I am the author of "Quality and Inspirationality (Part 1)" that was recently
posted on the robertpirsig.org website. I am working on a rewrite of what
is to be Part 2, but I've hit a conceptual impasse, and I need help in
Pirsig seems to maintain that there's no such thing as intellect outside a
social setting. If I understand correctly, according to MOQ, intellect
evolves from the social level, not from the biological. He seems to be
saying that we are born with a blank slate, and concepts get written on it
entirely from our social interactions. But I can't get it through my head
that our brain would be no different from an ant's brain in that respect:
both blank, with nothing inherent in the biological architecture. It seems
to me there's a lot of "meat" in a human brain, and I can't understand how
there could be no hardware functionality in it at all.
My Part 2 essay is based on ideas from Bergson's Creative Evolution. In his
development of the evolution story there's a biological trait he calls
intellect. He distinguishes this trait from instinct by the form of innate
knowledge it displays. Instinctive creatures have organic tools that are
parts of their bodies, and they know how to use them precisely on a limited
range of objects. But intelligent creatures have an inherent capability of
making and using inorganic tools. So instinct is an intimate and exact
knowledge of a limited range of objects. But intellect is a knowledge of
forms that allows imprecise but effective action on an infinite array of
things, so the story goes. This makes a lot of sense to me, and it seems on
the face of it entirely supportive of the philosophy of quality and the MOQ.
But it doesn't seem to be allowed in light of the MOQ's prescribed levels of
I believe in Pirsig's system of thought, and I passionately support his
motivation of wanting to help people see a better way of living. But it
seems that MOQ has accumulated some layers of dogma that I can't get
through. I feel that I'm not allowed to think of myself as an individual
self, because that would be forbidden SOM thinking. But I can't get past the
idea that there's a strong feeling of identification of myself, roughly in
the confines of a physical body and operating in a physical brain, as
separate from all the rest of what's out there. I can't say I would become
"conscious" if I were somehow born as the only human being on some island.
But I can't imagine not being conscious and self aware if my "society" were
just my immediate parents.
I also feel artificially restrained in the way I'm allowed to say things.
I'd like to talk about the distinction between self and not self that I feel
from the inside. But MOQ says that's not allowed; that's SOM language. But
still I feel it. I'd like to talk about objects, like a baseball, in a sort
of common sense way, not in a specialized conceptual way, but again, that
seems to violate "political correctness". I want to use and support and
contribute to MOQ, but I'm feeling hamstrung by it.
Can someone, anyone, in the "squad" help me out of this impasse?