LS Re: The subject-object metaphysics

Lawrie Douglas (
Wed, 29 Apr 1998 15:19:25 +0100

Diana and all the rest,

Lessee . . . A couple of quick points.

Can the SOM be reduced to dualism in its simplest form?

Yes and no . . .

1) As for yes . . . I think we could reduce it still further. I think
the essence of what Pirsig is railing against is the idea that any one
thing can be utterly separated from any other. Everything is Quality, he
says. The Quality Event comes first, and out of this are distilled
individual structures . . . But none of these structures is utterly
individual, existing in a world of its own.

He identifies Parmenides as inventing the division between objective and
subjective. Parmenides was reacting against Heraclitus, who'd said that
all things (the Many) run into one another, forming one single continuum
(the One). Parmenides tried to isolate the One from the Many; but this
is like trying to liberate the rainbow from its colours, or the symphony
from its notes. Which is pretty much what Plato tried to do in creating
his upper world of Truth, populated by perfectly unitary, indivisible

All this was plain irrational. It's the seed crystal of irrationality
which has corrupted the entire rational project ever since.

2) On the other hand . . . This idea of utterly separating things, one
from another, only becomes a division between subject and object with
the rise of modern science. *The crucial development is the idea of
observation, the idea that the Truth does not reside in principles
alone, but can be found in the physical universe.* The moment you have
this idea, suddenly the entire world around you becomes Plato's upper
world, made up of Forms, utterly definite and self-contained units.
*Suddenly, this division becomes personal.* While the Truth resided in a
higher realm, we could all enjoy equal, shared access to it, via our
intellects. The moment it becomes physically embodied in nature, the
moment the Truth becomes a tangible thing, we are each of us isolated
from intellectual communion by the physical distance between us all; we
have a subject, 'in here', and a world of objects 'out there'.

So . . . I think the "SOM", as a concept, refers specifically to the
scientific worldview; but that its origins go back to Parmenides and
as Pirsig sets out in ZMM.


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