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Problematic Pirsigean Memes
by Doug Renselle

N¤te t¤ users/students ¤f Quantonics: We start using s¤me ¤f ¤ur n¤vel
Quantonics English Language Remediati¤n f¤r Millennium III here starting 1Jun2001.
Some classical 'o's' we replace with Quantonic/quantized '¤'s'
Assume a more classical context when you see 'o's,'
and assume a m¤re quantum comtext when y¤u see '¤'s.' D¤ug.

Discomfiting aspects of Pirsig's new philosophy, i.e., concepts which still are personally problematic for Doug Renselle:

  1. New 1Jun2001 - Problematic - Quality indefinable? Also see our problematic: Is DQ indefinable? Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on "Quality is indefinable." See this quote from pp. 225-6 out of 373 total pages of ZMM Bantam paperback: "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"

    This quote is problematic! Why? It appears that Pirsig is using classical language and reasoning to make his statement. It appears that he is saying that Quality is classically 'not' included in "...the world we have created..." Clearly that statement is a Pirsigean platypus, a church of reason classial either/or dialectical assessment. To say " is not possible to include Quality within our created world...," is to make a deluded classically objective statement! Why? First, it assumes that 'not' is classically objective. Second, it assumes that reality is classically and objectively lisr, i.e., localable, isolable, separable, and reducible — from which we are expected to classically conclude that Quality is lisr from our created reality. However, 'not' is subjective, and reality is quantonic and thus antithetical lisr — from which we may quantumly conclude that Quality is really included within our created reality. More evocatively Pirsig himself avers static reality as "Static Quality," and so uncloaks his own apropos instinct and intuition that Quality quantumly compenetrates all reality. To paraphrase Eugen Herrigel's quantum words in (Pirsig's lavishly commended) Zen and the Art of Archery, "...we are in Quality [It] and Quality [It] is in us..."

    But is Pirsig speaking for himself, or is he speaking from within a facade of classicalese? From this point of his work in ZMM and Lila and forward, Pirsig repeatedly insists that Quality cannot be defined. What does he mean by saying, "Quality cannot be defined?" He tells us that we may not capture Quality's essence if we express it classically using 'objective,' 'dialectic,' 'analytic,' and homo-uni-logical (provincial OGT in OGC) CTM techniques.

    Quantonically, we s¤lve this classical ins¤luble by saying, "Quality is wh¤lly indefinable using classical reasoning, h¤wever we may (really d¤) partially describe Quality when we ad¤pt Quantonic/quantum Think-king M¤des, ¤r QTMs." Where classical objects and their attendant classical logic instantly/state-ically remove Quality from their purely, ideally, exclusively inanimate representation of It, Quantonics' quantons retain Quality in their b¤th animate and inanimate m¤delings ¤f It.

    S¤, we still d¤ n¤t kn¤w if Pirsig meant "Quality is classically indefinable," ¤r if he left a quantum d¤¤r ¤pen f¤r at least "Quality is partially quantum-describable." If he intended latter, we see n¤ pr¤blematic here. If he h¤lds dear f¤rmer, we have a maj¤r pr¤blematic here.

  2. New 18Sep2000 - Problematic - Is Quality an (classical) event? Pirsig's Quality Event vis-à-vis Henri Louis Bergson's duration (see p. 20 of 407 total of Bergson's Creative Evolution, especially Bergson's discussion of human perceived duration of inanimate reality and absence of perception of biological and thus animate reality).

    Comments added by Doug, 24-25Nov2000:

    Reader, this is essentially an analogous problem to quantum science's 'quantum measurement problem.'

    If Pirsig indeed intends his Quality Event as a classical anthropocentric measurement, e.g., his Protagoras quote, "Man is the measure of all things." and if Pirsig sees his Quality Event as a distinct, discrete, and localable event (see lisr), then we have a big problem.

    Dan Glover has spent some effort trying to get us to see this point, and only after reading Henri Louis Bergson's An Introduction to Metaphysics and his Creative Evolution, did we finally tumble to what Dan was trying to say. Dan's comments are readily available (to list members) on our Quanto email list (search for Pirsig at topica), but essentially he sees Pirsig's QEs as not discrete, rather like a wave washing over reality.

    Now, in retrospect, had Dan said "waves" rather than "wave" we might have grasped his point over a year ago (i.e., roughly end of 1999).

    What Dan was/is saying to us was/is that Pirsig's QEs are analogues of Bergson's 'duration.' We agree! (See Bergson's Duration Quanton. Also see Planck Events vis-à-vis Quality Events Juxtaposed.)

    In quantum reality we have an analogous situation. John von Neumann insisted that quantum measurement should be able to disclose a locus for each special event (or wave function collapse). Now we know that many quantons contribute to any 'event.' We also know that they are always in flux, and as such cannot "collapse." What we mean by many quantons is a quantum both local and nonlocal comtextual ensehmble — re: our links in previous paragraph. This is very close to what Dan Glover suggested over a year ago, except Dan denied any quantum included-middle or what we also call "quantum cohesion." As such Dan appears to adhere Aristotelian legacy syllogistic thought — by contrast we rigorously and vigorously deny it.


    Why did John von Neumann think that a quantum wave function had to collapse?

    Read his book, Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics.

    Or easier, let us give you a brief account of his thought processes.

    His title word Mechanics above discloses von Neumann's own classicism. He was a SOMite par excellence! In his book he describes two classes of 'classical' quantum mechanics: matrix (Bohr, et al.) and wave (Schrodinger, et al.).

    (For good coverage on philosophical issues surrounding a classical concept of formal mechanism, see Bergson's Creative Evolution topics on mechanism, i.e.: radical mechanism, and radical finalism.)

    In classical physics, all hypotheses and theories depend upon a closed, analytic, anthropocentrically observable (and thus inanimate) reality. Bergson shows us quite well in his Creative Evolution, that analytic reality is not real! Why? Because physicists, using classical mathematics and concepts of homogeneous tiime and space, must 'stop' reality to 'test' it.(big page; takes 1.5 minutes at 56k baud; see page 308; also see rest of Chapter IV) Test results must classically either verify or contradict prior results in order for classicism's 'scientific' method to work. In other words, classical physics' 'scientific method' has to deny a more general quantum reality to work!

    Classical mathematics and physics carry an implicit assumption and need for a concept called "state." State cannot exist in a system which is in ubiquitous, absolute flux, i.e., a "real system." Formal mechanics depend upon "state." They will not work without "state."

    Juxtapose Bergson's quantumesque 'duration' with classical 'state.'

    John von Neumann had to collapse or 'stop' his wave function to acquire state information about a classically analytical problem 'space.' He intuited classically that meant he could ascertain where a quantum special event occurred! See our recent remarks on Interpretation and Measurement.

    Now you may be able to see why we, Mae-wan Ho, et al., are so concerned about using classical formal mechanical (i.e., inanimate) methods to do science. Bluntly, they do not adequately 'model' quantum reality which is really ubiquitously animate.

    And, dear reader, that is why David Bohm says we need a quantum non-mechanics to do a new, animate science:

    "We are led, instead, to a new point of view, based on [an] idea that [] quanta connecting object and environment constitute irreducible links that belong, at all times, as much to one part as to [an] other."

    See Chapter 8, Sec. 24, Quantum Theory, by David Bohm, Dover, 1979 (originally published by Prentice Hall, 1951). (Doug's brackets to remove thelogos.)

    Doug 25Nov2000.

    End aside.

    In summary, if Pirsig claims his QEs are discrete and have loci, then his MoQ has a major problem from our and our conjectured quantum science's perspective.

    An easy way to think about this is to imagine your own choices on various candidate decisions. As an event outcome, you cannot pinpoint where your decision was 'made.' I.e., you cannot assess or access a unique locus for your choice. Why? Some quantons larger than you (i.e. your local environments) and some smaller than you (your organs, their molecular, atomic, and subatomic constituent quantons) all with their own local Bergsonian "durations" contributed to your choice. But none of those durations ceased (collapsed) as a result of their contribution, nor did your quanton collapse, nor did your local environment quanton collapse.

    Looking for a discrete location for a quantum measurement or a Pirsigean QE is a futile effort. Many Bergsonian durations represent an ensehmble of measurement interrelationships which contribute to your "rolling, wavelike quantum-real" choices.

    We are working on a quantum measurement paper which uses material from Nick Herbert's Quantum Reality, and Jim Baggott's The Meaning of Quantum Theory. Nick has given us permission to quote several contiguous pages from his book. It should appear on our site prior year-end 2000. We will link to it from here when it is ready.

    Now, related to this, we must also insist that Pirsigean QEs are not anthropocentric. His QEs must be thought of as occurring at all scales of reality at rates ranging from roughly Planck rate flux to almost imperceptibly slow.

  3. Problematic - Is DQ indefinable? Also see our problematic: Is Quality indefinable? Pirsig says flatly that DQ is undefinable.

    We see SQ (actuality/known) as DQ (nonactuality/unknown) which has latched into actuality, but still commingles DQ (Pirsig avers Value commingling via his use of Herrigel's Zen and the Art of Archery DQ metaphor, Both... "It is in us and we are in It." Pirsig in his SODV paper, makes it unambiguous that SQ is born of Quality Events. We infer SQ arises from DQ, but retains quantum complementarity with DQ. He also implies this in many other statements like, Lila doesn't have Quality (i.e., a SOM perspective of Quality as attributes of object, 'Lila.'), Quality has (commingles) Lila.

    Also, in Lila we see his discussion in chapter 30 of a meme where SQ can (apparently) lose its DQ. Pirsig tells us unambiguously in chapter 30 of Lila that SQ without DQ is exclusive/lost. He talks of rituals and dances which started out as both DQ and SQ (our both/and intentionally evokes a quantum epiphany of commingling, a non-Aristotelian included middle), but over time become pure SQ, empty of their original DQ. Elsewhere, he speaks of losing one's Quality. We intuit him saying that when one gives SOM answers to general questions one "loses one's quality," because SOM's answers are pure SQ — absent DQ — by SOM axiom! Too, he speaks of SOM's knife, and how it cuts DQ out of SOM, intentionally, denying SOMites any chance at Quality in their thinking.

    Is n¤t SQ 'partially' defining DQ? Using our Mechanics of Quanta (MoQ II) dual of Pirsig's philosophy, we choose to say that it does. As a result, we like to say, "SQ partially describes DQ, and evolution increases SQ's capabilities to describe DQ." That is Good! That is Better. But can SQ arrive at a complete description of DQ? No! Our assumptions shared here, show precisely why we conclude science will not ever be able to develop a complete, general, Grand Unifying Theory (GUT), or Theory of Everything (ToE). If they do, DQ will change it! Flux is crux! GUTs and ToEs are SQ, and as such are agents of change, not of exclusive stasis.

  4. Problematic - What is SQ's ontology in its interrelationships with DQ? Nowhere does Pirsig discuss SQ's return to DQ.

    (Most philosophers and scientists ignore this aspect of ontology.)

    This is an ontological issue. Classical ontology focuses on 'being.' We think others share our personal ontology of 'becoming, growing, being, diminishing, unbecoming' — all of this in a loop as we described. These five steps occur in SQ. We do not know what happens in DQ between our 'lives' as depicted by our loop. Physics pursues this 'problem.' Pirsig and some Eastern cultures say, "Don't waste your time." We think this is a major issue.

    We assume a nonclassical, quantum, included-middle interrelationship twixt DQ and SQ. We show that as quanton(DQ,SQ). Classicists assume a classical, Aristotelian/Newtonian, excluded-middle interaction twixt SQ and SQ and show that as dichon(SQ, SQ). Classicists deny DQ's 'existence' as "...subjective, phenomenal, nonsense, absurd, unreasonable, illogical, etc." Doug - 1Jun2001.

  5. Problematic - Why does Pirsig's MoQ appear easy to understand until one attempts to explain it? MoQ is both difficult and easy to understand.

    MoQ for all its greatness (We mean that!) for some odd reason does not contain within it mechanisms to make understanding it easier. MoQ is so intuitive until one tries to describe it to a potential advocate. Then, real difficulty arises. (Consider our extensive efforts here in Quantonics to make it 'easier' for you. J)

    We think one reason is it depicts 'reality' well, and reality is nontrivial. We think Pirsig is so far ahead of his time, lesser humans have problems with his works similar to a manner they did with Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Sidis, etc. When you compare Pirsig's MoQ to many classical philosophies, MoQ is so far above them... One almost perceives Pirsig as a Neo sapiens, i.e., Homo sapiens' successor. Clearly both DQ & SQ work together to evolve higher forms. Our replacement is imminent, so perhaps MoQ is foundation for that new plateau. MoQ will be, we think, easy or even naïve for our successors to grasp.

    We imagine our Neo sapiens successors with three or more brain lobes, thus potentially mitigating Homo sapiens' intrinsic biformal biases. Using Feigenbaum's new natural number, 4.6692..., and considering bifurcation spacings twixt Homo sapiens' last two sequential predecessors using a population logistic equation: xnext = rx(1-x) (See pp. 69-77, Chaos - 352 total pages including index, by James Gleick, Penguin paperback, 1987), we predict Neo sapiens will arise within five millennia from now, perhaps sooner than later.

    If we consider Homo sapiens' new genetic engineering 'skills,' we could imagine us playing a role in this 'immaculate introspection.' Very likely, human innovation will play a role in arousal of our successors. MoQ tells us that we are SQ agents of DQ change, so our role is good, better, and moral. You will find most naysayers are of SOM ilk.

    But nature (DQ) is involved here too, not leaving all to human innovation. Nature is already engineering chromosomal changes, evolutionary trial runs, so to speak. We see profligate n-somias on chromosomes 21 and 23, and there probably are others. Our human genome project will help discover new n-somias. Chromosome 21 expresses at least one trisomia extension which we call 'Down's Syndrome.' Chromosome 23 is showing incredibly more change with tri-, quatro-, penta-somias, etc. Various appellations are: Turner's, Kleinfelter's, and T-Fem syndromes, etc.

  6. Problematic - Why does MoQ feel 'cold?' Less of a problem, but something which we think affects how John Q. Dipstick perceives MoQ is its 'coldness.' We think Pirsig's personality is 'cold' and reflects in his work.

  7. Problematic - Why does MoQ say about morality of abortion? What would Pirsig say about morality of abortion? For a hint, see our March, 2000 QQA.

  8. Problematic - Does MoQ adhere classical, anthropocentric measurement concepts? Pirsig agrees with Protagoras, "Man is the measure of all things."

    We find this b¤th anthr¤p¤centric and n¤n-quantum-c¤mpatible. Clearly it is a secular, humanist view. To adhere this, means one must accept a metaphysics where reality did not 'arise' until human intellect 'existed.' Clearly, this is SOM, n¤t M¤Q, and it is difficult to understand why Pirsig brokered his agreement.

  9. Problematic - Is MoQ 'complete?' Classical completeness of MoQ appears a problem on surface perusal of Pirsig's work, however, we have answered this issue personally by accepting DQ as SQ's quantum c¤mplement and b¤th t¤gether depict ¤r m¤del all ¤f 'reality.' See our extensive discussion below. Also see our Decidable Gödel meme (this page is large, takes some time to load).

  10. Problematic - Is MoQ quantum 'complementary?' Pirsig appears to intuit complementarity as an intrinsic of absoluteness, but nowhere we researched in ZMM, Lila, or SODV did we find any reference by Pirsig to Gödel's Incompleteness theorems. We think this is an issue. We think M¤Q requires statements ab¤ut abs¤luteness in terms ¤f c¤mplementarity ¤f c¤mpleteness and c¤nsistency. He uses b¤th w¤rds, but d¤es n¤t tie them t¤gether in interrelati¤nships. Cl¤sest he gets, fr¤m ¤ur perspective, is his discussi¤n ¤n "mu" in ZMM.

Those are big issues which bother us. We think there may be others, nonapparent just now (hand-written notes stashed in deep piles J). Please share any issues you may perceive, and if you want them published here, provide authorization and state whether you want attribution.

Here is another issue which arose during Doug's time with The Lila Squad, which Doug just recently addressed (20Jan2000):

September 14, 1997 - Doug Renselle — Need to resolve the following:

Problematic: Is proof by contradiction proof? Are all proofs incomplete in a Gödelian sense? (related to our completeness issue above)

Pirsig claims MoQ complete. (Does he mean classically or quantumly? If he had been able to use our English Language Remediation we would know, wouldn't we? I.e., he would have used 'complete' for classical contexts, and he w¤uld have used c¤mplete f¤r quantum comtexts. Doug - 1Jun2001) We do not [Doug did not at that time: over two years ago.] believe that is possible - again in a Gödelian sense. Pirsig contradicts himself:


"Then one doesn't seek the absolute truth. One seeks instead the highest quality intellectual explanation of things with the knowledge that if the past is any guide to the future this explanation must be taken provisionally; as useful until something better comes along." Page 100, Lila, Bantam hardbound 1st edition, 1991.


"Phædrus had once called metaphysics 'the high country of the mind'-an analogy to the 'high country' of mountain climbing. It takes a lot of effort to get there and more effort when you arrive, but unless you can make the journey you are confined to one valley of thought all your life. This high country passage through the MoQ allowed entry to another valley of thought in which the facts of life get a much richer interpretation. The valley spreads out into a huge fertile plain of understanding.

"In this plain of understanding static patterns of value are divided into four systems: inorganic patterns, biological patterns, social patterns and intellectual patterns. They are exhaustive. That's all there are. If you construct an encyclopedia of four topics-Inorganic, Biological, Social, and Intellectual-nothing is left out. No 'thing' that is. Only Dynamic Quality, which cannot be described in any encyclopedia, is absent" Opening of chapter 12 - page 149, Lila, Bantam hardbound 1st edition, 1991.

In our opinion, on first blush, Pirsig first says everything is provisional, not absolute. Then he says MoQ is (dialectically) complete. We know, according to Gödel's Incompleteness theorems that 'All consistent axiomatic formulations…include undecidable propositions.' Therefore, at a first [SOMitic] blush, MoQ is incomplete. A SOMite, in naïve judgment absent any quantum context, might conclude Pirsig would have been better to state that it is the best metaphysics of the reality of quality that he has been able to develop.

Doug's answer, over two years later, on January 20, 2000:

Gödelian Incompleteness:

As do all mathematicians, Gödel assumes a global context (or equivalently that mathematics is 'free' of context). Thus he states both his Incompleteness theorems with an ellipsis. Let's use Hofstadter's word dual of Incompleteness theorem one to exemplify, "All consistent axiomatic formulations in number theory include undecidable propositions…" Note, Hofstadter did not show our ellipsis! He used a period. We think an ellipsis should be added something like this, "…in an unlimited context, or in some conventional context."

If Gödel assumed a SOM philosophy and context, then his theorems are innately incomplete. However, we choose to think Gödel's Incompleteness theorems are a quanton: A quanton of both completeness and consistency. We express Gödel's quanton like this: quanton(complete,consistent). As a result we can see that Gödel is telling us all innate analogues (finite intellect-developed analogues) are an uncertainty relationship of completeness and consistency.


We need to compare Gödelian Incompleteness with Pirsigean Completeness.

When Gödel speaks of propositional Incompleteness he is considering sentient capability to assess absolute SOM decidable truth. He is saying something like this:

SOM absolute truth completeness: States all truths.

SOM absolute truth consistency: Always states truth.

When Pirsig speaks of philosophical completeness he is speaking of nature's intrinsic capability to impose absolute change. He is saying something like this:

MoQ absolute Quality completeness: Changes all.

MoQ absolute Quality consistency: Always changes.

Pirsigean Completeness:

Note how Pirsig adds his own unlimited ellipsis. He calls it DQ! MoQ's reality defined philosophically as both DQ and SQ is innately complete! SQ is tentative, known, innate analogues. DQ is all possibilities and all unknown. DQ is Pirsig's ellipsis! By comparison, SOM leaves DQ out, and worse, it leaves out SQ's subjective patterns of value. Worse, SOM insists SQ's subjective patterns of value do not exist!

Left to discuss are answers to our original questions above about proof in SOM's Church of Reason, "Is proof by contradiction proof? Are all proofs incomplete in a Gödelian sense?" Simple answer to question one is, "In general, no!" Simple answer to question two is, "Yes! All proofs are SQ. All SQ is innately incomplete (by MoQ axiom, SQ commingles DQ, but SQ cannot subsume DQ)!" To stretch a bit further, all that we know is SQ, thus all we know is innately incomplete! And to make matters a tad more difficult, all we know changes faster or slower (over a 'Planck unit time' to 'infinite flux-period (zero flux)' scale) to something new.

We have answered this issue in multiple ways and venues here in Quantonics. Essentially, a correct answer is, "SOM logic is innately incapable of assessing absolute truth in any sense of establishing proof. SOM logic is bivalent (both discrete TRUE/FALSE and continuous FUZZY)." Contradiction depends upon SOM propositional logic which depends upon non-included-middle Aristotelian syllogisms which do not model reality (reality's middle is included). Finally, using Gödel's theorems, we can conclude that no SOM analogue of reality can be absolute! Please examine other works here in Quantonics regarding MoQ compared to SOM, and even more: MoQ compared to both SOM and Cultural Relativism, CR.

Also see our more recent Quantonics English Language Remediation (QELR) of Proof.

Thanks for reading,


©Quantonics, Inc., 1997-2006 — Rev. 26Sep2002  PDR — Created 29Sep99  PDR
(Some content is from September, 1997.)
(22Feb2000 rev - Repair minor typos.)
(15May2000 - Repair minor typos.)
(7Aug2000 rev - Repair minor typos.)
(29Aug2000 rev - Reformat last paragraphs on 'proof by contradiction.')
(18Sep2000 rev - Add new #1 problematic on QE vis-à-vis duration at page top.)
(3Oct2000 rev - Typos.)
(11Oct2000 rev - Add link to our review of Bergson's Creative Evolution.)
(25Nov2000 rev - Add to our new #1 problem text, re
: quantum measurement and QEs as Bergsonian duration.)
(25Nov2000 rev - Add link to our Mar2000QQA on abortion.)
(26Nov2000 rev - Change 'rreducible' to 'irreducible' in Bohm quote.)
(26Nov2000 rev - Add anchor to "Is Proof by Contradiction Proof?")
(8Dec2000 rev - Italicize Quantum Theory, Bohm's book title.)
(21Dec2000 rev - Add link to 'Interpretation & Measurement' in our Pirsigean QE/Measurement problematic.)
(8Mar2001 rev - Add link to our new MoQ, CR, & SOM comparison table.)
(2Apr2001 rev - Add link to our 'Absoluteness as Uncertainty twixt Comsistency & Completeness.')
(30May2001 rev - Add 'collapse' anchor in our measurement 'problematic.')
(1Jun2001 rev - Add 'Quality indefinable' problematic. Add some anchors and add bold titles to 'problematics.')
(1Jun2001 rev - Extend 'SQ ontology problematic' comments. Add 'loop' link to 'Stairs' note.)
(1Jun2001 rev - Add some links to 'Is DQ definable?' problematic.)
(1Jun2001 rev - Add some dated comments to 'Is proof by contradiction proof?' problematic.)
(6Aug2001 rev - Add 'measurement' anchor to "Is Quality and Event?")
(14Dec2001 rev - Add top of page frame-breaker.)
(23Jul2002 rev - Change QELR links to A-Z pages.)
(30Jul2002 rev - Add near page bottom link to QELR of 'proof.')
(26Sep2002 rev - Remediate all quantum comtextual occurrences of 'ensemble.'[)

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