LS Re: Universal Man (wa:Soc and Int)

Platt Holden (
Fri, 21 Aug 1998 13:19:55 +0100

Hi Donny and LS:

Donny wrote:

> I know Platt hasn't had time to respond to that yet, but I was
> flipping through LILA today (the first time I've done so since joining the
> LS) because I wanted to re-read the much debated chapter 24... anyway, I
> found these little gems:
> 'I've just had fealings that maybe the ultimate truth about the
> world isn't history or sociology but biography.... You may think
> everything you say and say and everything you think is just you but
> actually the language you use and the values you have are the results of
> thousands of years of cultural evolution. It's all in a kind of debris of
> pieces that seem unrelated but are actually part of a huge fabric....
> [Schliemann] showed how you could dig down through one stratum after
> another, finding the ruins of earlier cities under later ones. That's what
> I think can be done w/ a single person.' (Chapter 14)
> That is Hegel's 'I that is a we' to a tee! There's the same idea
> in LILA. Later:
> 'If Descartes had said, 'The seventeenth-century French culture
> exists, therefore I think, therefore I am,' he would have been correct.'
> (Chapter 24)
> There it is again! Hegel's idea that individual persons cannot
> possibly exist w/o societies. When Hegel asks what else is personhood
> if not the unity of the individual man w/ the Universal Man, he could be
> interprited into Pirsig-speak as 'the unity between a homo-sapian and the
> Giant.' Does that make you rest easier, Platt?

Not really. Hegel's idea that individuals cannot exist without society comes as no surprise to Pirsig fans. From Pirsig we've learned (if we didn't know already) that individuals are composites of inorganic, biological, social and intellectual value patterns. I don't think anyone on the LS has argued otherwise.

But when Hegel asks what else is personhood if not the unity of the individual w/ Universal Man (implying that you and I are nothing more than expendable workers in the overall ant heap of humanity), it's too bad he didn't have a chance to read and ponder Pirsig's story of the Zuni tribe and the brujo.

The "what else" that Hegel misses is succintly pointed out by Pirsig in Chapter 13: "Patterns can't by themselves perceive or adjust to Dynamic Quality. Only a living being can do that." (Note he says being, not beings.)

Pirsig is quite fond (as you and I are) of individual contrarians like the brujo because without their moral regeneration "static patterns would simply die of old age." Show me in Hegel's philosophy where contrarians (like Pirsig) are relied upon to refresh and change society towards higher intellect and greater freedom and I will gladly recant my critique. -:)


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