LS Fighting the dragon (fwd)

Donald T Palmgren (
Mon, 17 Aug 1998 10:41:32 +0100

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 21:08:12 -0400 (EDT)
From: Donald T Palmgren <>
Subject: Fighting the dragon

        Hello again.

BODVAR wrote:
Did Hegel really 'take on the dragon' (of SOM) 150 years before
Pirsig? From what I have read about him I am not fully convinced (but
willing to be persuaded).
        Well, we agree that "SOM" means "a metaphysical system" (we
haven't yet agreed what that is) "built on the ontalogical seperatness of
the (knowing)subject and the (known)object." Well, Hegel denied any
ontological seperation of S and O.
So... well, I'm afraid I don't know what else to say there. To me it seems
prety aparent.
        Do you not belive that Hegel denyed an ontological seperation of S
and O? In case you don't trust me, I'll quote from Bertrand Russell:
        "[The phenomnology] begins w/ sense-perception, in which there is
only awareness of the object. Then, through sceptical criticism of the
senses, it becomes purly subjective. At last, it reaches the stage of
self-knowledge, in which subject and object are no longer distinct. Thus
self-consciousness is the higestr form of knowledge.... [Since] the
Absolute is the whole there is nothing outside itself for it to know."
        I could fill volumes of e-mail w/ quotes about Hegel's denial of
the S-O split.
        Earlier, Russell writes: "From [Hegel's] early intrest in
mysticism he retained a belief in the un-reality of seperatness; the
world, in his view, was not a collection of hard units, whether atoms or
souls... The apparent self-subsistence of finite things appeared to him to
be an illusion..."
        Russell goes on to mention all-too briefly Hegel's idea that
"whatever is, is right" (Hegel's words) and that, for Hegel, the terms
"reality" and "excelence" are synonyms.

        Bo, if you said that Hegel did not slay the dragon, then that I
could at least understand. It just means that, like Russell, you don't buy
Hegel's system. But to say that he didn't face the dragon -- when the
overcoming of the S-O distinction is *explicitly* given as a (if not THE)
major goal of his system... Well, I don't know what to make of that!

        And what's more, Hegel is FAR from the only other person to attack
SOM. I've argued earlier that Kant in particuler, as well as Fichte and
Schelling, denied that S-Os *really* exist. They exist only *for us* -- as
our way of interpriting reality.
        I've just started a *great* book: Graham Parkes' *Heidegger and
Asian Thought*. It traces the influence of Asian philosophy on German
philosophy (and visa versa) from Leibniz down to Heidegger, and half of
the contributing authers are Asian (5 of them Japanese; German philosophy
has dominated in Japan since the turn of the century, and Heidegger was a
big fan of zen). The attack on S-O is common to both traditions. I'll
quote here from the great Indian philosopher Samkara:
        "The purport of this science is not to represent Brahman
definitely as this or that object, its purpose is rather to show that
Brahman as the eternal inward self is never an object, and thereby to
remove the distinction of objects known, knoers, acts of knowing, etc,
which is ficticiously created by Nesceience."
        Now, I know from ZMM that phedrus/pirsig got his degree in Indian
philosophy. I'm certain that he studied Samkara.
        In some sense, the goal of philosophy in general, in both Asia and
Germany has been the overcomming of the S-O distinction.

        Bo, if you do accept our shared definition of "SOM" then I don't
see how you can also believe that Pirsig was the first person to challange

BODVAR goes on:
 My SOM is definitely your no 1 definition,
while my S-O is no 2, and this is the crux of my SOTAQI idea:
Subject-Object thinking is the highest good but Subject-Object
METAPHYSICS (that the S-O distinction is the way things are) is
deeply wrong. My accusation of New Age as SOMish is based on their
"mind-matter" division (without the SOTAQI qualification). All right,
they say that matter is an illusion, but it's stubborn irreducableness
haunts their thinking.
        Wait a sec!! you just said SOM is the belief that, ontologically
speaking, S and O are *really* seperate. you then say that the New-Agers
don't claim this; they say mater is an illusion. So then they don't suport
SOM. They certainly haven't overcome it as well as pirsig has (or Kant,
Hegel, Laotzu, etc. etc.), but they don't believe it. They are not
supporters of SOM; they are supporters of a low-intellectual-quality
alternative to SOM! There's a difference.

NB! Your "metaphysics - world view" distinction sounds a little
academical, I use them interchangeable. Is there something more
fundamental than a metaphysics?
        It is 'achademic' in the sense that I'm sure Joe Six-pack on the
street isn't aware of it. (Actually, as, I think Maggie said, around here,
Joe Six-pack tends to identify "metaphysics" w/ "new age.") But the
distinction between 1st and 2nd philosophy is very very important. When
you approch a book on metaphysics, how do you evaluate it? If you ask,
does this give me the correct picture of the world, then you've degraded
1st phil. to 2nd phil. You've missed the point.
        First, anybody can have a worldview -- a "correct picture of the
world" (CPOW), and you don't need philosophy for that. Second, you can
have a process of systamatic, skeptical deconstruction and reconstruction
of the CpOW -- Aristotle's "2nd phil.", what we call "science!" That's
more sophisticated -- LESS fundamental -- but still not 1st phil.
Metaphysics (1st phil.) does not try see how X Y or Z figure on the CpOW;
it wants to understand the CpOW itself. It's not trying to ansewr the
question "what really exists?" It's trying to understand the question
"What really exists?" (What do you mean by 'exisis?' What does something
have to have in order to exist? Acording to SOM, you can exist in one of
two ways: you either exist in-here or out-there.)
        yes, it is less fundamental that a worldview. (It's also more
        More to say, but I got'ta run.

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