| Letter to Bodvar Skutvik
From Robert M Pirsig, September 15, 2000
I stumbled across " Lila's Child" the other day on the internet, have now read it and am very impressed by it. It really is the third book that has been needed to follow the first two. it would have been impossible without the internet to bring together this collection of minds and interests. They have been so thorough I don't have to say any more. Please thank Dan Glover for putting it together, and everyone involved in it - the endorsers and dissenters too.
In keeping with the aphorism that you can learn more from your enemies than you can from your friends, I took particular interest in the negative comments. The question of "How do you justify the statement that Quality equals reality?" was the best one. The correct answer from a MOQ perspective is, "by the harmony it produces", but this answer is only for people who already understand the MOQ. Those who don't can't see the harmony and for them this answer is meaningless.
We see that these people want rational justification, usually "objective" justification and I think that objective material examples will now advance the MOQ faster than anything else. Their idea that quality is some sort of vapid, romantic, ethereal illusion may be dispelled in part by a discussion of plain old money which, in the MOQ, is a pure and simple index of social quality. Arguments that value is unreal can be reduced to absurdity by the question, "Do you think a five dollar bill has the same value as an one dollar bill? If so, are you willing to trade some bills?" and "If not, why not? What's the difference?" If they give the standard answer that money is a convention you can ask, "What kind of convention is a crash in the stock market?" Conventions are static, but as every good trader knows stock prices are a mixture of static and dynamic factors. This can be expanded hugely into a discussion of the stock exchange indexes whose sole purpose is the measurement of value and expanded further into the large areas of economics. Consider how many books have been written on economics that don't touch on the real meaning of value!
Hellier's charge of "emotivism" came second. I think it may give a good picture of where opposition is coming from among the academic philosophers. All the answers to it were excellent and I think really have strengthened the understanding of the Lila Squad. My own addition might be that if the implication of "emotivism" is true - that emotion and value is identical - then banking may be considered an emotional activity. I think the MOQ would classify emotions as mere biological responses to value, not value itself.
As you know there is something about quality that makes it impossible for many to understand what you are talking about. A lot of it is persistence of the materialistic, objective, historic tradition that hopefully will be overcome in time. But also we are seeing a kind of quality blindness that musicians call a "tin ear" of singers who keep sharping and flattening notes without knowing they are doing it. Many people just do not "see" quality at the same time they are obviously seeing it, in the same way that tin- eared people do not "hear" harmony at the same time they are obviously hearing it. I think this was what you were trying to tell Hellier at the end of the Great Shoot-Out when you told him to learn more about reality. It seems that all he could see was quality as a concept, something with about the same scientific reality as hippogriffs and Jesus in Heaven and other empirically unverifiable entities. He just did not directly see what you were talking about. Anthony McWatt attended a class on ZMM where the teacher actually had the same problem. She had no grasp of what value was, only what a value judgement was.
I had always assumed that this blockage of direct quality perception was social, but in Mexico a few years ago I talked to a neurologist who argued that it was physiological. She said that recent experiments are showing that the right side of the brain, the "artistic" side, filters all experience before it reaches the left "rational" side of the brain. this would concur with the MOQ assertion that value precedes concepts in human understanding. I have read elsewhere that the left rational side of the brain can never perceive the right brain as an object, but only receive messages from it. This would explain why everyone knows that something is better than other things but no one can define what this betterness is. All they get are the quality messages but they don't know where the quality messages are coming from. This is not to say that the right brain creates the quality, only that it filters it before passing it along to the left brain for conceptualizing.
The neurologist's explanation also explains the finding that left- handed people, in whom the value side of the brain dominates the rational side, are more commonly found in the arts than are the general population and have a higher rate of insanity. It could even explain the excessive hostility we are seeing toward the MOQ from the academic philosophers like Strawson and Hellier who are above all "rational" in the static sense of the term. I once read a book called "Death and the Right Hand" which showed that one of the few anthropological constants found in cultures throughout the world has been fear and hatred of left-handedness. The word "sinister" originally meant left-handed. Only our modern scientific rational culture abandons this social hatred. But at deeper subliminal levels it may still be there, creating the illusion in some people that Dynamic Quality is somehow "gauche" and sinister.
I think " Lila's Child" is exactly the conservative intellectual static latch that the MOQ has needed to counter this charge. The fact that it was not written by me makes it even stronger. I hope it will be the resource book for all the professional philosophers and anyone else who wants to dig deeper in the MOQ for years and even centuries to come.
Robert M. Pirsig