Ron quoted Willam James:
" the difference is that the empiricists are less dazzled. Unity doesn't blind them to everything else, doesn't quench their curiousity for special facts whereas there is a kind of rationalist who is sure to interpret abstract unity mystically and to forget everything else, to treat it as a principle; to admire and worship it; and thereupon to come to a full stop intellectually." William James Pragmatism
The majority of "Pragmatism" is a response to Monism, Monism he states is useful in that it affords us a moral holiday. If MoQ is part and parcel of the tradition of Pragmatism, stating that it is a monism departs from this tradition. ...For MoQ to be a Monism and yet follow Pragmatic tradition would require such a sophisticated explanation and a large re-working of both terms. Don't you think? They are just about contrary in meaning. It would be better to classify, if we must classify, MoQ as a pluralism that asserts Value as it's first abstract principle of explanation. Then it sits comfortably without contradiction in meaning.
It's not too tricky to untangle this, I think. You're right to characterize Pragmatism as an attack on Monism - but there are two important points that will make the apparent contradiction evaporate.
This first point is simply that James was attacking Hegelian monism, the Absolute Idealism of Bradley and Royce in particular. When Phaedrus first realized that Quality was "an absolute monism" wherein "Quality was the source and substance of everything," the narrator tells us, a "whole new flood of philosophic associations came to mind". "Hegel said the Absolute Mind was the source of everything," he admits, but, "Hegel's Absolute was completely classical, completely rational and completely orderly. Quality was not like that."
The second point is that Pragmatism is a theory of truth and as such fits into the MOQ as static intellectual quality. Pirsig and James agree that truth is a certain kind of good, static intellectual good. To address the main question - is Quality a monism? - we should be talking about James's Radical Empiricism and especially his notion of "pure experience". This is where it makes sense to compare Pirsig's monism (Quality) to James's monism (pure experience). John Dewey was a radical empiricist too. On this view, says John Stuhr, “experience is anactivity in which subject and object are unified and constituted as partial features and relations within this ongoing, unanalyzed unity”. Please notice that “unanalyzed unity” is another way to say that "pure experience" or "Quality" is an undifferentiated whole, an undivided continuum or pre-conceptual flux. All these phrases are descriptive labels and what they describe is undivided experience, experience prior to the intellectual distinctions or static patterns we use when talking about it or reflecting on it.
The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy puts it this way: “James’s fundamental idea is that mind and matter are both aspects of, or structures formed from, a more fundamental stuff — pure experience — that (despite being called “experience”) is neither mental nor physical. Pure experience, James explains, is “the immediate flux of life which furnishes the material to our later reflection with its conceptual categories” (Essays in Radical Empiricism).
And then you hear this from Pirsig himself at the end of chapter 29 of Lila...
"The second of James' two main systems of philosophy, which he said was independent of pragmatism, was his radical empiricism. By this he meant that subjects and objects were not the starting point of experience. Subjects and objects are secondary. They are concepts derived from something more fundamental which he described as 'the immediate flux of life which furnishes the material to our later reflection with its conceptual categories'. In this basic flux of experience, the distinctions of reflective thought, such as those between consciousness and content, subject and object, mind and matter, have not yet emerged in the forms which we make them. Pure experience cannot be either physical or psychical: It logically precedes this distinction." (Pirsig 1991, 364-5)
So you see they both posit direct experience itself as what constitutes reality. Their primary empirical reality isn't a unified whole but rather an undivided stream of experience or, as Dewey puts it, an unanalyzed totality. They're not saying unity is the essence or final goal of experience but simply that experience itself is reality and that reality does not come divided into parts. Quality or pure experience is "one" in the sense that it hasn't yet been chopped up into words and concepts, definitions and distinctions. As Pirsig says, "Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions". This is what Pirsig means when he quotes William James again at the end of chapter 29: " 'There must always be a discrepancy between concepts and reality, because the former are static and discontinuous while the latter is dynamic and flowing.' Here James had chosen exactly the same words Phaedrus had used for the basic subdivision of the Metaphysics of Quality."