LS Re: PROGRAM Explain the subject-object metaphysics

Martin Striz (
Wed, 15 Apr 1998 09:39:47 +0100

Magnus wrote:
>The hard part is to see this underlying assumption. Pirsig writes in
>Lila that every member of our society is handed a pair of glasses with
>which we look at reality. Pirsig took them off, and he helped us take
>ours off too.
>I don't know how to take them off, but as Hugo said, seeing them must be
>the first step.
>What really bugs me is that people with the glasses have no idea what
>I'm talking about. For them it probably sounds like Donny's "We are
>saved, you are damned.". So I think we must come up with two
>explanations, one in MoQese and one in SOMese.

Magnus, I've been thinking about this same problem for a while and
recently I have been reminded of Wittgenstein's assertion that
"thinking" is a "language game." As long as we continue to use words
like "I," "you," "me," and so forth, we'll be falling into the
subject-object way of thinking. If, on the other hand, there was no
distinction between first, second, and third person in our language, it
might be easier to overcome. The natural way to eliminate it would be to
refer to everything in the third person (eliminating first and second,
"I" and "you").

Sure, it sounds funny at first, but as Pirsig pointed out, it's just a
matter of convention. We think it sounds funny when someone refers to
himself in the third person (Bob Dole), but I'm sure after time the
novelty fades away.

Now, I'm not saying we should go and restructure all the languages of
the world. I am merely pointing out that by using language that makes an
s-o distinction, it puts people into a frame of mind where they think in
s-o terms.

(Now to address the topic so this message doesn't get deleted... :-)

Pirsig appears to "conflate" three different uses of the s-o dichotomy
because they are based on the same assumption (as Magnus pointed out.)
He simply doesn't point out when and where he is transferring to another

****I think in ZMM he showed how these various dichotomies are derived
and it is assumed that you know about them from then on.****

In my frequent debates with Mike Hardie he always pointed out that
subjective/objective was not the same as the mind/body problem.
However, it can be shown that both are derived from the same assumption.

One way to make this clear is to think of it as a distinction between
The One and The Many. If reality is based on the object (materialism),
then there is just One version. The apple on that table is the only one
and everyone can come by and see the same thing. If reality is based on
the subject (Idealism), then there can be Many versions of the apple,
one version corresponding to each subject (person) that comes along to
view it.

So the materialism/Idealism split is one derivation of the
object/subject (one/many). Another is that if there is One version of
the apple, it is considered OBJECTIVE. It is unchanging. Science
assumes there is just one apple. But reality is based on the subject,
then there are Many versions and the thing is called SUBJECTIVE. It is
often believed that value judgements are subjective--residing in the

The mind/body problem is also derived from this assumption because it
arises when we assume that reality is primarily BOTH subject and object,
one and many. Then we say that the part of reality that corresponds to
the subject is the mind, soul, etc., and the part that corresponds to
the object is anything besides the mind (which includes the body).

So I think it can be seen that there are a whole host of dichotomies
that can be derived from this subject/object assumption that most people
make unknowingly. Perhaps they make it unknowingly because they have
been trained to think that way through language?

Martin Striz

"All consistent systems are inherently inconsistent."
  -- Klyne

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