LS Re: 'Out There'

Platt Holden (
Sat, 1 Aug 1998 04:40:41 +0100

Hi Donny and LS:

Thanks for clarifying your views on reality.


"Does this mean Pirsig's intellectual level, consisting mostly of
abstractions, doesn't really exist?"


Ah! Great question! It depends on how you think of it. If you think that
Int.poVs refers to the timeless ontological catalogue of Absolute truth
that was writ from before time, along w/ the Ling Boa, up on the Platonic
Heavens... F=ma, E=mc2, etc. etc. ...then no, that doesn't *really* exist.
It exists only as our (logocentric) ideal.

Well, there are lots of intelligent people who would disagree with you.
Permit me to quote one such person, the mathematical physicist Robert
Penrose, from his book *The Emperor's New Mind:*

"I imagine that whenever the mind perceives a mathematical idea, it makes
contact with Plato's world of mathematical concepts. When one 'sees' a
mathematical truth, one's consciousness breaks through into this world of
ideas, and makes direct contact with it (accessible via the intellect). I
have described this 'seeing' in relation to Godel's theorem, but it is the
essence of mathematical understanding."

Diana has rightly described the essence of Quality as Dhrama, the principle
of rightness. I would argue that Pirsig '"sees" the truth of Dharma just as
Penrose "sees" a mathematical truth. So put me down on the side of those
who believe that Platonic ideals do indeed *really* exist as patterns of
value, not imaginary (logocentric) ideas.


"BUT, if you view Int.PoVs as *living things* -- subjects! Just as you and
I... existing in time, then, yes, they exist.
        Here we go:
        Stuff like F=ma and E=mc2 are facts.
        A fact is the result of a proof.
        A proof is whatever is the most moraly, socialy best way to settle
an argument. If you and I disagree on something, then there are a number of
ways that I could persuade you. I could offer you a bribe; I could withhold
some service that I was providing; I could send Rocko and Knulckles over to
your place to beat the tar out of you; I could chalange you to pistols at
20 paces. But we, as a society, hold the view that there is a moraly
superier means of setteling our argument, and that is for me to offer you
an objective proof of my conclusions.
        "Proofs are *social* activities; and, thus, facts are the results
of social activities. W/o society you have no facts. Nothing is true."

Yes, I agree that proof is a social activity, a social pattern of values,
dependent on interchange between you, me and anyone else who is interested.
But I disagree with you when you equate proof with facts and say "A fact is
the result of a proof." Regard what William James, one of Pirsig's mentors,
had to say about facts:

"A conscious field plus its object as felt or thought of plus an attitude
toward the object plus the sense of self to whom the attitude belongs --
such a concrete bit of personal experience may be a small bit, but it is a
solid bit as long as it lasts; not hollow, not a mere abstract element of
experience such as 'object' is when taken alone. It is a FULL FACT of the
kind to which all realities whatsoever must belong." (Caps added.)

Even though James uses the old subject/object paradigm, he introduces a new
concept into the world of *fact* i.e., the personal, individual attributes
of attitude and sense of self. I think this foretells Pirsig's "sense of

So everything you say about proof being a social activity I agree with. But
*fact* and *truth* I think are different. These items, unlike proof, can be
individually ascertained. If our friend Robinson Crusoe sticks his hand in
a fire he doesn't need society around to confirm the fact that it hurts.
And I'm sure you recall the passage in Lila where Pirsig posits that it's
possible for more than one set of truths to exist. He writes that if
Quality or excellence is seen as the ultimate reality, each one of us,
individually, can "examine intellectual realities the same way he examines
paintings in an art gallery, not with an effort to find out which one is
the 'real' painting, but simply to enjoy and keep those that are of value."
(Lila, Chap. 8.) In other words, decide what's true for yourself.


"Now from all of this, Platt wants to conclude (or feels compelled to) that
if I walk out of the room alone I blink out of existence."

No, Platt does not conclude that.


"You cease to exist (as a person) as soon as you break too far from the
social patterns."

That sounds to me like what happened in Stalinist Russia where people who
disagreed with Communist social patterns were declared insane, got shipped
off to Siberia and for all intents and purposes ceased to exist. Surely
there's a difference between existence as defined by intellectual and
social patterns and existence as felt by an individual on the nerve ends of
her biological patterns. No matter what society says and no matter if
society decides to put me away in an asylum, I will "cease to exist" only
when my biological patterns give up the ghost.

As you can tell, Donny, I'm not on board 100 percent with your theory of
"social reality." But, perhaps our differences are mostly semantic. In any
case, thanks again for responding to my inquiry.


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