, the Victorians, and the reactionary 1920's intellectuals is teleological. The latter two are simply about the extremes of maximization of satisfaction or the blind suppression of biological freedom. The MOQ is instead about focusing on which values build the strongest society.
Indeed, it is this nuanced appreciation for the evolutionary role of social values that makes the MOQ far superior to our current Subject-Object Metaphysics. Because it's with this distinction that we can appreciate the underlying value that did exist in the two misguided approaches that came before it. That is, both the puritan value of creating a harmonious society through the suppression of destructive biological values as well as the intellectuals value of using the power of rationality to structure a moral society.
The MOQ therefore, is not prudish. That is, it isn't blindly against biological values. But it is strongly against uncontrolled biological values that create social decay. The test for whether society should tolerate any biological behavior is how much social destruction it creates. With the MOQ we can uniquely shine a sharp light on this social values destruction in a vastly more powerful way than our current metaphysics.
I suppose the question then is, when will our intellectual culture see this beauty of the new metaphysics, and use it to make the world a better place?