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The Nature of Natural Law
by Rory FitzGerald
To the readers of the MoQ forum,
NATURAL LAW IN POST-MODERN SOCIETY
Table of Contents
Preface What is good, Phaedrus,
and what is not good- Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?
What is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good-
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?
SocratesPost-modernity is usually defined as beginning in 1918. More than millions of men were shot down in the trenches of World War I. The idea that man could use his faculty of reason and logic to attain a peaceful and prosperous world was also shot down.
Mechanised warfare was a natural extrapolation of industrialisation. Positive law justified the obedience of the masses to dictatorships. Dehumanised forms of communism took hold in the world. Religion was relegated to the status of superstition. The Holocaust was perpetrated with systematic efficiency. Weapons capable of destroying the Earth were developed. Man no longer saw himself as part of the divine.
It is within the context of this post-modern era that I must initially set this discussion of natural law. "When we talk of some idea or concept as being 'ideological' in character, we mean that it forms part of our outlook upon the world, upon the relation of man to the world and to society in all it's manifestations. The idea of law certainly partakes of this ideological character so that our view of it will be inevitably coloured by our general thinking about man's place in the world, the view we may adopt of the nature of man, or of the human condition." (Lloyd The Idea of Law 1987 :12)
Here it can be seen that the essence and foundation of natural law is the 'outlook on the world' held by the culture at that time. In order to discuss natural law, we must first discuss this 'outlook on the world.' Until a few short centuries ago western man's self conception was as being a creature of divine origin on a planar Earth, at the very centre of the universe. Our current appreciation of ourselves is as being on an insignificant planet on a spiral arm of an equally insignificant Galaxy in an apparently Godless Universe; as having 98% ape DNA, an impressive track record of barbarism, and no apparent function or purpose. This is quite a turn around. It's effect on natural law has been enormous. In the first chapter I will give a brief overview of the development of natural law from it's primacy to today.
The Nature of Natural Law
Individual men and even entire peoples give little thought to the fact that while each pursues his own end- often at cross purposes with each other- they unconsciously proceed to an unknown natural end, as if following a guiding thread; and they work to promote an end they would put little store by, even if they were aware of it.
( Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent, 1983 :29)
Among the first recorded instances of a 'divine law' held it to be immoral to graze more than seven sheep per hillock in ancient Palestine. Unbeknownst to the Palestinian peasants this religious codex simply had the economic and practical effect of ensuring the sustainable growth of Palestinian society. (Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy 1974 :142)
It was in reality an evil act to overpopulate one's hill as if this practice had become widespread the semi-arid terrain would eventually become desert, causing the end of Palestinian civilisation.
Therefore, a supposedly divine law had the effect of saving a civilisation. For an ancient agrarian who could not understand the results of overuse of land in terms of soil erosion in to future generations, it is insightful to note that it simply 'felt right' not to do this.
As societies became more complex it became divinely held in all societies that theft and murder (e.g. Ten Commandments) were wrong. In all cases an unseen Deity was cited as the source of these laws. In this way, societies were made safe and more harmonious - thus fertile for art, culture and science to develop. Those priests and kings who decided these laws were right would have told you that 'It is Gods will of Law.' As Unger puts it, "There is a close connection between [a transcendent] religiosity and the beliefs or institutions that sustain a legal system." (Unger, Law in Modern Society 1976 : p.76)
The concept of a personified God represented by a Church put these religious adherents in close institutionalised contact with their (Freudian) superegos, or consciences. They were not engaged in a process of social engineering. Nor were they directly foreseeing the fruits of a safe, ordered, prosperous society. Indeed most of these original natural law bringers acted in direct opposition to the existing legal order. (e.g. Jesus and the Romans) They were simply doing what their hearts told them. Thus, again a divine law simply escapes from the ether, and without the knowledge of it's exponents, has the effect of furthering all civilisation. As this becomes embedded in societal norms, all feel it's merit, or as they may have put it 'the beauty of the Word.'
These processes point out that it is not through logical deliberation that mankind has advanced society, but through conscience.
European society continued along these codified Judaeo-Christian lines until men like Galeleo and Copernicus began to discover (or re-discover from the ancient Greeks) principles on which to base a new explaination of the World. This new scientific explanation was verifiable. The Spanish Inquisition was essentially the opening shot for the conflict of science and religion which has continued to this day. The further development of scientific thought during the Renaissance led to the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason, where science began to be seen by some as a means of rationalising all human behaviour. This opened many possibilities for an entirely new outlook on the world. As Lloyd says, "this was the Golden Age of the law of nature...The whole emphasis was now placed on the rational charachter of natural law." (Lloyd The Idea of Law 1987: 82)
The main Natural law document from this time remains today the ideological basis of all Western Democracies, and the aspiration of many countries new to democracy. The US constitution and the Bill of Rights indelibly associated law and the idea of liberty, but also enshrined the unique idea that natural rights could be the subject of legal guarantees. (Lloyd The Idea of Law 1987: p.84) The 'self evident' truths of the US Constitution were not conceived of by a process of deduction. These were natural law at it's purest yet. No previous religion or society had been based on these principles, there was no custom, no logical or systematic basis. These men just felt they were right, so strong was this feeling of conscience that they simply knew this to be God's will - these laws were self evident under God. God in today's secular context can now be viewed a personification of their superegos or consciences.
This produced the most advanced change in human civilisation to date. If the test of the success of a Natural Law is it's ability to produce a society which succeeds to advance humanity, this Natural Law is the best we've ever had. At the start of this century few countries truly possessed this ideology of freedom and equality, now it firmly dominates the western and post-communist world. It must also be remembered that 19th century European Liberalism in Germany and Britain essentially strived to emulate these ideals- although this was a less dramatic, slower process as there were centuries of natural law custom such as the 'divine right of Kings,' as well as deeply entrenched feudal and class structures which had to be overcome.
It is true that from societies based on these natural law constitutional principles the greatest progress for humanity yet was achieved. In 1900 no man had flown in a heavier than air machine, two bicycle repairmen changed that. Fifty years later humanity was in space. Ten years after that, the Moon. Such progress is so dramatic as to be almost absurd.
Ideas of linear time, space-time separation, mass-energy separation and Euclidean Geometry were thrown out by a Swiss patent clerk. Under societies based on this natural law anything seemed to become possible. In these societies unprecedented prosperity and civilisation were developed to the present day. Societies based on other ideologies failed. This is not because of a genetic deficiency in the people of the USSR, Nazi Germany or the Muslim countries, nor is it for the want of natural resources.
There may be many other factors, but there is an essential difference between liberal western democracy and communism or countries ruled by medieval style feudalism, autocracy or religiously fundamentalist natural law. This is that all the latter see the State or autocrat as superior to the individual, in all circumstances. They neglect to see that all ideas stem from an individual (albeit an individual living within the context of a society). Communism failed to see that progressive men like Karl Marx would find themselves in a Gulag in the USSR. In the natural law of all western democracies freedom of speech, association, movement and assembly are paramount. Thus, society as a whole is in some circumstances seen as inferior to one man - a whole nation may not prevent an attack on it's own value structure. Immanuel Kant, a leading philosopher at the time put this idea succinctly; "The rights of man must be held sacred, however great a sacrifice the ruling powers may have to make." (Kant, quoted by Williams, 1983 :42)
Unwittingly, the self-evident truths led to a new order of natural law whereby the individual's intellectual aspects are pre-dominant over the social order. By necessity the individual's biological aspects were subjugated by the social order (e.g. murder, rape, theft etc.)
However, present day natural law is canny enough to separate actions on the basis of their motivation. Thus one who kills to overthrow tyranny, (conscionable intellectual reasons) is not guilty of murder under international law. His actions are naturally superior to the existing social order. One who kills for greed or rage (biological reasons) is guilty. His actions are naturally inferior to the existing social order.
Also, the provisions allowing for Equality in the codices of western natural law serve to enable advancements for humanity. In a society without such provisions bicycle repairmen and clerks would be unable to have the educational or material resources to propel humanity forward.
Thus, the American and French revolutionaries took natural law principles from the cultural ether of the time (in the name of God, or simple right) and thereby created the societal conditions for the unprecedented advancement of humanity.
The legal ideologies based on the Enlightenment's ideals and given form in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights have survived to the present day. However this form of natural law was by no means without opponent ideologies. The nineteenth century saw the demise of natural law, which was now under attack by strictly logical thought systems. The Legal Positivist school of thought was founded. Of these, Marxism was to be the most potent and far reaching. Indeed, most of the latter half of this century was charachterised by a military stand off between the nations based on Western natural law and those nations based on Marxist ideology. The potential results that this conflict had, only serve to underline the power of ideology. A few words on paper, a few books- these were the direct source of the Cold War.
My account of how natural law is precedent to social formation and action could be summarised in the phrase 'life is determined by consciousness.' This belief underlay all the natural law developments in the west. Karl Marx took the diametrically opposite view;
'We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and the life process. The phantoms formed in the human brain are also sublimates of their material life process...which is bound to material premises. Morality religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, then no longer retain the semblance of independence...Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life."
(Marx & Engels, 1846 The German Ideology: in the Marx-Engels Reader, 1978: 154-5)
Marx sought "to seek out the developmental logic of social change." (Morrisson, p.261) He however made a fundamental mistake. Humanity's development is not based on logic. Humanity's development is based on conscience, and often chaos. There was no logical dialectic to be found. Man only invented logic to build bridges and solve physical problems- which is all it has ever succeeded in doing, albeit brilliantly - it was not meant to reveal or shape natural law. The catastrophe of communism's failure to allow for beauty, good, freedom or conscience is apparent to anyone who visits those depressed bleak countries today.
Marx's attempt to explain society on a scientific and logical basis is inherently flawed. Logic's fundamental components are subject and object, value does not exist within this metaphysical framework. If he truly believed in logic, how could he make the value judgement that this logical framework is the best means of describing human behaviour? How could he have made the value judgement that capitalism was flawed? If he did not believe in metaphysics, how could he accept the metaphysical split of subject/object that forms the basis of logic itself?
Foucault even goes to say that the anti-religious Marxist was in fundamentally participating in his own method of deification, "objectivity (logical thought) was from the start a reification of a magical nature." and further, "they did not introduce a science, but a personality, whose powers borrowed from science only their disguise, or at most their justification." (1967: 271 Madness and Civilisation)
Dennis Lloyd comments on the influence of logic (in the forms of positivism and ) from a more pragmatic legal perspective. In examining whether liability for negligent acts should extend to liability for negligent statements "There is nothing in logic which compels us to infer...liability for negligent statements. At the most we can say that legal reasoning relies heavily on argument by analogy."(Lloyd The Idea of Law 1987 :p276)
Much of what is said above about Marxism remains applicable as an attack on the basis of social science as a method of explanation of society. The problems exist within it's own methodology.
Unger defines this "problem of method" as consisting of four main issues:
" (1) the possibility of an alternative to logic and causation, capable of overcoming the inadequacies of both rationalism and historicism;
(2) the link between this third method and causality;
(3) the connection between the meaning of an act for it's agent and its meaning for an observer; and
(4) the relationship of systematic theory to historical understanding."
(Unger, Law in Modern Society 1976 : p.245, my enumeration)
I firmly believe the Metaphysics of Quality, which I will endeavour to describe in the next chapter, forms a basis for the resolution of the problem of method as defined by Unger in Law in Modern Society.
Unger continues, "now we see that to resolve its own dilemmas, social theory must once again become, in a sense, both metaphysical and political. It must take a stand on issues of human nature and human knowledge for which no 'scientific' elucidation is, or may ever be, available." (Unger, Law in Modern Society 1976 : p.267)
Unger feels this dilemma to be of great and pressing concern; he ends his book with the words, "the richness of immediate concerns combines with the longing for universality in thought to give the mind an enthusiasm...and awaken it to the unity of things.
The great social theorists had this experience when they went from the speculative generalities of their predecessors to the narrower conjectures of a social science. Now it is for us to imitate our teachers by traveling in the opposite direction, back along the road by which they came." (Unger, Law in Modern Society 1976 : 268)
The last significant natural law breakthrough stems from the Enlightenment. Since, a certain amount of refining and memetic selection has occurred, yet the area has stagnated completely.
There is one source reason for this. The development of science has had an enormous cultural influence. It has relegated religion to the status of superstition. We are now forced to see ourselves as ape descendant beings who don't have to believe in anything unless it is verified. Therefore nobody dares pluck principles from the heavens and call them the will of God. Such behaviour would be considered irrational to the point of insanity. Were this the dominant cultural position in 1776 the 'self evident truths' of the time would have been rejected for lack of dialectic reason. For no-one then knew what would result from basing a society on these principles, everyone just thought it felt Right, in the highest possible sense.
A phase shift in natural law has precipitated all the cultural, scientific and moral advancements in humanity. However, It may seem strange to us that natural law can have such direct and profound effects without having been mentally deliberated, yet by definition natural law is not part of a dialectic.This is clear in Unger' definition:
"Natural Law consists of principles that combine prescription with description...It has some of the features of custom: a disregard for the fact-value distinction and a claim not to be a product of human deliberation." (p. 76)
The view that science was shaped by natural law is evidenced by Descartes' statement that, "the natural law idea was a major source of the concept of explanatory scientific laws." (Edgar Zilsel, "The Genesis of the Concept of Physical Law", The Philosophical Review 1942 vol LI, pp. 245-279) Indeed Physics was until recently referred to as 'Natural Philosophy.' It is also interesting to note that the root word for 'God' and 'good' are identical in many languages, including English.
It is an irony of Frankenstein proportions that the Science and technology which natural law (God/conscience/superego) made possible, served ultimately to destroy faith in human conscience (God/natural law /superego).
The above is the fundamental problem of our time, in terms of 'man's outlook on the world' - hence it is also the main problem faced by natural law. We've got all the toys, we just don't know what to do with them. The sense of a moral vacum in the west is pointed out to us daily by politicians, writers, musicians (with the notable exception of the spice girls) and suicide rates that increase with prosperity and education. Television advertising which overwhelmingly uses the biological forces of greed, sex and power to entice us demonstrates that we are more easily swayed by such forces than by moral or intellectual considerations.
Thus religion has lapsed as a source of natural law, and it's traditional adversary, science has categorically failed to provide moral stratae or a metaphysics. How then can we face the new legal challenges offered by genetics, globalisation and secularization? I don't know, but there does exist the germ of a metaphysics that, while not offering any new direction as such, does go a long way toward being an intellectual system which encompasses both scientific and moral or religious thought. I intend to show it's validity in moving towards a resolution of the current impasse in natural law. It describes beautifully the source of scientific thought as being, despite it's theoretical objectivity, ultimately in the thoughts and consciences of it's practitioners. Einstein's relativity came to him in a semi religious inspiration on a tram, the mathematical deductions and experimental verifications followed. If a Bhuddist monk were to exclaim 'Time and space are one!' the western tourist would take a picture and laugh - but if someone actually proves it to you you don't laugh. As Einstein said, "Without science, religion is blind - but without religion, science is lame.'
The system I refer to has become known as the Metaphysics of Quality, it is simple in it's essence, but requires an unentrenched mind to comprehend it's possibilities. There are a number of notable scientific and philosophical minds currently contributing to discussion on the matter. My intention is merely to show the usefulness of the idea within the field of natural law, both as a means of explaining and clarifying current legal issues.
The Metaphysics of Quality
A metaphysics, in the sense the word is used here, refers to the primary division of reality. This metaphysics of Quality was laid out in Robert M. Pirsigs two books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Lila: an Inquiry in to Morals. It is an extremely difficult task to synopsise this idea. To reduce the two books totaling 900 pages to a single chapter is challenging to say the least. Not to mention the tomes of other works which develop and consolidate Pirsig's original work.
The approach I have taken is to describe the idea as it was being formed, not simply to lay down it's premises as if cast in stone. In essence I am paraphrasing and quoting the author, although it has been necessary to add my own slant in the interests of clarity.
As is clear from the first chapter, the fundamental aim of this metaphysics is to provide a unified framework of thought within which both science and ethics can be rationally discussed. This chapter describes the underlying insights of the Metaphysics of Quality, the next actually describes, rationalises and applies the structural hierarchy itself.
The Ghosts of Rationality
I will start with Pirsig's discussion of 'ghosts' as this is a necessary prelude which opens the reader's mind to the possibility that our most fundamental 'common sense' ideas are culturally inherited constructs:
"It's completely natural to think of people who believed in ghosts as ignorant. The scientific point of view has wiped out every other view to a point where they all seem primitive, so that if a person today talks about ghosts or spirits he is considered ignorant or maybe nutty. It's just all but completely impossible to imagine a world where ghosts can actually exist.
My own opinion is that the intellect of modern man isn't that superior. IQs aren't that much different. Those Indians and medieval men were just as intelligent as we are, but the context in which they thought was completely different. Within that context of thought, ghosts and spirits are quite as real as atoms, particles, photons and quants are to a modern man. In that sense I believe in ghosts. Modern man has his ghosts and spirits too.
For example, the laws of physics and of logic -- the number system -- the principle of algebraic substitution. These are ghosts. We just believe in them so thoroughly they seem real. It seems completely natural to presume that gravitation and the law of gravitation existed before Isaac Newton. It would sound nutty to think that until the seventeenth century there was no gravity."
What he is driving at, "is the notion that before the beginning of the earth, before the sun and the stars were formed, before the primal generation of anything, the law of gravity existed. Sitting there, having no mass of its own, no energy of its own, not in anyone's mind because there wasn't anyone...this law of gravity still existed. It seems to me that law of gravity has passed every test of nonexistence there is. You cannot think of a single attribute of nonexistence that that law of gravity didn't have. Or a single scientific attribute of existence it did have. And yet it is still 'common sense' to believe that it existed."
He continues, "if you think about it long enough you will find yourself going round and round until you finally reach only one possible, rational, intelligent conclusion. The law of gravity and gravity itself did not exist before Isaac Newton. No other conclusion makes sense.
And what that means, is that that law of gravity exists nowhere except in people's heads! It's a ghost! We are all of us very arrogant and conceited about running down other people's ghosts but just as ignorant and barbaric and superstitious about our own." He continues to cite education as the source of this mass conception.
He further clarifies, "We believe the disembodied words of Sir Isaac Newton were sitting in the middle of nowhere billions of years before he was born and that magically he discovered these words. They were always there, even when they applied to nothing. Gradually the world came into being and then they applied to it. In fact, those words themselves were what formed the world. That idea is ridiculous.
The problem, the contradiction the scientists are stuck with, is that of mind. Mind has no matter or energy but they can't escape its predominance over everything they do. Logic exists in the mind. Numbers exist only in the mind. I don't get upset when scientists say that ghosts exist in the mind. It's that only that gets me. Science is only in your mind too, it's just that that doesn't make it bad.
Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn't a human invention. The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination. It's all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost, the whole blessed world we live in. It's run by ghosts. We see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau and Jefferson and Lincoln, on and on and on. Isaac Newton is a very good ghost. One of the best. Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past. Ghosts and more ghosts. Ghosts trying to find their place among the living.''
(Paraphrased from dialogue)
Einstein summarised this whole standpoint with the phrase, "common sense is just a bundle of prejudices acquired before the age of eighteen."
THE CRYSTALLIZATION PROCESS:
Phase 1: Undefinable, ethereal Quality?
Definitions are the foundation of reason. But how do you justify, in terms of reason, a refusal to define something? Definitions are the foundation of reason - the wave of crystallization rolled ahead. He was seeing two worlds, simultaneously. On one hand the intellectual side, the scientific side; on the other the romantic or ethical (non-logical) side. He saw now that Quality was a cleavage term.
"Quality" in the sense it is meant throughout is the 'undefinable quality' - previous and contemporary synonyms for this 'quality' are: right, beauty, the ultimate truth, the word, or - crucially to this essay - natural law. This 'quality' will be argued to be, to a large extent, the common denominator of ethics and science.
A cleavage term is what every intellectual analyst looks for. You take your analytic knife, put the point directly on the term Quality and just tap, not hard, gently, and the whole world splits, cleaves, right in two...ethical and scientific, classic and romantic, technological and humanistic...and the split is clean. There's no mess. No little items that could be one way or the other. Not just a skilled break but a very lucky break. Sometimes the best analysts, working with the most obvious lines of cleavage, can tap and get nothing useful. And yet here was Quality; a tiny, almost unnoticeable fault line; a line of illogic in our concept of the universe; and you tapped it, and the whole universe came apart, so neatly it was almost unbelievable. He wished Kant were alive. "Kant would have appreciated it. That master diamond cutter. He would see. Hold Quality undefined. That was the secret."
"I think that the referent of a term that can split a world into ethical and scientific, classic and romantic, technological and humanistic, is an entity that can unite a world already split along these lines into one. A real understanding of Quality doesn't just serve society, or even beat it or even escape it. A real understanding of Quality captures society.".
THE METAPHYSICAL WAVE:
Phase 2 - The Fundamental Question - What is Quality?:
This phase was brought about in response to Pirsig being asked, "Does this undefined 'quality' of yours exist in the things we observe? Or is it subjective, existing only in the observer?" The question is effectively, 'Where does Quality fit in to a subject / object (i.e. logical) metaphysics?'fig. 1
[For a diagrammatic representation of the scientific metaphysical system see fig. 1]
This was the fundamental question and had to be answered coherently, because if Quality exists in the object, then you must explain just why scientific instruments are unable to detect it. You must suggest instruments that will detect it, or live with the explanation that instruments don't detect it because the whole Quality concept is, to put it politely, a large pile of nonsense. On the other hand, if Quality is subjective, existing only in the observer, then this Quality that you make so much of is just a fancy name for whatever you like. Either of these answers imply failure.
What Pirsig had been presented with was an ancient logical construct known as a dilemma. A dilemma, which is Greek for "two premises,'' he has likened to the front end of an angry and charging bull.
If he accepted the premise that Quality was objective, he was impaled on one horn of the dilemma. If he accepted the other premise that Quality was subjective, he was impaled on the other horn. Either Quality is objective or subjective, therefore he was impaled no matter how he answered.
Pirsig, however, because of his training in logic, was aware that every dilemma affords not two but three classic refutations, and he also knew of a few that weren't so classic. He could take the left horn and refute the idea that objectivity implied scientific detectability. Or, he could take the right horn, and refute the idea that subjectivity implies 'anything you like.' Or he could go between the horns and deny that subjectivity and objectivity are the only choices. You may be sure he tested out all three. In addition to these three classical logical refutations there are some illogical, 'rhetorical' ones. Pirsig, being a rhetorician, had these available too.
One of the rhetorical alternatives to the dilemma he explores, and the easiest one in my opinion, was to refuse to enter the arena. Pirsig could simply have said, "The attempt to classify Quality as subjective or objective is an attempt to define it. I have already said it is undefinable ," and left it at that.
He chose to disregard this option and chose to respond to this dilemma logically and dialectically rather than take the easy escape of mysticism. He felt first of all that he felt the whole Church of Reason was irreversibly in the arena of logic, that when one put oneself outside logical disputation, one put oneself outside any academic consideration whatsoever. Philosophical mysticism, the idea that truth is indefinable and can be apprehended only by nonrational means, has been with us since the beginning of history. It's the basis of Zen practice. But it's not an academic subject. The academy, the Church of Reason, is concerned exclusively with those things that can be defined, and if one wants to be a mystic, his place is in a monastery, not a University. Universities are places where things should be spelled out. Thus he mounted an attempt to explain Quality by logic.
Quality Within Logic?
Is Quality Objective?
The first horn of Pirsig's dilemma was, If Quality exists in the object, why can't scientific instruments detect it?
This horn was the mean one. From the start he saw how deadly it was. If he was going to presume to be some super-scientist who could see in objects Quality that no scientist could detect, he was just proving himself to be a nut or a fool or both. In today's world, ideas that are incompatible with scientific knowledge don't get off the ground.
He remembered Locke's statement that no object, scientific or otherwise, is knowable except in terms of its qualities. This irrefutable truth seemed to suggest that the reason scientists cannot detect Quality in objects is because Quality is all they detect. The 'object' is an intellectual construct deduced from the qualities. However the nature of the qualities of hardness or temperature are entirely different to the nature of moral Quality, therefore this was an invalid approach. His Quality... 'excellence,' 'worth,' 'goodness'...was not a physical property and was not measurable. He had been thrown off by an ambiguity in the term quality. Therefore the horn of the dilemma was still there. The answer to the title question is 'no.'
Is Quality Subjective?
He turned his attention to the other horn of the dilemma, which showed more promise of refutation. He thought, So Quality is whatever you like? (i.e. subjective) It angered him. The great artists of history...Raphael, Beethoven, Michelangelo...they were all just putting out what people liked. They had no goal other than to titillate the senses in a big way. Was that it? It was angering, and what was most angering about it was that he couldn't see any immediate way to cut it up logically. So he studied the statement carefully, in the same reflective way he always studied things before attacking them.
Then he saw it. He brought out the knife and excised the one word that created the entire angering effect of that sentence. The word was 'just.' Why should Quality be just what you like? Why should "what you like" be 'just'? What did 'just' mean in this case? When separated out like this for independent examination it became apparent that ``just'' in this case really didn't mean anything. It was a purely pejorative term, whose logical contribution to the sentence was nil. Now, with that word removed, the sentence became 'Quality is what you like,' and its meaning was entirely changed. It had become an innocuous truism.
Soon he saw there was much more to this than he had been aware of. When people said, Don't do just what you like, they didn't just mean, Obey authority. They also meant something else. This 'something else' opened up into a huge area of classic scientific belief which stated that 'what you like' is unimportant because it's all composed of irrational emotions within yourself. He studied this argument for a long time, then knifed it into two smaller groups which he called scientific materialism and classic formalism. He said the two are often found associated in the same person but logically are separate.
"Scientific materialism, which is commoner among lay followers of science than among scientists themselves, holds that what is composed of matter or energy and is measurable by the instruments of science is real. Anything else is unreal, or at least of no importance. 'What you like' is unmeasurable, and therefore unreal. 'What you like' can be a fact or it can be a hallucination. Liking does not distinguish between the two. The whole purpose of scientific method is to make valid distinctions between the false and the true in nature, to eliminate the subjective, unreal, imaginary elements from one's work so as to obtain an objective, true, picture of reality."
When he said Quality was subjective, to them he was just saying Quality is imaginary and could therefore be disregarded in any serious consideration of reality. On the other hand is classic formalism, which insists that what isn't understood intellectually isn't understood at all. Quality in this case is unimportant because it's an emotional understanding unaccompanied by the intellectual elements of reason.
Of these two main sources of that epithet 'just,' Pirsig felt that the first, scientific materialism, was by far the easiest to cut to ribbons. This, he knew from his earlier education, was naive science. He went after it first, using the reductio ad absurdum. This form of argument rests on the truth that if the inevitable conclusions from a set of premises are absurd then it follows logically that at least one of the premises that produced them is absurd. Let's examine, he said, what follows from the premise that anything not composed of mass-energy is unreal or unimportant.
He used the number zero as a starter. Zero, originally a Hindu number, was introduced to the West by the Arabs during the Middle Ages and was unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans. How was that? he wondered. Had nature so subtly hidden zero that all the Greeks and all the Romans...millions of them...couldn't find it? One would normally think that zero is obvious for everyone to see. He showed the absurdity of trying to derive zero from any form of mass-energy, and then asked, rhetorically, if that meant the number zero was 'unscientific.' If so, did that mean that digital computers, which function exclusively in terms of ones and zeros, should be limited to just ones for scientific work? No trouble finding the absurdity here.
He then went on with other scientific concepts, one by one, showing how they could not possibly exist independently of subjective considerations. He ended up with the law of gravity, the example given in the 'ghost story' above. If subjectivity is eliminated as unimportant, he said, then the entire body of science must be eliminated with it.
This refutation of scientific materialism, however, seemed to put him in the camp of philosophic idealism...Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Bradley, Bosanquet... ,all logical to the last comma, but very difficult to justify in 'common sense' language. They seemed a burden to him in his defense of Quality rather than an aid. The argument that the world was all mind might be a sound logical position but it was certainly not a sound rhetorical one. It was way too tedious and difficult, simply too far-fetched.
At this point the whole subjective horn of the dilemma looked almost as uninspiring as the objective one. And the arguments of classical formalism, when he started to examine them, made it even worse. These were the extremely forceful arguments that you shouldn't respond to your immediate emotional impulses without considering the big rational picture.
The question remained; If everyone knows what quality is, why is there such a disagreement about it?
His casuist answer had been that although pure Quality was the same for everyone, the objects that people said Quality inhered in varied from person to person. As long as he left Quality undefined there was no way to argue with this but he knew and he knew the students knew that it had the smell of falseness about it. It didn't really answer the question.
Now there was an alternative explanation: people disagreed about Quality because some just used their immediate emotions whereas others applied their overall knowledge. But this argument was completely devastating. Instead of one single, uniform Quality now there appeared to be two qualities; a romantic one, just seeing; and a classic one, overall understanding.
It seemed that Quality as a cleavage term could not unify the disparate fields of ethics and science, as it failed to be either a truly objective or subjective phenomena.
The Logical Impasse:
The cleavage term that was going to unify the classic and romantic (scientific and moral) ways of looking at things had itself been cleaved into two parts and could no longer unify anything. It had been caught in an analytic meat grinder. The knife of subjectivity-and-objectivity had cut Quality in two and killed it as a working concept. If he was going to save it, he couldn't let that knife get it.
Ultimately, the Quality he was talking about wasn't classic Quality or romantic Quality. It was beyond both of them. In essence, it wasn't subjective or objective either, it was beyond both of those categories. Actually this whole dilemma of subjectivity-objectivity, of mind-matter, with relationship to Quality was unfair. "That mind-matter relationship has been an intellectual hang-up for centuries. They were just putting that hang-up on top of Quality to drag Quality down. How could he say whether Quality was mind or matter when there was no logical clarity as to what was mind and what was matter in the first place?"
Therefore, he rejected the left horn. Quality is not objective, he said. It doesn't reside in the material world.
Then he rejected the right horn. Quality is not subjective, he said. It doesn't reside merely in the mind.
Finally, following a path that to his knowledge had never been taken before in the history of Western thought, went straight between the horns of the subjectivity-objectivity dilemma and said Quality is neither a part of mind, nor is it a part of matter. It is a third entity which is independent of the two.
The world now, according to Pirsig, was composed of three things: mind, matter, and Quality. The subject for analysis, the patient on the table, was no longer Quality, but analysis itself. Quality was healthy and in good shape. Analysis, however, seemed to have something wrong with it that prevented it from seeing the obvious.
Value Blind Logic Within Quality:
He examined his theory more closely. "Although there's no logical objection to a metaphysical trinity, a three-headed reality, such trinities are not common or popular. The metaphysician normally seeks either a monism, such as God, which explains the nature of the world as a manifestation of one single thing, or he seeks a dualism, such as mind-matter, which explains it as two things, or he leaves it as a pluralism, which explains it as a manifestation of an indefinite number of things. But three is an awkward number. Right away you want to know, Why three? What's the relationship among them?"
He noted that although normally you associate Quality with objects, feelings of Quality sometimes occur without any object at all. This is what led him at first to think that maybe Quality is all subjective. But subjective pleasure wasn't what he meant by Quality either. Quality decreases subjectivity. Quality takes you out of yourself, makes you aware of the world around you. Quality is opposed to subjectivity.
Eventually he saw that Quality couldn't be independently related with either the subject or the object but could be found only in the relationship of the two with each other. "It is the point at which subject and object meet.
That sounded warm.
Quality is not a thing. It is an event.
It is the event at which the subject becomes aware of the object.
And because without objects there can be no subject...because the objects create the subject's awareness of himself...Quality is the event at which awareness of both subjects and objects is made possible.
Now he knew it was coming.
This means Quality is not just the result of a collision between subject and object. The very existence of subject and object themselves is deduced from the Quality event. The Quality event is the cause of the subjects and objects, which are then mistakenly presumed to be the cause of the Quality!"
Now he felt he had that whole dilemma by the throat. "The dilemma all the time had this unseen vile presumption in it, for which there was no logical justification. that Quality was the effect of subjects and objects. It was not! He brought out his knife."
Quality he wrote, "does not revolve around the subjects and objects of our existence. It does not just passively illuminate them. It is not subordinate to them in any way. It has created them. They are subordinate to it!"
This was a major point of culmination, the Eureka moment in the development of this thought process.
He'd been speculating about the relationship of Quality to mind and matter (=subject and object) and had identified Quality as the parent of mind and matter, that event which gives birth to mind and matter. This Copernican inversion of the relationship of Quality to the objective world could sound mysterious if not carefully explained, but he didn't mean it to be mysterious. He simply meant that at the cutting edge of time, before an object can be distinguished, there must be a kind of nonintellectual awareness, which he called awareness of Quality. "You can't be aware that you've seen a tree until after you've seen the tree, and between the instant of vision and instant of awareness there must be a time lag. We sometimes think of that time lag as unimportant, But there's no justification for thinking that the time lag is unimportant...none whatsoever
The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality. The tree that you are aware of intellectually, because of that small time lag, is always in the past and therefore is always unreal. Any intellectually conceived object is always in the past and therefore unreal. Reality is always the moment of vision before the intellectualization takes place. There is no other reality."
This preintellectual reality is what Pirsig felt he had properly identified as Quality. Since all intellectually identifiable things must emerge from this preintellectual reality, Quality is the parent, the source of all subjects and objects.
He felt that intellectuals usually have the greatest trouble seeing this Quality, precisely because they are so swift and absolute about snapping everything into intellectual form. The ones who have the easiest time seeing this Quality are small children, uneducated people and culturally 'deprived' people. These have the least predisposition toward intellectuality from cultural sources and have the least formal training to instill it further into them.
"In a sense," he said, "it's the individual's choice of Quality that defines him. People differ about Quality, not because Quality is different, but because people are different in terms of experience." He speculated that if two people had identical a priori analogues they would see Quality identically every time.
What is Quality?
"Any philosophic explanation of Quality is going to be both false and true precisely because it is a philosophic explanation. The process of philosophic explanation is an analytic process, a process of breaking something down into subjects and predicates. What I mean (and everybody else means) by the word quality cannot be broken down into subjects and predicates. This is not because Quality is so mysterious but because Quality is so simple, immediate and direct."
Quality and Ethics:
The easiest intellectual analogue of pure Quality that people in our environment can understand is that 'Quality is the response of an organism to its environment' (he used this example because his chief questioners seemed to see things in terms of stimulus-response behavior theory). An amoeba, placed on a plate of water with a drip of dilute sulfuric acid placed nearby, will pull away from the acid (I think). If it could speak the amoeba, without knowing anything about sulfuric acid, could say, 'This environment has poor quality.' If it had a nervous system it would act in a much more complex way to overcome the poor quality of the environment. It would seek analogues, that is, images and symbols from its previous experience, to define the unpleasant nature of its new environment and thus 'understand' it. I believe this to be analogous to how natural law crops up as cultures develop:
In our highly complex organic state we advanced organisms respond to our environment with an invention of many marvelous analogues. We invent earth and heavens, trees, stones and oceans, gods, music, arts, language, philosophy, engineering, civilization and science. We call these analogues reality. And they are reality. We teach our children in the name of truth into knowing that they are reality. We throw anyone who does not accept these analogues into an asylum. But that which causes us to invent the analogues is Quality. Quality (good/god/conscience/natural law) is the continuing stimulus which our environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live.
"Now, to take that which has caused us to create the world, and include it within the world we have created, is clearly impossible. That is why Quality cannot be defined. If we do define it we are defining something less than Quality itself."
Pirsig even entertained the idea that, "Quality was the source and substance of everything. A whole new flood of philosophic associations came to mind. Hegel had talked like this, with his Absolute Mind. Absolute Mind was independent too, both of objectivity and subjectivity. However, Hegel said the Absolute Mind was the source of everything, but then excluded romantic experience from the 'everything' it was the source of. Hegel's Absolute was completely classical, completely rational and completely orderly. Quality was not like that."
Pirsig remembered Hegel had been regarded as a bridge between Western and Oriental philosophy. The Vedanta of the Hindus, the Way of the Taoists, even the Buddha had been described as an absolute monism similar to Hegel's philosophy. Pirsig doubted at the time, however, whether mystical Ones and metaphysical monisms were introconvertable since mystical Ones follow no rules and metaphysical monisms do. His Quality was a metaphysical entity, not a mystic one. Or was it? What was the difference? This quality is anecedent to everything, comprises everything. The similarities between this concept of the nature of Quality, and the undefinable laws of ethics and religion are such that that they can be said to at least substantially overlap.
Quality and Science:
Then Pirsig goes on to apply this idea to the opposite end of the spectrum, the scientific or mathematical side:
"Poincaré [a renowned 19th century French mathematician] had been working on a puzzle of his own. His judgment that the scientist selects facts, hypotheses and axioms on the basis of harmony, also left the rough serrated edge of a puzzle incomplete. To leave the impression in the scientific world that the source of all scientific reality is merely a subjective, capricious harmony is to solve problems of epistemology while leaving an unfinished edge at the border of metaphysics that makes the epistemology unacceptable."
However, we know from Pirsig's metaphysics that the harmony Poincaré talked about is not subjective. "It is the source of subjects and objects and exists in an anterior relationship to them. It is not capricious, it is the force that opposes capriciousness; the ordering principle of all scientific and mathematical thought which destroys capriciousness, and without which no scientific thought can proceed."
Poincaré then hypothesized that this selection is made by what he called the "subliminal self," an entity that corresponds exactly with what Pirsig called preintellectual awareness. The subliminal self, Poincaré said, looks at a large number of solutions to a problem, but only the interesting ones break into the domain of consciousness. Mathematical solutions are selected by the subliminal self on the basis of "mathematical beauty," of the harmony of numbers and forms, of geometric elegance.
"This is a true aesthetic feeling which all mathematicians know," Poincaré said, "but of which the profane are so ignorant as often to be tempted to smile." But it is this harmony, this beauty, that is at the center of it all.
Poincaré made it clear that he was not speaking of romantic beauty, the beauty of appearances which strikes the senses. He meant classic beauty, which comes from the harmonious order of the parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp, which gives structure to romantic beauty; as Pirsig says, "a dream from which one could not distinguish one's dreams because there would be no basis for making the distinction. It is the quest of this special classic beauty, the sense of harmony of the cosmos, which makes us choose the facts most fitting to contribute to this harmony. It is not the facts but the relation of things that results in the universal harmony that is the sole objective reality."
What guarantees the objectivity of the world in which we live is that this world is common to us with other thinking beings. Through the communications that we have with other men we receive from them ready-made harmonious reasonings. We know that these reasonings do not come from us and at the same time we recognize in them, because of their harmony, the work of reasonable beings like ourselves. And as these reasonings appear to fit the world of our sensations, we think we may infer that these reasonable beings have seen the same thing as we; thus it is that we know we haven't been dreaming. It is this harmony, this quality if you will, that is the sole basis for the only reality we can ever know.
"Poincaré's contemporaries refused to acknowledge that facts are preselected because they thought that to do so would destroy the validity of scientific method. They presumed that 'preselected facts' meant that truth is 'whatever you like' and called his ideas conventionalism. They vigorously ignored the truth that their own 'principle of objectivity' is not itself an observable fact...and therefore by their own criteria should be put in a state of suspended animation.
They felt they had to do this because if they didn't, the entire philosophic underpinning of science would collapse. Poincaré didn't offer any resolutions of this quandary. He didn't go far enough into the metaphysical implications of what he was saying to arrive at the solution. What he neglected to say was that the selection of facts before you 'observe' them is 'whatever you like' only in a dualistic, subject-object metaphysical system! When Quality enters the picture as a third metaphysical entity, the preselection of facts is no longer arbitrary. The preselection of facts is not based on subjective, capricious 'whatever you like' but on Quality, which is reality itself. Thus the quandary vanishes."
But we know from Pirsig' metaphysics that the harmony Poincaré talked about is not subjective. "It is the source of subjects and objects and exists in an anterior relationship to them. It is not capricious, it is the force that opposes capriciousness; the ordering principle of all scientific and mathematical thought which destroys capriciousness, and without which no scientific thought can proceed." As Pirsig says, "these unfinished edges match perfectly in a kind of harmony that both Phædrus and Poincaré talked about, to produce a complete structure of thought capable of uniting the separate languages of Science and Art into one."
Quality as a Dynamic Force:
"Romantic reality is the cutting edge of experience. It's the leading edge of the train of knowledge that keeps the whole train on the track. Traditional knowledge is only the collective memory of where that leading edge has been. At the leading edge there are no subjects, no objects, only the track of Quality ahead, and if you have no formal way of evaluating, no way of acknowledging this Quality, then the entire train has no way of knowing where to go. You don't have pure reason...you have pure confusion. The leading edge is where absolutely all the action is. The leading edge contains all the infinite possibilities of the future. It contains all the history of the past. Where else could they be contained?
The past cannot remember the past. The future can't generate the future. The cutting edge of this instant right here and now is always nothing less than the totality of everything there is.
Value, the leading edge of reality, is no longer an irrelevant offshoot of structure. Value is the predecessor of structure. It's the preintellectual awareness that gives rise to it. Our structured reality is preselected on the basis of value, and really to understand structured reality requires an understanding of the value source from which it's derived."
"One's rational understanding of a motorcycle is therefore modified from minute to minute as one works on it and sees that a new and different rational understanding has more Quality. One doesn't cling to old sticky ideas because one has an immediate rational basis for rejecting them. Reality isn't static anymore. It's not a set of ideas you have to either fight or resign yourself to. It's made up, in part, of ideas that are expected to grow as you grow, and as we all grow, century after century. With Quality as a central undefined term, reality is, in its essential nature, not static but dynamic. And when you really understand dynamic reality you never get stuck. It has forms but the forms are capable of change.
To put it in more concrete terms: If you want to build a factory, or fix a motorcycle, or set a nation right without getting stuck, then classical, structured, dualistic subject-object knowledge, although necessary, isn't enough. You have to have some feeling for the quality of the work. You have to have a sense of what's good. That is what carries you forward. This sense isn't just something you're born with, although you are born with it. It's also something you can develop. It's not just unexplainable 'skill' or 'talent.' It's the direct result of contact with basic reality, Quality, which dualistic reason has in the past tended to conceal.
The Seed for a Fusion of Ethics and Logic:
To a fair extent we may say that this points to, "a new spiritual rationality...in which the ugliness and the loneliness and the spiritual blankness of dualistic technological reason would become illogical. Reason was no longer to be 'value free.' Reason was to be subordinate, logically, to Quality." He was sure he "would find the cause of its not being so back among the ancient Greeks, whose mythos had endowed our culture with the tendency underlying all the evil of our technology, the tendency to do what is 'reasonable' even when it isn't any good. That was the root of the whole thing. Right there. I said a long time ago that he was in pursuit of the ghost of reason. This is what I meant. Reason and Quality had become separated and in conflict with each other and Quality had been forced under and reason made supreme somewhere back then."
Fundamentally we can ask; "What evidence do we have that the dialectical question-and-answer method of arriving at truth comes before anything else? We have none whatsoever. And when the statement is isolated and itself subject to scrutiny it becomes patently ridiculous. Here is this dialectic, like Newton's law of gravity, just sitting by itself in the middle of nowhere, giving birth to the universe, hey? It's asinine."
Dialectic, which is the parent of logic, came itself from rhetoric. Rhetoric is in turn the child of the myths and poetry of ancient Greece. That is so historically, and that is so by any application of common sense. The poetry and the myths are the response of a prehistoric people to the universe around them made on the basis of Quality. Thus it is Quality, not dialectic, which is the generator of everything we know.
It is on the basis of these insights that Pirsig laid down a clear, generalised, rational value structure - it is this that is the Metaphysics of Quality.
The Architecture of the Metaphysics of Quality
Biological and social and intellectual patterns are not the possession of substance. The laws that create and destroy these patterns are not the laws of electrons and protons and other physical particles. The forces that create and destroy these patterns are the forces of value.
(Robert M. Pirsig Lila: An Inquiry in to Morals, 1993 p176)
Having taken the journey to the heart of metaphysics, Pirsig now held Quality as a fundamental component of a rational metaphysics that includes logic. In Lila: An Inquiry in to Values a rational structured layer is added to this primary insight. This structure is the Metaphysics of Quality (hereafter 'MoQ'). I shall first explain this layered structure, and secondly apply this to legal dilemmas.
What makes the MoQ so readily applicable to the problems facing natural law is that it evolved as a direct response to the same questions identified in chapter 1. Essentially the problem can be defined as social science clinging to the subject/object principles of physical science; i.e. the scientific, objective study of man in a manner which parallels the physical sciences. However, "patterns of culture do not operate in accordance with the laws of physics. How can one prove within the laws of physics that certain attitudes exist within a culture?...What is a cultural value? How can one show scientifically that a certain culture has certain values?" (Pirsig Lila: An Inquiry in to Morals, 1993 p.68)
"Objects of scientific study are supposed to hold still. They're supposed to follow the laws of cause and effect in such a way that a given cause will always and repeatably have a given effect. Man doesn't do this, not even savages." (Pirsig Lila: An Inquiry in to Morals, 1993 p.69)
The MoQ subscribes to what is called empiricism. This claims that all legitimate human knowledge arises from the senses or by thinking about what the senses provide. They regard fields such as art, morality, religion and metaphysics as unverifiable. The MoQ varies from this by saying that art and morality are verifiable - they have just been excluded in the past for metaphysical reasons (as discussed above), not empirical reasons. They have been excluded because of the assumption that anything which can't be classified as a subject or object isn't real. There is, however no empirical basis for this assumption. It's just an assumption. One which flies outrageously in the face of common experience.
The low value to be derived from sitting on a hot stove is obviously an experience, even though it is neither an object, nor subjective. The low value comes first, then the subjective thoughts that include things such as stove, heat, pain come second. The value is the reality that brings these thoughts to mind.
The inability of conventional subject-object metaphysics to clarify values is an example of what Pirsig called a 'platypus.' The early zoologists classified as mammals those that suckle their young and as reptiles those that lay eggs. Then a duck billed platypus was discovered in Australia laying eggs like a perfect reptile, and suckling its young like a perfect mammal.
'What a mystery!' they exclaimed, 'Why does this paradox of nature exist?' they asked. The answer is, the Platypus isn't doing anything paradoxical at all. It's having no problems. Platypus had been laying eggs and suckling millions of years before there were any zoologists to come along and declare it illegal.
Within the subject/object framework of the world, Quality is a platypus. Because it wasn't classifiable under their previous system the experts claimed there was something wrong with it. 'Value' isn't the only platypus under subject-object metaphysics. Scientific reality, causation, substance, free will v. determinism, mind v. matter, the discontinuity of matter at sub-atomic levels are all platypi.
The subject of this whole essay, the 'social science' platypus, falls under the MoQ. If science is a study of substances and their relationships, social science is an absurdity. No scientific instruments can objectively detect what a culture or society is.
However, if science is a study of stable patterns of value then social science is a supremely scientific field. A society can be defined as a network of stable patterns of value. As Kluckhorn says, 'patterns of value are the essence of what a social scientist studies.' (Pirsig Lila: An Inquiry in to Morals, 1993 p. 142)
The Structure of the Metaphysics of Quality:
Static and Dynamic Quality:
This is Pirsig's fundamental division of reality, after Quality itself. It is necessary to present these concepts in by discourse rather than by definition. A requisite prelude to discussing this division of quality is a story about a struggle between good and evil in the Zuni tribe:
In a society that distrusts authority of any sort, Shoshan had a strong personal magnetism that singled him out as a leader in any group. In his society, that exalted moderation and humility, he was turbulent and outspoken. He also went against the tribes isolationist stance and mingled with the neighbouring white people. The Zuni tribe's only reaction to anti-social personalities such as this is to brand them a witch, which is what happened.
As he was being tortured, someone sent a message to (white) government troops, who came and arrested the tribe's chief war Priest. Eventually Shoshan became Chief of this tribe, and ruled well and fairly.
Who here was good and evil? Shoshan was a lone virtuous man sticking to his principles, but he was also one who ended generationally held Zuni values of moderation and humility. The outlaw became the ruler. Under Shoshan's rule, the original rulers became outlaws.
What we witness here is a universally applicable example of a change in the values which underlie a society.
The tribal frame of values that condemned Shoshan as a witch was one kind of good, which Pirsig called 'static good.' This pattern of good is the essential structure of the society itself - it is what defines it. In the static sense Shoshan was very clearly evil to oppose the appointed authorities of his tribe. If everyone did that the whole culture would collapse after thousands of years of evolution, into chaos.
However, in addition to this static good, there is a 'dynamic good.' If asked what ethical principles he was following he probably couldn't tell you, he was just following some vague sense of betterness. He ultimately showed himself not to be merely an egotist. Ultimately he was no misfit. He was an integral part of the Zuni culture. He was the catalyst that helped the tribe to develop and form relations with the ruling whites. This relationship ensured diplomacy with the whites, and hence the tribe being legally guaranteed it's homeland. The isolationist approach may have ended in an open conflict which the Zuni's would have lost.
When A.N. Whitehead wrote, "mankind is driven forward by dim apprehensions of things too obscure for it's existing language," he was writing about dynamic Quality. It exists at the pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, the source of all things. The concepts of freedom of speech, press and association in western jurisprudence essentially serve to protect the operation of dynamic quality as a force of change within society.
This process of dynamic quality reshaping static patterns occurs continually in our society today. In the 1960s environmentalist protesters attacked the State demanding legislation to protect the environment- a new idea at the time. This was dynamic quality in operation. However if one of these ageing hippies on his commune today were to wash a milk churn in a stream, the State would prosecute him. This is because the dynamic quality of thirty years ago has become part of the static quality of today. Thus, static quality emerges in the wake of dynamic quality.
Static quality alone cannot create anything new, but life can't exist on dynamic quality alone. Static quality patterns are dead when they are exclusive, when they demand blind obedience and suppress dynamic change. But static patterns, nonetheless provide a necessary a necessary stabilising force to protect Dynamic progress from degeneration.
Although dynamic quality, the quality of freedom, creates the world in which we live, static quality, the quality of order, preserves that world. Neither static nor dynamic quality can survive without the other.
Thus, dynamic and static quality are permanently engaged in an evolutionary process whereby dynamic quality can throw anything up, and the static social patterns either reject the idea or latch on to it and make it part of the static pattern itself (as with the environmentalist above.)
Pirsig calls this process where the static accepts the dynamic, 'static latching.'
This is essentially the indefinable essence of quality discussed throughout, i.e. the good, reason, god, rationality, word or natural law. Sociologically speaking, it occurs in society when a new concept or idea becomes an effectual issue within society.
Socially speaking, this consists of the accepted mores and value patterns of society in the status quo. Inorganic, biological social and intellectual patterns will be discussed as static patterns.
The Four Divisions of Static Quality:
1. Inorganic patterns.
2. Biological patterns.
3. Social patterns.
4. Intellectual (mind) patterns.
These four terms encompass all of reality as we know it, even our dreams. Nothing is omitted, except of course dynamic quality itself, which is the indefinable, cutting edge of experience. This division is not original in itself, it is the MoQ's interpretation of them that is new.
The Independence of the Four Levels:
An excellent analogy for the independence of these four static levels is the analogy of a novel saved on a computer. One could spend all of eternity probing the electrical patterns of that computer with an oscilloscope and never find that novel. What makes all this significant to the Metaphysics of Quality is its striking parallelism to the interrelationship of different levels of static patterns of quality.
Certainly the novel cannot exist in the computer without a parallel pattern of voltages to support it. But that does not mean that the novel is an expression or property of those voltages. It doesn't have to exist in any electronic circuits at all It can also reside in magnetic domains on a disk or a drum, on a tape, or on paper but again it is not composed of magnetic domains nor is it possessed by them. it can reside in a notebook but it is not composed of or possessed by the ink and paper. It can reside in the brain or a programmer but even here it is neither composed of this brain nor possessed by it. The same program can be made to run on an infinite variety of computers. A program can change itself into a different program while it is running. It can turn on another computer, transfer itself into this second computer and shut off the first computer that it came from, destroying every last trace of its origins - a process with similarities to biological reproduction.
Trying to explain social moral patterns in terms of physical science patterns is like trying to explain the plot of a word-processor novel in terms of the computer's electronics. You can't do it. You can see how the circuits make the novel possible, but they do not provide a plot for the novel. The novel is its own pattern. Similarly the Ecological patterns of life and the molecular patterns of organic chemistry have a machine language' interface called DNA but that does not mean that the carbon or hydrogen or oxygen a atoms possess or guide its life. Nor does a citizen possess the patterns that form a nation. Nor does an atom posses the patterns that form an internal combustion engine. A primary occupation of every level of evolution seems to be offering freedom to lower levels of evolution. But as the higher levels get more complex they go off on purposes of their own.
Once this independent nature of the levels of static patterns of value is understood a lot of puzzles get solved. The first one is the usual puzzle of value itself. In a subject/object metaphysics, value has always been the most vague and ambiguous of terms. What is it? When you say the world is composed of nothing but value, what are you talking about?
Pirsig thought this was why no one before had ever seemed to have come up with the idea that the world is primarily value. The word is too vague. The 'value' that holds a glass of water together and the value that holds a nation together are obviously not the same thing. Therefore to say that the world is nothing but value is just confusing, not clarifying. (It is worth noting that all religions refer to God (value) as being everywhere, part of everything)
Now this vagueness is removed by sorting out values according to levels of evolution. The value that holds a glass of water together is an inorganic pattern of value. The value that holds a nation together is a social pattern of value. They are completely different from each other because they are at different evolutionary levels. And they are completely different from the biological pattern that will cause the most sceptical of intellectuals to jump from a hot stove. These patterns have nothing in common except the historic evolutionary process that created all of them. But that process is a process of value evolution. Therefore the name 'static pattern of values' applies to all.
To explain the operation and shifts in perspective this theory precipitates, it is useful to discuss the quandaries of free will v. determinism and mind v. matter.
Mind & Matter:
If the world consists only of patterns of mind and patterns of matter what is the relationship between the two? If you read the hundreds of volumes of philosophy available on this matter you may conclude that nobody knows - or at least knows well enough to convince everybody else. There is the materialist school that says reality is all matter, which creates mind- There is the ideologist school that says it is all mind, which creates matter. There is the positivist school which says this argument could go on forever; drop the subject.
The fault is within subject-object metaphysics itself. A conventional subject-object metaphysics uses the same four static patterns as the MoQ dividing them into two groups of two inorganic-biological patterns called matter and social-intellectual patterns called 'mind.' But this division is the source of the problem. When a subject-object metaphysics regards matter and mind as eternally separate and eternally unalike, it creates a monstrous platypus.
It has to make this fatal decision because it gives top position in its structure to objects and subjects. Everything has got to be object or subject - substance or non substance, because that's the primary division of the universe. Inorganic-biological patterns are composed of 'substance,' and are therefore 'objective,' 'social-intellectual' patterns are not composed of 'substance and are therefore called 'subjective.' Then having made this arbitrary division based on 'substance,' conventional metaphysics then asks, 'What is the relationship between mind and matter, between subject and object?'
One answer is to fudge both mind and matter and the whole question thus goes with them into another platypus called 'man.' 'Man' has a body (and therefore is not himself a body) and he also has a mind (and therefore is not himself a mind). But if one asks what is this 'man' (which is not a body and not a mind) one doesn't come up with anything. There isn't any 'man' independent of the patterns- Man is the patterns.
This fictitious 'man' has many synonyms; 'mankind,' 'people,' 'the public,' and even such pronouns as 'I,' 'he,' and 'they.' Our language is so organised around them and they are so convenient to use it is impossible to get rid of them. There really is no need to. Like the word 'substance' they can be used as long as it is remembered that they are terms for collections of patterns and not some independent primary reality of their own.
In a value centred Metaphysics of Quality the four sets of static patterns are not isolated into separate compartments of mind and matter. Matter is just a name for certain inorganic value patterns. Biological patterns, social patterns, and intellectual patterns are supported by this pattern of matter but are independent of it. They have rules and laws of their own that are not derivable from the rules or laws of Substance.
This is not the customary way of thinking, but when you stop to think about it you wonder how you ever got led into thinking otherwise. After all, does an atom possesses within its own structure enough information to build the city of New York? Biological and social and intellectual patterns are not the possession of substance. The laws that create and destroy these patterns are not he laws of electrons and protons and other elementary particles. The forces that. create and destroy these patterns are the forces of value.
So what the Metaphysics of Quality concludes is that all schools are right on the mind-matter question. Mind is contained in static inorganic patterns. Matter is contained in static intellectual patterns. Both mind and matter are completely separate evolutionary levels of static patterns of value, and as such are capable of each containing the other without contradiction.
The mind-matter paradoxes seem to exist because the connecting links between these two levels of value patterns (mind and matter) have been disregarded. The two terms are missing are biology and society. Intellectual patterns do not originate out of inorganic nature. They originate out of society, which originates out of biology, which originates out of inorganic nature. (Pirsig Lila: An Inquiry in to Morals, 1993 p.185)
Free Will v. Determinism:
Another puzzle illuminated by the Metaphysics Of Quality is the ancient 'Free Will vs. Determinism' controversy. Determinism is the philosophic doctrine that man, like all other objects in the universe, follows fixed scientific laws. and does so without exception. Free will is the philosophic doctrine that man makes choices independent of the atoms of his body.
This battle has been a very long and very loud one because an abandonment of either position has devastating logical consequences. If the belief in free will is abandoned, morality must seemingly also be abandoned under a subject-object metaphysics. If man follows the cause and-effect laws of substance, then man cannot really choose between right and wrong.
Or the other hand, if the determinists let go or their position it would seem to deny the truth of science. If one adheres to a traditional scientific metaphysics of substance, the philosophy of determinism is an inescapable corollary. "If 'everything' is included in the class of 'substance and its properties' and if substance and its properties' is included in the class of things that always follow laws,' and if 'people are included in the class 'everything' then it is an air-tight logical conclusion that people always follow the laws of substance."
(Pirsig Lila: An Inquiry in to Morals, 1993186)
To be sure, it doesn't seem as though people blindly follow the laws of substance in everything they do, but within a deterministic explanation that is just another one of those illusions that science is forever coming up with. All the social sciences, including the sociology of law were founded on the bed-rock metaphysical belief that these physical cause-and-effect laws of human behaviour exist. Moral laws, if they can be said to exist at all, are merely an artificial social code that has nothing to do with the real nature of the world. A 'moral' person acts conventionally 'watches out for the cops.' 'keeps his nose clean,' and nothing more.
In the Metaphysics of Quality, this dilemma doesn't come tip. To the extent that one's behaviour is controlled by static patterns of quality it is without choice. But to the extent that one follows Dynamic Quality, which is undefinable, one's behaviour is free.
The Metaphysics or Quality has much more to say about ethics, however, than this simple resolution or the Free Will vs. Determinism controversy. The MoQ says that if moral judgements are essentially assertions of value and if value is the fundamental ground-stuff of the world, then moral judgements are the fundamental ground-stuff of the world.
It says that even a the most fundamental level of the universe, static patterns of value and moral judgement are identical. The 'Laws of Nature' are moral laws. Of course it sounds peculiar and unnecessary to say that hydrogen and oxygen form water because it is moral to do so. But it is in fact identical to saying that they bond because they obey the laws of nature. If they obey a law then they are in a sense doing something moral, albeit in an unaware simple and physical way.
The difference between these two points of view is philosophic, not scientific. The question of whether an electron does a certain thing because it has to or because it wants to is completely irrelevant to the data of what the electron does.
So what Pirsig was saying was that not just life, but everything, is an ethical activity. When inorganic patterns of reality create life the Metaphysics of Quality postulates that they've done so because it's 'better' and that this definition of 'betterness' -in response to Dynamic Quality - is a system on which right and wrong can he based. The stratae of evolution then proceed toward complexity- inorganic, biological, social, intellectual.(Pirsig Lila: An Inquiry in to Morals, 1993 p.188)
Independence in Evolutionary Morality
Historically, every effort to unite science and ethics has been a disaster. One can't paste a moral system on top or a pile of amoral matter. The amoral objective matter never allows this paste job. It always sloughs it off as superfluous.
However the Metaphysics or Quality doesn't permit this slough-off. It says. first or all, that 'amoral objective matter' is a low-grade form of morality. No sloughoff is possible. It states, second of all, that even if matter weren't a low grade form of morality there still would he no metaphysical need to show how morals are derived from it. Until static patterns of value divided into four systems, conventional moral patterns have almost nothing to do with inorganic or biological nature. "These moral patterns are superimposed upon inorganic nature the way novels are superimposed upon computers. They are more commonly opposed to biological patterns than they are supportive of them." (Pirsig : 188) For example the business of most religions and laws is the suppression of people's biological nature.
This is the key to the whole thing: What the evolution structure of the Metaphysics of Quality shows is that there is not just one moral system. There are many. In the Metaphysics of Quality there's the morality called the 'laws of nature,' by which inorganic patterns triumph over chaos; there is a morality called the 'law of the jungle' where biology triumphs over the inorganic to forces of starvation and death; there's a morality where social patterns triumph over biology - 'the law,' and there is an intellectual morality. which is still struggling in its attempts to control society. Each of these sets of moral codes is no more related to the other than novels are to computer hard drives CPU's or RAM.
Thus the essential hierarchy is:
STATIC PATTERNSDYNAMIC QUALITY
I will now endeavour to show how this understanding of the fundamental nature of reality can be used to tackle ethical questions- questions of natural law.
What is today conventionally called 'morality' covers only two of these sets of moral codes, the social - biological and the social - intellectual codes. In a subject-object metaphysics these codes are considered to be a minor, 'subjective,' physically non-existent part of the universe. But in the Metaphysics of Quality- all these sets of morals, plus another Dynamic quality are not only real, they are the whole thing. In general, given a choice of two courses to follow and all other things being equal, that choice which is more Dynamic, that is, at a higher level of evolution, is more moral. An example of this is the statement that, it's more moral for a doctor to kill a germ than to allow the germ to kill his patient.' 'The germ wants to live, The patient wants to live. But the patient has moral precedence because he's at a higher level of evolution. (Pirsig Lila: An Inquiry in to Morals, 1993P.189)
Taken by itself that seems obvious enough. But what's not so obvious is that, given a value-centred Metaphysics of Quality, it is absolutely, scientifically moral for a doctor to prefer the patient. This is not an arbitrary social convention that should apply to some doctors but not to all doctors, or to some cultures but not all cultures. It's true for all people at all time, now and forever (an almost exact definition of what natural law is) a moral pattern of reality as real as H20. We're at last dealing with morals on the basis of reason. We can now deduce codes based on evolution that analyse moral arguments with greater precision
In the moral evolutionary conflict between the germ and the patient, the evolutionary spread is obvious, and as a result the morality of the situation is obvious. But when the static patterns in conflict are closer the moral force of the situation becomes less obvious. The next chapter will deal with such cases. I will assess natural law questions using the MoQ.
Natural Law Applications of the MoQ
The fact that this theory can be directly applied directly to legal dilemmas represents a crucial difference between it and other 'pie in the sky' thories of natural law. In this chapter, I will endeavour to justify the previously discussed theoretical basis, by showing the practical consequences of the MoQ.
War and Capital Punishment:
Is it scientifically moral for a society to kill a human being? This is an important moral question still being fought in courts and legislatures all over the world.
An evolutionary morality would at first seem to say yes, a society has a right to murder people to prevent its own destruction. A primitive isolated village threatened by brigands has a moral right and obligation to kill them in self-defence as a village is a higher form of evolution. When the United States drafted troops for the Civil War everyone knew that innocent people would be murdered. The North could have permitted the slave states to become independent and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But an evolutionary morality argues that the North was right in pursuing that war because a nation is a higher form of evolution than a man's body, and the principle of human equality is an even higher form than a nation.
When a society is not itself threatened, as in the execution of individual criminals, the issue becomes more complex. In the case of treason or insurrection or war a criminal's threat to a society can be very real.
However, if an established social structure is not seriously threatened by a criminal, then an evolutionary morality would argue that there is no moral justification for killing him, what makes killing him immoral is that a criminal is not just a biological organism. He is not even just a defective unit of society. Whenever you kill a human being you are killing a source of thought too - A human being is a collection of ideas, and these ideas take moral precedence over a society. Ideas are patterns of value. They are at a higher level of evolution than social patterns of value. Just as it is more moral for a doctor to kill a germ than a patient, so it is more moral for an idea to kill a society than it is for a society to kill an idea.
And beyond that is an even more compelling reason: Societies and thoughts and principles themselves are no more than sets of static patterns. These patterns can't perceive or adjust to Dynamic Quality. Only a living being can do that. The strongest argument against capital punishment is that it weakens a society's Dynamic Capability, i.e. the society's ability to bring about real social change. Nice guys only look nice because they're conforming to their social patterns at the time. It is the bad guys who only look nice a hundred years later, that are the real dynamic force in social evolution. That was the real moral lesson in the Zuni story.
A more contemporary example is that if Gerry Adams had been executed for his role as Commander of a terrorist IRA regiment, he would not be the familiar face on TV and visitor to the White House he is today - now an exponent of the solution to violence. His not being killed did more for both sides than the creation of a martyr, and the removal of his intellectual contribution to the resolution of the situation. This is another example of the benefits of a morality that keeps all the dynamic aspects extant in society.
Another topical question, both in this country and throughout the world. The MoQ would state that social and intellectual patterns are higher than organic patterns. Therefore it is moral for an individual or society to prevent the creation of a human life when it is only in the state of organic matter. (i.e. blastula, pre-foetal) However, it would be immoral for an individual or society to kill a developing human being when it has reached a state of sentience or consciousness, as even an embryonic intellect prevents the foetus from being purely organic in nature. The MoQ would delegate science to deduce when this point of consciousness arises in a developing foetus (ECG scans etc.). The Judges in Roe v. Wade simply said it felt right to allow abortion in the early stages of foetal development, but could never rationalise exactly why. This system can.
In an even more complex situation such as the X case, the girl, a rape victim has an even stronger moral right to abortion under the MoQ. This is because the foetus here is a direct result of a biologically motivated action (rape). The biological level is lower than the social level. Therefore, it is immoral for the social level to allow the biological level (the act of rape) to overcome it - especially when it has the ability to (physically) return the girl to the status quo prior to the biological act.
Nonetheless, were the X-case foetus to develop consciousness it would then be immoral for an abortion to take place as the foetus would then be part of the intellectual level, and as such a higher form of evolution than society. The foetus at this point also becomes protected by the identified intellectual ideal of the right to life.
If you take religious codices as part of a higher order of intellectual reasoning, (as argued in Chapter 1) it would be immoral for these to be destructed by biological or social forces. Thus, it is morally wrong for the child molester (motivated by base biological patterns of value) to attack the religious codices prohibiting his crime. Also, it was morally wrong for Nazism (motivated by base social or tribal patterns of value) to attack religious codices prohibiting it's crimes in the Third Reich.
However, take the instance of directly anti-religious sentiment that is based on an intellectual argument, such as Galeleo, Luther or possibly even Nietzsche. Although obviously contrary to religious teachings, the MoQ would not see this as blasphemous, if such statements was based on a firm intellectual pattern of values (both views co-exist as intellectual patterns of value.) As an intellectual statement this is not immoral under the MoQ as it is good dynamic quality for static patterns of value to be challenged by the dynamic. It can easily be argued that such works contribute to an advancement and sophistication of Western man's concept of a deity.
It is relatively easy to assess the motivations behind blasphemous actions, as to whether they are biologically, socially or intellectually motivated.
This is easily resolved as moral by the MoQ as contraception is essentially a method of the intellect guiding and controlling biology. As intellect and society are higher levels than biology, this is moral.
Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia:
In cases of PVS (permanent vegetative syndrome), the act of euthanasia by society (law) is moral as this is merely the case of society/intellect overcoming biology, as a human in a PVS state is essentially biological in nature.
However, in cases where an individual is terminally ill and suffering, yet mentally alert assisted suicide is immoral under the MoQ as for society (law) to cause the termination of an intellect is immoral, despite the fact that this may use society's resources uselessly. (As intellect > society)
The above is true unless the individual himself decides on suicide. For if this is the only possible method of the intellect overcoming the strains put on it by the biological forces of his own body this then becomes a moral case of intellect dominating biology. (As intellect > biology)
Theft & Taxation:
It is moral for a society to impose taxation on its constituent individual's material resources for the purposes of it's own survival, as a society is a higher form of evolution than an individual. The converse of this is that it is immoral for an individual to steal from the state for his own purposes, unless his purposes are clearly of a higher intellectual order than those of the society (e.g. an idealist stealing from the Third Reich on the basis of the right to life of the individual, as an idea of the intellectual level > society)
It is also immoral for individuals to steal from each other where the intellectual ideal of ownership is essential to a society. This is not because the MoQ holds the right of private property to be moral per se, but simply because such behaviour is essentially biological forces (greed) attacking the society's pattern of values. (society > biology)
However the MoQ holds it to be moral for an individual to steal from society in order to survive (e.g. food), as his actions keep an intellect alive and intellect > society. The exception to this would be where the society could not withstand the theft. That is to say, if the society were to collapse as a result of the theft, it would be more moral for the individual to die rather than the society. (e.g. shooting men trying to steal the gold reserves of a nation, assuming that this amount of gold were required to pay for an operation for his survival!)
Freedom of Speech, Association and Travel:
Many societies have not allowed these freedoms, saying that a society is a higher form of evolution than an individual, which is true. Therefore these authoritarian societies say, people shouldn't go around damaging the state by saying things that are contrary to its purposes. However the individual's actions under the MoQ are divided into those of a biological nature and those of an intellectual nature. Those of a biological nature are inferior to society and must be oppressed by it. (incitement to riot, theft, murder)
However, individual actions of an intellectual or idealistic nature must be allowed to act contrary to the wishes of society under the MoQ as these actions are naturally of a higher order than society. (intellect > society) Thus, as already discussed in Chapter 1, the MoQ rationalises the rights of free speech.
Equality and Affirmative Action:
Affirmative action is essentially an artificial tailoring of the existing patterns of society, by intellectual means, for the purposes of the ideal of equality. Thus it is a case of intellect dominating societal patterns, and so is moral up to the point of it's success. However US racial affirmative action appears to be incorrect it its assumption that 'equality' is synonymous with 'sameness' in that it ignores the little publicised scientific, historical and social fact that some racial groups are on average genetically different in abilities to others, and therefore are on average more suitable for certain types of employment. (Kingsley An Introduction to Psychology 1979 :132)
The recent accusations of the UK police force of institutionalised racism were essentially a reaction to the fact that the police force is more geared to tackling crime in black areas (as blacks are on average ten times more likely to commit crime.) However the police are merely rationally reacting to an identifiable pattern of biological crime, which is moral as society must dominate biology. Thus this is moral unless the police in the process victimise innocent black individuals on the basis of this societal statistical perception. This would be immoral as it is a case of societal patterns of value infringing on the intellectual ideals of freedom and equality.
Racism is even more immoral when it results from an individuals biological urge of tribalism (us v. them mentality) to infringe the rights of freedom, equality and bodily integrity, as this is a biological pattern of values attacking intellectual patterns of value.
The Investment of Society's Resources in Culture and Science:
You often hear people say 'The price of that theatre could have built a hospital,' or 'Why go to Mars when we could help solve famine in Africa.' Despite the very strong emotional edge of these arguments, the majority of people seem to feel that they possess little ethical quality- they feel wrong. The MoQ rationalises this feeling.
Technological, scientific and cultural advancement are in essence the highest aims of our species. If we do not pursue these ideals our humanity itself is lost. Mere survival is an inadequate state for our species. Take space travel, it is ultimately the cutting edge of our species' advancement. The MoQ would say that it is in fact moral for societies and individuals (in the biological sense) to be to some extent overlooked in favour of these ideals, as humanity itself is a higher form of evolution than its constituent societies, nations and individuals.
So, very bluntly, is it right to sacrifice (or passively not save) millions of lives for these ideals? The fact is that ultimately investment in science and technology saves lives. Without these there would not be the medicine, communication, transport that continually saves lives today. In the long run, more than would have been saved if all the money spent in these areas over the past centuries had been invested in bread and butter at the time. If that had happened we'd still be being wiped out by the common cold.
In terms of culture, without investment in this the quality of life would drop and society would become stagnant and dissatisfied, meaning lost, and would result in a non functioning impoverished society. One could even argue that the negation of human culture would negate the reason to survive in the first place. The best historical example of what happens when a society loses culture and religion are the post-communist countries. Lack of culture has material repercussions.
Thus law must not count human happiness in directly material terms, as Bentham and the school of positivists would have it. Intellectual patterns of value are very real and have very real material repercussions. The MoQ demonstrates this. Thus the positivist school of materialism must be seen as flawed in its premises.
The solutions here may sound disconcertingly quippy and simple, but they are deduced from a rational system of thought. However as Pirsig says, "That's the mark of a high-quality theory. It doesn't just answer the question in some complex round-about way. It dissolves the question, so you wonder why you ever asked it." (p. 193 Lila: An Inquiry in to Morals)
I arrived at all the above conclusions using the rational evolutionary value structure that is the Metaphysics of Quality. The fact that most of the results seem to accord with commonly held moral beliefs only goes to show that this system does in fact run parallel to human conscience. Or more accurately that human conscience is able to, without rational analysis, sense what is right for man in his process of evolution.
Why this method of reasoning is most applicable to natural law is that it helps clarify issues and remove the stalemate of opposing opinions. To the present day these issues have been resolved by subjective judicial interpretation and legislation (reflecting the subjective views of the culture at the time.) Basically all the arguments on these questions were based on opinion, not rationality.
The great strength of this system is that the above results are not my personal opinion, but are inevitable conclusions. This showed especially true in relation to abortion, which I personally do not believe in at all. However, as a result of the structure of the MoQ, I was forced to deduce that abortion is moral while the foetus is purely biological in nature (see above).
This surprised me, and shows the strength of this theory in that it helps remove purely emotional or opinionated thinking from ethical questions. I could continue ad infinitum applying this theory to legal issues, but constraints of space limit me to the examples given.
The aims of Chapters 2, 3 and 4 have been to describe the foundation and architecture of the MoQ, and then convincingly apply it to current legal issues. I hope that it has been sucessful in these aims, or at least sucessful to the extent of having presented a thought provoking idea based on a valid foundation. The next Chapter proceeds to analyse the described theory's relations to current natural law theory.
Natural Law Theory Illuminated
Thus far I have described the need for this theory, it's context in the jurisprudence of the past few centuries, the idea itself, it's structure, and in the last chapter I have applied this idea to questions of natural law. In remains to discuss how this idea relates to the current dominant trends in natural law theory. I will discuss;
1. The Kant and Hume Dilemma.
2. The MoQ as an Opposition to the Positivist School of Thought.
3. Ungers Problem of Method.
1. The Kant and Hume Dilemma:
Kant and Hume represent the two traditionally adverse viewpoints in jurisprudence. Each comes from diametrically opposite premises. The MoQ shows their two standpoints to be complementary.
David Hume starts from a staunchly empirical stance, maintaining subjective experience to be the only means of reason, saying 'reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions,' and arguing that we are only truly within 'natures guidance, operating ...not through reason but by way of feeling...it is only experience... which enables us to infer the existence of one object from that of another.' (Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding, 1975:164-5) Thus, Hume is a subjectivist.
Immanuel Kant claimed that '...all rational knowledge is either material and concerned with some object, or formal and concerned with [reason itself]' (Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, 1964: 53) He also claimed that, 'reason does not work instinctively but requires trial and progress to gradually progress...' (Kant, quoted by Williams 1983:13) Kant is an objectivist.
The MoQ illuminates this opposition of fundamental premises by its demonstration that these thinkers thought that to be subjective or objective were the only options. This was of course true within a subject/object metaphysics. However, the MoQ shows the complementarity of subjective and objective standpoints, as both are resultant of Quality itself, as dealt with in chapter 3.
Concepts of Natural Law:
In terms of their ideas on natural law these two thinkers again appear to be at loggerheads. Hume the traditionalist, asserts, 'the rules of justice, the rules of the legal order, are the result of historical processes, of traditions and experiences, and we should hesitate to make dramatic changes merely because we create thereby some appealing logical argument...' (Hume quoted in Morrisson p.106) This traditionalist stance appears to be exactly what Pirsig meant by Static Quality, as discussed in chapter 3.
Kant held that modern man should not be, 'nurtured and instructed by ready made knowledge; rather he should bring forth everything out of his own resources... all insight and intelligence - all this should be wholly his own work.' This is a very good definition of what Pirsig calls Dynamic Quality.
Fundamental to the MoQ is the evolutionary process of dynamic and static patterns interrelating and bringing about progress. Both Kant and Hume are correct here, it's just that both are missing out on the fact that both are complementary to each other. Without dynamic change the static patterns couldn't have come about in the first place, and without static patterns the dynamic could not survive, as it would lapse amid chaos. Thus there is no real dilemma, as there is no real need to choose one or the other. It is more correct to choose one and the other. (see Chapter 3.)
Obviously, there is a great deal more complexity to Kant and Hume's arguments, which constraints of space do not permit me to indulge in. Nonetheless, it can be seen that here too the MoQ offers a fresh interpretation and further clarity.
2. The MoQ as an Opposition to the Positivist School of Thought:
Morrisson defines Legal Positivism as 'a set of related approaches to law which have dominated western jurisprudence in the last 150 years.' Its two defining premises are:
"(i) That law is posited by humans.
(ii) That law can be properly understood by adopting the methodology of the natural or physical sciences."
(Morrisson 1992 Jurisprudence: From the Greeks to Post-modernity p. 4)
The MoQ has no problem with the first premise per se, however the second premise has been the whole subject of rebuttal in this essay. The MoQ holds it to be fundamentally incorrect and even absurd to apply subject-object metaphysics to law. It is heartening to note the MoQ's rebuttal of positivism, as positivism appears to be a disastrous methodology, which is a total cul de sac for natural law.
German theorist Gustav Radbruch believes that the jurisprudence of positive law allowed the evil of the Nazi regime become acceptable within Germany. Under positive law justice is what is in the law books, and has no bearing on what is seen as conscientiously right or wrong. As American legal positivist John R. Roth said 'Had Nazi powers prevailed, authority to determine what ought to be would have found that no natural laws had been broken and that no crimes against God and humanity were committed in the Holocaust.' (quoted Morrisson 315) This implies that natural law is nothing more than a de facto statement of existing legal principles. The MoQ could not have made such a conclusion.
The Nuremburg trials invented the charge of 'crimes against humanity' despite arguments that it could not be legitimated by positive law. How can we trust a concept of law that can fly so far in the face of our deepest human feelings? The Nuremburg trials proved something of a resurrection for natural law in the face of positivism. This trend has continued to the present day, most notably apparent in International Law, e.g. The UN Charter of Human Rights and jurisprudentially, the CLS movement.
The Critical Legal Studies Movement:
We have already seen that post-modernity is by definition a realisation that rational methods of analysis are 'radically flawed' in terms of their ability 'to produce a full self-consciousness concerning social reality.' (Morrisson, Jurisprudence: From the Greeks to Post-modernism 1997: 13) The CLS movement is essentially the legal realisation of post-modernity.
The term 'the CLS movement' captures a loosely bound movement, which can be best defined by the direction in which it is moving. As Morrisson describes it, 'CLS attempts to break the hold of this iron cage of rationality in the name of re-energised forms of human understanding. CLS advocates to reintroduce forms of thought that are not so easily captured by modern legal discourse - namely human [needs]...' (Morrisson, Jurisprudence: From the Greeks to Post-modernism 1997: 475)
In the course of this aim, the CLS movement is fundamentally anti-positivist. "CLS appears successful in pointing out the insufficiency of a crude positivist position...CLS asks that we consider laws not in the terms of the liberal model of a system of positive laws as defined rules or a coherent body of rules and principles, but as a political process in which social relations are continually being negotiated, human hopes and ideas distorted and truncated." (Morrisson, Jurisprudence: From the Greeks to Post-modernism 1997: 474, my emphasis) The realisation of this evolutionary process is exactly parallel to the static-dynamic evolutionary process described in chapter 3.
Furthermore, while CLS attacks positivism on the basis of its effects and its lack of human feeling, the MoQ goes much further by mounting a rational attack on its very foundation, i.e. subject-object metaphysics. The CLS movement seems to be moving on the basis of feeling, in the same direction in which the MoQ directs us on the basis of rational argument- away from legal positivism.
3. Unger's Problem of Method:
Now I am returning to the problem of method as identified by Unger in The Sociology of Law, which I referred to in Chapter 1. He states these as the essential criteria for the validity of a new theory that may help break the deadlock in natural law theory. I will argue that the MoQ goes quite a way toward satisfying these criteria.
Unger defines this "problem of method" as including four main issues, which need to be satisfied by a new theory in order to make progress.
" (1) the possibility of an alternative to logic and causation, capable of overcoming the inadequacies of both rationalism and historicism;
(2) the link between this third method and causality;
(3) the connection between the meaning of an act for it's agent and its meaning for an observer; and
(4) the relationship of systematic theory to historical understanding."
(Unger Law in Modern Society 1976 : 245, my enumeration)
1. The MoQ has clearly been argued to be a possible alternative to conventional logic (and hence causation) throughout. More accurately however, the MoQ is an alternative to the metaphysics underlying conventional logic. It does not do away with logic, but simply regards it as an ineffective means of dealing with the questions of society and ethics, with which law is concerned.
The structure of the MoQ is an alternative to logic as far as questions of law and society are concerned, as shown in the examples of its application in Chapter 3. I have argued throughout that the MoQ is capable of better explaining law and society than methods such as rationalism and historicism, in this way it 'overcomes their inadequacies.'
2. The MoQ is easily linked to causality: Causality is a part of logical thought. Logical thought is part of the MoQ. Therefore, causality is part of the MoQ.(see fig. 2)
3. The connection of the meaning of an act for an agent and an observer is a very difficult question, but is explicable under the MoQ. The question is essentially 'Why do people have different opinions of value?' or more precisely 'What is Quality?'
That is the one single question that led to the whole MoQ in the first place. It is an enormous question. Chapters 2 and 3 are essentially a synopsis of the MoQ's answer to this question. Nonetheless the answer is there, and in my opinion it is the most rational explanation offered to date.
4. The relationship of historical understanding to logic based systematic thought has been dealt with extensively, and found to be irrational. Showing the absurdity of using physical science methodology to develop systems of thought, and then using these 'systematic theories' to tackle social and ethical questions was the main purpose of this essay. Thus the relationship of historicism to subject-object systematic theory is contended to be an irrational relationship.
However, the relationship of the MoQ's systematic theory to historical understanding is rational. The MoQ is a systematic theory which is an evolutionary value system. The evolutionary aspect of this system is dependent on an understanding of what is a higher form of evolution. 'Historical understanding' is paramount as, viewed by the MoQ, history is itself a process of evolution of the four levels with each other and with dynamic quality.
Therefore 'historical understanding' is synonymous with 'evolution' as far as the MoQ is concerned. So historical understanding is not only related to the MoQ's systematic theory, but is part of it.
In conclusion, I hope my attempt to offer the MoQ as a solution to Unger's' 'problem of method' is some way convincing. I believe that, while in it's present form the MoQ may not be completely satisfactory to all, it does at least offer the germ of a solution. As the MoQ itself believes in the evolution of ideas, I hope that it may at least form part of an evolution toward a greater and more complete understanding of natural law.
Thus, we can see that the MoQ offers at the very least a fresh perspective on current natural law theories. I believe it to have a great deal of potential as a basis for the formulation of a new methodology for natural law. I hope I have shown it to be a rational system which effectually includes value and therefore may help bridge the failings of religion and science as a basis for natural law.
This essay has proved an arduous but worthwhile task. I felt it had to be undertaken as all the writers on jurisprudence seem to shirk the question of science v. ethics, even though this is obviously the crux of the matter. This evasion is understandable as this question seems impossible to answer. However, this is pretty much the ultimate question in terms of natural law in post-modern society, and so it has to be answered. At least an attempt has to be made.
I do not claim this essay to be anything like an answer. I don't want to sound like the drunk that hangs around a public park, sure he's found the answer to the 'ultimate question.' However I do strongly feel that Pirsig's ideas are a definite step in the right direction. I certainly have heard of no other avenues of thought that seem more promising.
Due to the constraints of space in this essay I have had to make many omissions. Although they can't be included I'd like to enumerate some of them. First are the many similarities between the MoQ and Neils Bohr's Philosophy of Complementarity which he wrote when he first formulated Quantum Physics in the 1920's. The similarities in philosophy and appreciation of reality between the MoQ and quantum physics were first noted by faculty members of the Copenhagen Institute for Quantum Physics in 1996. This is currently precipitating some exciting developments for the MoQ, as hard science seems to be beginning to support the idea that value is indeed the essence of reality. Coupled with this are the recent developments in the scientific understanding of consciousness, which demonstrate indefinable, non-deterministic quantum phenomena as fundamental to thought. (Penrose, Shadows of the Mind, 1996) Unfortunately, many useful analogies and explanations had to be omitted so as not exceed limits of space, and to maintain focus.
In conclusion, I can only hope that I sufficiently clarified my thesis as it evolved throughout. Chapter 1 gave an historical perspective necessary to clarify the position of natural law in post-modern society- as paralysed by the impasse between science and ethics. It is important to show the gravity of the post-modern situation, as we move away from organised religion. Now we see that science alone is unable to deal with the unanswered questions that exist in the vacum religion left behind.
I then proceeded in Chapter 2 to explain how the fundamental metaphysical split in the MoQ arose, by mirroring Pirsig's thought process as it crystallized. Chapter 3 explains the actual structure and nature of the system imposed on the fundamental split between static and dynamic quality. In Chapter 4 an attempt is made to demonstrate the practical usefulness of the MoQ for actual dilemmas in natural law. The final chapter gives an idea of the fresh perspectives the MoQ could give to Natural Law theory.
After all the rhetoric is done, the fundamental message of this essay remains simple. We must allow ourselves to look to our hearts. It is important to remember that nothing in the structure of the MoQ is cast in stone, as it regards all ideas as being in a constant state of evolution. I hope that the Metaphysics of Quality plays some part, however small, in evolving toward a more complete understanding of natural law.
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Rory FitzGerald, 1999