...this stems from a conversation I had recently in where the person I was speaking with asked how it is that you can understand something prior to conception when to understand and to concieve are essentially the same thing and I really had a hard time coming back with a sound explanation that did'nt sound like I was playing semantics.
Well, yes the term "understanding" CAN certainly refer to conceptual understanding but the word also means "sympathetic awareness", "overall assessment" or "judgement". There is enough flexibility with this word that Pirsig can use it in sentence as a contrast with intellectual things like definitions and abstractions. "Quality doesn't have to be defined. You understand it without definition, ahead of definition. Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions."
This is more or less the same question you asked before about "knowing", except now the term is "understanding". In both cases you EQUATE them with definitions and abstractions rather than CONTRAST them. Isn't it clear that Pirsig is contrasting them, opposing them? I think so.
The idea that conceptual and linguistic knowing is the only kind of knowing strikes me as bizarre and as obviously wrong. There are literally trillions of creatures on earth right now that are getting along just fine without any concepts. They can perceive and are aware enough to respond within their environments and this level of consciousness simply doesn't include intellectual abstractions. Perhaps other creatures have a symbolic order of some kind but if they do they're not talking about it. We have these other, more basic forms of awareness too and even without concepts we'd be far more than meat with eyes. We'd be something like a chimp.
A little more context around that little quote:
RMP: "The central reality of mysticism, the reality that Phaedrus had called 'Quality' in his first book, is not a metaphysical chess piece. Quality doesn't have to be defined. You understand it without definition, ahead of definition. Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions.
"Quality is indivisible, undefinable and unknowable in the sense that there is a knower and a known, but a metaphysics can be none of these things. A metaphysics must be divisible, definable and knowable, or there isn't any metaphysics. Since a metaphysics is essentially a kind of dialectical definition and since Quality is essentially outside definition, this means that a 'Metaphysics of Quality' is essentially a contradiction in terms, a logical absurdity."