The Urban Dharma Newsletter - February 15, 2007
In This Issue: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
1. Robert Pirsig; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance / From Wikipedia,
3. Pirsig Frequently Asked Questions - Henry Gurr
4. Rhetoric and Madness: Robert Pirsig's Inquiry into Values - Scott Consign
This Urban Dharma is all about one of my favorite books ZAMM...
1. Robert Pirsig; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; An Inquiry into Values; William Morrow Publishing Co; New York; 1979
The machine, the observer, and Quality
I was thinking about this same lack of care in the digital computer manuals I was editing. I knew they were full of errors, ambiguities, omissions, and information so completely screwed up you had to read them six times to make any sense out of them.
But what struck me was the agreement of these manuals with the spectator attitude in that motorcycle shop. These were spectator manuals. It was built into the format of them. Implicit in every line is the idea that "Here is the machine, isolated in time and in space from everything else in the universe. It has no relationship to you, you have no relationship to it, other than to turn certain switches, maintain voltage levels, check for error conditions " and so on.
And it occurred to me there is no manual that deals with the real business of motorcycle maintenance, the most important aspect of all. Caring about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken for granted.
You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, its always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.
Kant called his thesis that our a priori thoughts are independent of sense data and screen what we see a "Copernican Revolution". By this hse referred to Copernicus' statement that the earth moves around the sun. Nothing changed as a result of this revolution, and yet everything changed. Or, to put it in Kantian terms, the objective world producing our sense data did not change, but our a priori concept of it was turned inside out. The effect was overwhelming. It was the acceptance of the Copernican revolution that distinguishes modern man from his medieval predecessors.
I like the word "gumption" because it's so homely and so forlorn and so out of style it looks as if it needs a friend and isn't likely to reject anyone who comes along. I like it also because it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects with Quality. He gets filled with gumption.
A person filled with gumption doesn't sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He's at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what's up the track and meeting it when it comes. That's gumption.
If you're going to repair a motorcycle, an adequate supply of gumption is the first and most important tool. If you haven't got that you might as well gather up all the other tools and put them away, because they won't do you any good.
You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
I've wondered why it took us so long to catch on. We saw it and yet we didn't see it. Or rather we were trained not to see it. Conned, perhaps, into thinking that the real action was metropolitan and all this was just boring hinterland. It was a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth,", and so it goes away. Puzzling.
We were both looking at the same thing, seeing, the same thing, talking about the same thing, except he was looking, seeing, talking and thinking from a completely different dimension.
At first this difference seemed fairly minor, but then it grew . . . and grew . . . and grew . . . until I began to see why I missed it. Some things you miss because they're so tiny you overlook them. But some things you don't see because they're so huge.
We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape around us and call that handfull of sand the world.
Once we have the handful of sand, discrimination goes to work on it. This is the knife. We divide the sand into parts. This and that. Here and there. Black and while. Now and then.
To understand it's necessary to see that part of the landscape, inseparable from it, which must be understood, is a figure in the middle of it, sorting sand into piles.
To see the landscape without seeing this figure is not to see the landscape at all. To reject that part of the Buddha that attends to the analysis of motorcycles is to miss the Buddha entirely.
Next he subtracted Quality from the marketplace and predicted the changes that would take place. Since quality of flavor would be meaningless, supermarkets would carry only basic grains such as rice, cornmeal, soybeans and flour, possibly also some ungraded meat, milk for weaning infants and vitamin and mineral supplements to make up deficiencies. Alcoholic beverages, tea, coffee and tobacco would vanish. So would movies, dances, plays and parties. We would all use public transportation. We would all wear G.I. shoes.
A huge proportion of us would be out of work, but this would probably be temporary until we relocated in essential non-Quality work. Applied science and technology would be drastically changed, but pure science, mathematics, philosophy and particularly logic would be unchanged.
Phaedrus found this last to be extremely interesting. The purely intellectual pursuits were the least affected by the subtraction of Quality. If Quality were dropped, only rationality would remain unchanged. That was odd. Why should that be?
The wave of crystalization rolled ahead. He was seeting two worlds, simultaneously. On the intellectual side, the square side, he saw now that Quality was a cleavage term. 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 . . hip and square, classic and romantic, technological and humanistic . . . and the split is clean. There's no mess. No slop. No little iterms that could be one way or the other. Not just a skilled break but a very lucky break. Sometimes the best analysis, working with the most obvious lines of cleavage, can tap and get nothing but a pile of trash. 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.
The Train of Knowledge
In terms of the analogy, classic knowledge, the knowledge taught by the Church of Reason, is the engine and all the boxcars. All of them and everything in them. If you subdivide the train into parts you will find no Romantic Knowledge anywhere. This isn't because Romantic Knowledge is nonexistent or even unimportant. Its just that so far the definition of the train is static and purposeless. This was what I was trying to get at back in South dakota when I talked about two whole dimensions of existence. Its two whole ways of looking at things.
Romantic Quality, in the terms of this analogy, isn't any "part" of the train. its the leading edge of the engine, a two-dimensional surface of no real significance unless you understand that the train isn't a static entity at all. A train really isn't a train if it can't go anywhere. Its the process of examining the train and subdividing it into parts we've inadvertently stopped it, so that really isn't a train we are examining. That's why we get stuck.
The real train of knowledge isn't a static entity that can be stopped and subdivided. Its always going somewhere. On a track called Quality. And that engine and all those boxcars are never going anywhere except where the track of Quality takes them; and romantic Quality, the leading edge of the engine, takes them along that track.
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.
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. Its also something you can develop. Its not just "intuition," not just explainable "skill" or "talent." It's the direct result of contact with basic reality, Quality, which dualistic reason has in the past tended to conceal.
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
Author - Robert M. Pirsig
Country - United States
Language - English
Genre(s) - Philosophical novel
Publisher - William Morrow & Company
Released - April 1974
Media type - Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages - 418 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN - ISBN 0-688-00230-7 (first edition, hardback)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values is the first of Robert M. Pirsig's texts in which he explores a Metaphysics of quality. The 1974 book describes a journey across the United States, punctuated by numerous philosophical discussions (many of them on epistemology and the philosophy of science) which the author refers to as chautauquas.
In the "Introduction to the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition," Pirsig states the following: "I suppose every writer dreams of the kind of success Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has had in the past twenty-five years--rave reviews, millions of copies sold in twenty-three languages, a description in the press as 'the most widely read philosophy book, ever.'
In this book, Pirsig explores the meaning of the concept "quality" (a term which he capitalizes). In the sequel (Lila: An Inquiry into Morals), Pirsig expands his exploration of Quality into a complete metaphysic which he calls The Metaphysics of Quality. The Metaphysics of Quality is a philosophy, a theory about reality; it asks questions such as what is real, what is good and what is moral. As the title suggests, much of the Metaphysics of Quality has to do with a non-intellectualizing, non-conceptualizing, Zen-like direct viewing of the universe. Yet Pirsig departs from Eastern thinking by arguing that reason and logic are just as important in seeking understanding. He explains that, despite its title, "it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles, either."
While Pirsig is not the first philosopher to try to bridge the gap between science and mysticism, with the Metaphysics of Quality he elevates the whole debate to a new level by structuring both paradigms around a single concept: value. In doing so, Pirsig throws new light on issues such as mind and matter, the behavior of particles at the quantum level and the nature of consciousness. At the social level he has much to say about racial tension, the cult of celebrity and mental illness.
Recalling his University days, narrator Phaedrus, named after the character from the Plato dialogue of the same name, sharply criticizes his instructors for miseducating the students.
Many of the themes of the book were anticipated in Nevil Shute's 1951 novel Round the Bend.
* Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was mentioned on the show Will and Grace, it was what Grace gave her then boyfriend Nathan as a birthday present because he enjoyed both mechanics and zen.
* The title is an incongruous play on the title of an earlier, well-known (among Western Buddhists) book Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel.
* Pirsig admits that while writing the book he was mistaken about the exact meaning (or etymological root) of the word Phaedrus.
* Pirsig described this novel as "a sort of Chatauqua", referring loosely to the American educational summer-camp movement of the late 19th century and the early 20th century. He makes this reference because in the work he explores a complex philosophical subject - the nature of "quality" , of the values we hold - using a quintessentially "American Plain" prose style which delivers a sense of great simplicity and resonance to his discourse. Just as a Circuit Chatauqua (or Tent Chautauqua) would travel, first to one town, then to another, where lecturers would expound their topics again and again in terms that general audiences might grasp, Pirsig explores his subject in what first appears a simple and itinerant fashion, apparently wandering easily in, out and around his everyday concerns about his son, their trip together across America, and good motorcycle maintenance. Yet all the while his arguments, imperceptibly, build into a moving examination of his own human values and flaws as well as a dazzling philosophical essay. In employing this metaphor, Pirsig honours four essential elements of the 'real' Chatauqua: its American-ness (the work recalls the prose of American stylists like Mark Twain, Harper Lee and Abraham Lincoln); its discursive form; its paedigogical intent; and its populist slant.
* According to the Guinness Book of Records Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the bestselling novel rejected by the greatest number of potential publishers (121). However Pirsig himself admitted later that he had sent the manuscript almost simultaneously to 122 publishers from which 22 had responded to the initial query while the rest rejected it.
* In Section 11 of the "Guidebook to Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Di Santo & Steele, it is correctly noted that the famous paraphrase You never gain something but that you lose something found in Chapter 29 of "Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is not derived from Thoreau (as attributed by Pirsig and most others) but is actually derived from Ralph Waldo Emerson and his phrase For anything you gain, you lose something. The phrase can be found in his 1841 essay Compensation.
* Though there is no mention in the book of the motorcycle ridden by Pirsig and his son, he acknowledged it is a 1964 Honda Superhawk CB77 in an interview. John rode a BMW R60
* Pirsig's son Chris (who was featured prominently in "Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance") was stabbed to death by two men in an apparent robbery on Saturday, November 17, 1979, in San Francisco. His murder occurred just 2 weeks prior to what would have been his 23rd birthday. According to Pirsig, he had sent a letter to his father just before that, saying 'I never thought I'd ever live to see my 23rd birthday'.
* NBA Finals coach Phil Jackson cites the book as one of the major guiding forces in his life. As a result, Jackson has acquired the nickname "The Zen Master". 
* This novel introduces the term "gumption trap" and defines it as the situation that occurs after you completely disassemble and reassemble your motorcycle (an activity that requires a lot of gumption), only to find an extra screw lying on the floor of your garage.
3. Pirsig Frequently Asked Questions -Henry Gurr
Can You Give Me Pirsig's US Mail or his Email Address?
No. He does not want any address given out. However, you may write him care of his publisher at the address below. He usually fully answeres serious questions and is quite prompt to reply:
Mr. Robert Pirsig
In care of: William Morrow Company
1350 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10019
How many copies of Pirsig's wonderful book have been printed to date?
Based on some off-hand statements of Mr. Pirsig, I estimate the copies of ZMM at around 4 million, but I have no idea if this number has any reality. The 19 Nov 06 England Guardian/Observer Pirsig Interview off hand stated 5 million.
Where is the author, and is he writing?
Mr. Pirsig and his wife are in USA, in a relatively rural area of New England. He stays out or the public eye as much as he can. If people ask him reasonable questions by U. S. mail, he always promptly replies with full answers. But I don't think he is writing any books or articles for publication. You might write to him and suggest he do more writing. He may be reached at his publishers. Address given above.
Why Did the ZMM Route End At San Francisco?
For a long time I assumed Robert Pirsig's trip goal was to learn more about the Zen Communities of San Francisco, possibly visit the Zen Center. Posted on my ZMM Links Page, Mr. Pirsig stated that the Zen Center did not exist then.
In 2005 Mark Richardson asked Mr. Pirsig what was the goal of their 1968 trip. Mr. Pirsig answered that they traveled on to visit friends in Los Angelus. This being the case, ZMM Route's ending at San Francisco must be a literary decision. Since the landscape/road scenery in ZMM always serves to "amplify" the philosophical plan of ZMM, one may assume Author Pirsig did not need additional landscape/road scenery beyond San Francisco. Thus this famous town provided an appropriate and sufficiently grand book ending.
How Did You Get Those Pictures from Pirsig's Trip? Did He Provide Them to You?
The pictures from Pirsig's original 1968 trip were sent to me by Pirsig himself. I had asked him if there were any pictures that could be used (for my research) to find the actual locations of scenes along the "ZMM Route." He had seen my (sufficiently substantial) webpages at that time, and his response was to send me the pictures for ZMM research. He also stated I could place his pictures in my ZMM Quality Web Photo Albums.
I'd Be Interested to Know a Little About You and Your Relationship with Pirsig
Starting in approximately 1993, I had my students read ZMM as part of their physics class requirements. I found that the ZMM book was a very successful adjunct for: 1) the students' study of Physics, 2) their overall understanding of the processes of learning, and 3) how to deal with "Gumption Traps." Moreover, ZMM's "Church of Reason" chapters helped my students to constructively understand what was supposed to happen at a university as opposed to what was actually happening! Or perhaps I should say, what was NOT happening. This experience prompted me, soon thereafter, to write to Pirsig with a number of questions.
I wanted additional "data" to justify (to other possibly concerned university personnel) why I was using ZMM every year in my physics classes. For example, I wanted to find out the names of colleges and universities that used ZMM in their classes. I wanted to learn how they actually used ZMM. I wanted to gather data/testimonials as to ZMM's contribution to their students' overall learning and intellectual maturity. Also, I asked Pirsig about maps of the ZMM Route.
Pirsig, in a 9 July 1994 response, stated: "In answer to your question b), I would estimate that somewhere between 10 and 60 percent of colleges and high schools use ZMM in one or more courses. Usually these are literature of philosophy courses, sometimes psychology and sociology --- rarely science. U.S. sales have been running about 100,000 per year for the last 20 years, a really unusual figure. It has been stated in the London Daily Telegraph and by the BBC that ZMM is the 'most widely read philosophy book --- ever'. I give credit to the academic system for this, but I don't have any accurate information on who is using it or where it is being used." As for the maps, he directed me to the map/itinerary in Disanto and Steel's "Guidebook to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."
Several years later, I found passages from author Owen Barfield (appendix of his book "Poetic Diction") that had very interesting conclusions about "The Subject-Object Split"; it's history, and other ramifications. What Barfield said confirmed what Pirsig had said in ZMM on this same "Subject-Object Split" topic. I sent Xerox copies these passages, with letter of explanation, to Pirsig.
I might here add that Owen Barfield (as well as Michael Polanyi) seems to have arrived at many, many, conclusions that agree with Pirsig's major assertions in ZMM. What is very significant to me is that Barfield's and Polanyi's general agreement with Pirsig (on many major points) was achieved independently and by completely different starting points and routes of travel, than those of Pirsig.
For these reasons I had hoped that Pirsig might be moved to actually study Barfield. In his reply, Pirsig said that he was glad to hear someone else agreed with him. But I could tell by his reply that he was disinclined to pursue the matter further. Through these years, I wrote perhaps three/four letters to Pirsig requesting information. He fully and promptly answered all of them.
When I was making plans to actually travel the "ZMM Route," in early 2002, I began to search diligently for various persons who had already actually traveled the ZMM Route. I wanted to learn what they had found, in preparation for my own ZMM research trip. I wanted to build on what they had found and I did not want to waste time by unnecessarily duplicating their effort. I was able to make a just a few successful contacts and about half of these persons contributed essays for my webpages. I had hoped this would be a way to gain useful ZMM Route information, but overall this approach was disappointing. Given the relative unsuccessful quantity of information found, I finally decided to write Pirsig. The fact that I had gone to considerable effort, as shown in my webpages at that time, must have been convincing to Pirsig, because he was quite helpful. He provided maps, literature resources, and many suggestions. Most of his contributions are now incorporated into my "Travel Guide to ZMM."
I Have Been Hoping to Hear Pirsig's Voice Some Day. Has Someone Posted an MP3 File of Him Speaking?
Webmaster Henry Gurr replies: I am aware of only two recordings of Pirsigs voice. (I invite readers to send in their suggestions if they have any additional information to offer.) One ZMM enthusiast, having read this FAQ, gave me the following information:
Hello Henry, I've found the cassette [of Pirsigs voice], and it's from [the National Public Radio, NPR] All Things Considered program of January 10, 1992. I've listened to it, and Pirsig sounds a lot less scratchy and not quite as "old" as I'd remembered. At first he seems a bit hesitant in conversation, but then really lights up when a topic engages him, such as William James Sidis, or when he explains _koan_ to the interviewer, or when he reads from [Pirsigs new book] Lila Much of the interview, of course, is focused on Lila, as it had just come out a few months previously, and it's interesting to hear him discuss his conception of the book. The program came on two cassettes, and the interview is about 10 or so minutes in on side 2 of the first cassette. (For ease of reference, only the first cassette has sides 1 and 2; the other is labeled with side 3 and a blank 4
Here are my thoughts, after hearing this NPR Program: Very, very interesting. Very valuable!! Excellent! It is a very good interview! Pirsig was really primed and has strong delivery on a whole string of ideas. I did not know and I NEED to know much of what he said!! He has a very strong "stage delivery"! I did not expect this. Also he has a "zest " >for living that is admirable! I some-how had expected that all his personal problems trashed through in ZMM, would have drained away all his get up and go. Also, 15 years to write Lila is a long time!!! I agree--when Pirsig gets fired up, it's obvious that these ideas still engage him.
I told the person who sent me that information that I would eventually contact NPR, to see if they would allow an mp3 file of that interview program to be available on the web. In the meantime, Gary Wegner has directed me to the 1992 NPR interview and a 1974 interview online. Gary has kindly posted links to these interviews on the Wikipedia entry for ZMM as well.
To hear Noah Adams 1992 NPR interview of Pirsig, go here:
An additional NPR interview of Pirsig by Connie Goldman from July 12, 1974 has surfaced as well:
An ingterestin interview of Pirsig (long version) appears at:
If anyone runs across any other recordings of Pirsig, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the Correct Model and Number of Mr. Pirsig's Motorcycle Shown in the Photographs on Your ZMM Quality.org Gallery?
Mr. Ken Steiner writes the following: "I would like to mention that the motorcycle in the first photo is identified as a Honda CB360. The correct designation is a CB 77 305 Super Hawk. I believe the CB360 was manufactured at a much later date.
. The [links below] provides a photo of the CB360 and additional descriptive information. The Honda CB360 was manufactured from 1974 to 1976. I had rebuilt and owned a 1966 Honda CL77 305, This is a very similar bike to the CB77 pictured on the web-photo. They use the same engine, but the CB77 frame is configured for street and trip use while the CL77 is more of a sport bike that can be used off-road. In any case the photo is not that of a CB360.
See - http://www.vjmw.org/tests/CB360.htm Here is a link depicting the CB77: http://www.honda305.com/cb77_000/cb77-006.htm
Webmaster Master Henry Gurr replies: The captions of those 12 pictures from Mr. Pirsig were written by him personally except for my additions in [brackets]. The designation = " A. CB360_~l.TIF" was the original computer file name that went with that picture. It was his own abbreviation to indicate in his computer files which-picture-was-what. I believe he used this same abbreviation in each of the photo captions as he composed them prior to sending them to me. And that is the caption I placed on each of those 12 pictures you saw on my web gallery. I have seen the designation as 305 Super Hawk several places on the web, but of course there is no adequate way to verify this source of information. I will eventually write to Mr. Pirsig for clarification.
Where May I View a Photo of Robert Pirsig's Former Minneapolis Home?
Webmaster Henry Gurr replies: In my Gallery of photos you may view Robert Pirsig's former Minneapolis, which was at 458 Otis Avenue, St Paul, MN. This was the home he and family lived in at the time ZMM was written. Go to the ZMMQ Gallery Album named "Mark Richardson's Journal."
4. Rhetoric and Madness: Robert Pirsig's Inquiry into Values - Scott Consign
Confronting crises of technological annihilation and personal madness, Robert Pirsig finds each to be a manifestation of a deeper crisis of Reason. In response) he suggests an alternative to our current paradigm of rationality, the "art of motorcycle maintenance." By showing that our understanding and performance derive from our emotional and evaluative commitments, he challenges the cultural commonplace which construes "subjective" states as distortions of "objective" reality. In so doing, he asserts that "wholeness" or sanity may be achieved only through "passionate caring," and an awareness and acceptance of how our emotions and values shape our experiences. Further, he shows that technology, a manifestation of our values, may be controlled only through emotional and moral commitment. A restorative rhetoric, on Pirsig's analysis is, then, one in which the passions and values are recognized as the very ground of being in and interpreting the world.
The crisis of reason
As he begins his "Chautauqua," Robert Pirsig finds himself in a twofold crisis. He characterizes the public dimension of the crisis as arising in large part from the technological fragmentation of nature and man. Having transformed nature from a field of daffodils into a field for its own potential appropriation, technology, as Marshall McLuhan has noted, now also "shapes and controls the scale of human association and action" (McLuhan 8). Seemingly indifferent to human values and developing under its own logic, technology increasingly isolates us from our natural environment, from one another, and even from ourselves. For though we may be in touch with Belgrade or Tokyo, our lives have lost much temporal and spatial wholeness or sanity. We are often physically and even emotionally closer to fabricated media "personalities" than we are to the person across the breakfast table. Yet whereas we are never left alone by our technology, we are increasingly lonely, alienated from our deepest selves. For we have lost touch with our own feelings, being educated to ignore them in order to function in a technological world. Like Bergman's "intellectual illiterates," we are so uneducated about our inner feelings that we only learn to talk about them when we "break down," and have to be repaired by the analyst, at the Group, or in the asylum. For, we learn, our feelings distort our "objective" perceptions, and thus prevent us from functioning like our machines. In this vein, Andy Warhol wryly recalls that he had always wanted to be like a machine, for then it was easier to get along with people. We thus find ourselves fragmented, our feelings alienated from our world, our lives as well as our literature being characterizable by T. S. Eliot's phrase, "dissociation of sensibility."
Parallel to this public, cultural crisis of technologically-induced fragmentation, Pirsig faces his own personal crisis of fragmentation or "madness." Some years earlier he had been declared clinically insane, and underwent electro-shock therapy to annihilate his mad personality. This earlier self, whom he now calls "Phaedrus," had gone mad as a result of a search for Truth which led him ultimately to repudiate Reason itself. Pursuing the "ghost of reason" through Western science, Eastern philosophy, and rhetoric, Phaedrus found Reason to be "emotionally hollow, esthetically meaningless and spiritually empty" (Pirsig 110). But he had no place to flee; and, without an alternative to Reason, he simply went mad. Pirsig's personal crisis arises when he encounters and is forced to struggle with his earlier self, the haunting figure of Phaedrus who now beckons him back into madness.
The crisis of technology demands a response; for as in all crises a failure to act itself functions as an action. One response is to flee, as Pirsig's friends John and Sylvia do in trying to escape the "death force" which they see in technology. But being economically dependent on technology, they cannot effectively flee, and are forced to take refuge in a false romanticism which leaves them impotently resentful of technology. But if flight is not a solution, equally dangerous is the failure to see the crisis as a crisis, and to respond as if one were merely encountering another "problem" to be solved with procedures which employ and reinforce the very technology which constitutes the crisis. Such a response is made by those whom he labels "classicists," people who would argue that if we are low on fossil fuel we simply need build nuclear power plants; or if threatened by swifter missiles simply construct a sophisticated missile-defense shield. For Pirsig, such a failure to perceive the crisis may well ultimately lead to annihilation. Pirsig does not explicitly reject the use of "technological" means to solve technological problems; he encourages, for example, well-tuned motorcycles, precise door latches and non-leaking faucets. His object of attack is not all technologies or even technological capacities; rather it is what he calls a technological "attitude" which fails to perceive the limitations of technique and the values implicit in its use.
But whereas Pirsig orates eloquently on the failure of both illusory escape and complacent acquiescence, he must struggle intensely to overcome his own tendencies to respond in these ways. As Phaedrus, he had attempted to flee the "ghost of reason" when he found it stifling him, fleeing first from India and admitting having "given up" his search (Pirsig 137); and later, at the University ,of Chicago, seeing all his efforts to be a "fool's mission" (Pirsig 389), fleeing Reason entirely into clinical madness. And now, when he perceives Phaedrus emerging on the Chautauqua, Pirsig is still not quite able to face his earlier self. As Tim Crusius insightfully notes, Pirsig remains ambiguous; he would like to "bury" Phaedrus, but his refusal to allow reality to his ghost "points to a strategy of avoidance rather than confrontation and burial" (Crusius 174). It is only through a difficult and direct struggle with madness that Pirsig is ultimately able to confront Phaedrus. But just as he can no longer flee, neither can Pirsig accept the "technological" solution to his madness, the shock treatments which attempt to bring deviants within the scope of technological society.
To respond adequately to his crises, Pirsig finds that he must reject the tendency to act as if he were simply solving another "problem." For in this and in many crises, we do not yet encounter a clear-cut "problem" or well-formulated puzzle to solve with conventional procedures. A crisis is a rip or tear in the fabric of our understanding, a rupture which demonstrates the very inadequacy of our procedures. Further, we must often cut through the current inadequate formulations of "problems" in the crisis in order to reveal its real disjunctions. For the inadequate formulations, with their deceptively adequate procedures, perpetuate both the crisis and our inability to grasp it. As Richard Coe argues, "the decision to perceive whatever you are investigating as a 'problem' is already a bias and contains an implicit decision about the appropriate procedures to follow. Many of our current and recent crises result in some degree from the biases implicit in 'problem-solving' procedures" (Coe 64). To respond adequately to a crisis we must disclose our presuppositions and formulate a new way of perceiving and functioning.
A new paradigm of rationality
Pirsig's response to his crisis is to assume that his personal fragmentation and our public, technological fragmentation are two aspects of a general crisis of Reason; that he went mad because he rejected that Reason which shapes our culture and its technologies. His concern is not solely with the public dimension of the crisis, the "relationship between people and technology," as Richard Schuldenfrei argues (Schuldenfrei 100). Nor yet is it only with the achievement of the whole or sane person, as Crusius maintains. Both the public and personal aspects of the crisis are inseparable manifestations of a deeper crisis of Reason.
Using the fragments left from Phaedrus' search, Pirsig attempts to integrate his present and past selves into a unified whole, to find a new way of being sane or whole in a technological world. And, as Chautauqua orator, he communicates his disclosures, showing how we, like Phaedrus, are also controlled by that same ghost of Reason. To this end, he must reveal the assumptions which we share, preconceptions grounded in our conception of Reason which have led us into our public crisis, and which now prevent us from finding our way out. In so doing, he presents an alternative way of perceiving and functioning in the crisis, one which affords a better mode of behaving.
In searching for a way out of the crisis of madness and technology, Pirsig turns to that which he cares about and is engaged in, the humble activity of maintaining his motorcycle. In this activity, he finds not only a practical means of maintaining his sanity, but the grounds for an alternative conception of rationality. For "the art of motorcycle maintenance" becomes a new paradigm" of sane behavior, a "miniature study of the art of rationality itself" (Pirsig 90). Like all exemplary models, Pirsig's paradigm has its limits: the art of motorcycle maintenance will not encompass every form of life we would call "rational"; nor, accordingly, will that which is nonrational or insane in Pirsig's model account for all the modes of insanity which people may experience.
Further, we cannot expect that Pirsig's proposed way out of the public crisis of technology will be directly applicable for everyone. Coe notes that Pirsig fails to "recognize the ways in which his own statements are relative to his own relatively privileged position in this society" (Coe 66), and Schuldenfrei, who argues that "the problems of the world are not simply Pirsig's case multiplied four billion times," finds Pirsig "too quick to generalize from the task of repairing a motorcycle on a leisurely vacation to the daily problems of individuals in a complex society" (Schuldenfrei 102). Perhaps foreseeing such an objection to his enterprise, Pirsig protects himself in an artful rhetorical manner, choosing the form of a Chautauqua rather than the essay to communicate his ideas. Stressing the necessary limitations of his own inquiry and disclosures, Pirsig remarks that essays "always have to sound like God talking for eternity, and that isn't the way it ever is. People should see that it's never anything other than just one person talking from one place in time and space and circumstances" (Pirsig 166).
Albeit a simplification of "rationality," maintaining a motorcycle, Pirsig shows, involves a wide variety of cognitive activities. One must be able to discover and formulate possible reasons for malfunctions, conceptualize the parts and their role in the system, and remember the stages of disassembly and reassembly. One must attend to detail, speculate wisely, and make sound judgments. But these cognitive activities can only be carried out, Pirsig insists, if we have the proper emotional attitude, the "attitude of caring." If we do not care about what we are doing, we will fail to be attentive to our task, unable to become engaged in it. Caring, he states, is "a feeling of identification with what one's doing" (Pirsig 290). A passionate caring is central to understanding and maintaining a motorcycle, because 'cycle maintenance occurs within an emotional context. The emotions are our ways of being attuned to the world and our tasks, the states in which inquiry and judgment occur. "The passions, the emotions, the affective domain of man's consciousness," he asserts, "are part of nature's order too. The central part" (Pirsig 287).
Our cognition, then, is grounded in and logically dependent on our emotional states. In Richard M. Weaver's terms, "sentiment is anterior to reason. We do not undertake to reason about anything until we have been drawn to it by an affective interest . . . the fact of paramount importance about anyone is his attitude toward the world" (Weaver 19). Pirsig here also follows Heidegger, for whom "The possibilities of disclosure which belong to cognition reach. far short a way compared with the primordial disclosure belonging to [emotional] moods" (Heidegger 173). Further, though we may transform one emotional state or mood into another, we can never totally escape our emotions into a neutral "objectivity." In Heidegger's phrase, "when we master a mood, we do so by way of a counter mood. We are never free of moods" (Heidegger 175). Our understanding ceases, then, not when we lack technical data, but when, through impatience, boredom, or anxiety, we lose our enthusiasm or gumption, and no longer care about what we are doing. Enthusiasm, notes Pirsig, derives from the Greek enthousiasmos, "which means literally 'filled with theos, or God, or Quality'" (296). Enthusiasm, or gumption, allows us to become engaged in the world through our tasks, and thereby to better understand the world.
When we are enthusiastically engaged, we may forget our selves, for we identify with what we are doing. This identification Pirsig calls "care," Heidegger's "Sorge." Care leads for Pirsig to a "complete identification with one's circumstances" (288) because "what caring really is, is a feeling of identification which what one's doing" (Pirsig 290). And by caring about what we do, Pirsig continues, we may be able to perform excellently, to create or reveal "quality" in our tasks. Because people care about many things in many different ways, the quality which is created through that caring is correspondingly diverse, and cannot be reduced to any one thing. Quality or excellence in our performances, then, is a product of enthusiastic care. But, correlatively, by caring we become aware of that which has quality, and care and quality become "internal and external aspects of the same thing" (Pirsig 269).
Through his use of the paradigm of motorcycle maintenance, Pirsig reveals that emotional engagement, and particularly enthusiastic caring, is the precondition of perception as well as of excellent performance; and that a failure to experience does not facilitate understanding, but rather closes it off. In order to best maintain our motorcycles, then, and in turn to function sanely in our world, we must accept our emotional states and try to understand how each one leads us to perceive in certain ways. Our emotional states, further, are integrally related to our values: that which we care about is that which we value or consider important. And as our emotional states shape what and how we perceive, so all of our perceptions as well as our actions are grounded in our values and commitments. Our knowledge is never value-free, every discrimination and classification occurring within the structure of our values. Thus "value," writes Pirsig, "is the predecessor of structure" (Pirsig 277).
By showing that emotions and values inform our perceptions and cognition, Pirsig confronts a basic assumption of our culture. This assumption or prejudice is a ground from which we experience the world, a standing point we assume and from which we adopt our various postures and attitudes. The standing points are fundamental to our ways of seeing, for, like the men in Plato's cave, where we stand strongly influences what we are able to perceive. We may call the various standing points from which we formulate our views "places" from which we think and view the world, the loci which allow us to see certain things and overlook others.  In Michael Polanyi's terms, these places are the points we think from, and from which we think about other things" (Polanyi 9). The places structure what Pirsig calls our "preintellectual awareness." By attending to the places of our perception, Pirsig illustrates his attempt, not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted with the debris of thought gone stale and platitudes too often repeated" (Pirsig 8). The places we adopt, like our emotions and values, are "modes of persuasion" of which we are often not aware; and like the men in Plato's cave, we must become aware of our limitations if we are to achieve a new way of seeing.
Following Aristotle, we may construe the places which organize our emotional commitments as various interrelated terms."' The specific terms we employ, such as "subject" and object," are taken from delimited realms, while the interrelationships between the terms, which may be independent of any specific contexts, include various modes of identification, opposition or inter-relation. Aristotle sketches in the Categories four modes in which terms may be opposed, such as contraries and as correlatives. Contrary terms like "black" and "white" label things for which the existence of one generally precludes the existence of the other; correlative terms, such as "husband" and "wife," label objects for which the existence of one requires the existence of the other (Aristotle, Categories 31-8). Pirsig emphasizes the importance of our choice of terms and our facility in interrelating them, formulating the operation as the use of a "knife" which slices up and connects our experiences of the world. This knife is "an intellectual scalpel so swift and so sharp you sometimes don't see it moving. You get the illusion that all these parts are just there and are being named as they exist. But they can be named quite differently and organized quite differently depending on how the knife moves" (Pirsig 72). One of Pirsig's tasks, as Chautauqua orator, is to reveal which terms are fundamental in shaping our way of seeing, disclosing their interrelationships, and then demonstrating that they may be interrelated in another manner. By becoming aware of how our commonplaces have led us into our crisis of Reason, we may begin to see their limitations; and, by altering the places, we may potentially disclose a new way of perceiving and functioning in the crisis.
The specific terms Pirsig focuses on are those of "subjectivity" and "objectivity." Our culturally ingrained commonplace is that subjects are contrary to objects; that as feeling beings we are necessarily separated from the world of objective things; that, in Lawrence Rosenfield's phrase, "external and internal reality" are distinct" (Rosenfield 69). Our feelings are seen as private and inward, ultimately incommunicable, and effectively distortions of objective perception. This separation lies at the basis of the dualism of our "two cultures," and of our "dissociation of sensibility." All feeling is taken as irrelevant to understanding the world, and only technological, analytic reason is applicable to controlling the environment. Hence reason is narrowed to logical consistency, and technology, the product of that reason, is depleted of all human values. Technological ugliness is thus not the source of personal fragmentation and alienation; it is correlative with it.
In order to overcome this destructive "noncoalescence between reason and feeling" (Pirsig 162), Pirsig presents his competing paradigm of motorcycle maintenance as a mode of rationality, showing that the separation of subjects and objects distorts how we rationally function in the world. Emotions, he shows, are not private and inward, but are the ways we become engaged in the world, our openings to the world and to others. Motorcycle maintenance requires enthusiastic caring, a caring which reveals and creates value or quality; emotional engagement is in this respect is "logically prior" to our conception of ourselves as "subjects" or separate entities. We are situational beings, and we must become engaged with others and with things before we become aware of ourselves. "No man is an island unto himself alone" is an epistemological as well as a moral statement.
Rather than treating subjects as contrary to the "value-free" objects of technology, Pirsig shows that subjects and objects are correlatives, whose very existence requires the existence of the other. Technology is not distinct from us; it is an extension of ourselves, a manifestation of our values. The relationship in the new commonplace becomes one of evaluative engagement or "Quality"; the affirmation of quality or value precedes our awareness of subjects and objects, and is indeed the "cause of subjects and objects" (Pirsig 234). Echoing Protagoras, Pirsig maintains that man is not the source of all things, "as the subjective idealists would say. Nor is he the passive observer of all things, as the objective idealists and materialists would say. The Quality which creates the world emerges as the relationship between man and his experience. He is a participant in the creation of all things. The measure of all things" (Pirsig 368).
Pirsig thus discloses and alters the commonplace or topos of subjects vs. objects, arguing that the two terms are to be interrelated as correlatives, with Quality as the intermediate term. In so doing, he deals with the public crisis of technology by concluding that "the real evil isn't the objects of technology but the tendency of technology to isolate people into lonely attitudes of subjectivity. It's the objectivity, the dualistic way of looking at things underlying technology that produces the evil" (Pirsig 351). This dualism is overcome in the new paradigm of rationality, and the altered commonplace of subjectivity and objectivity. Further, this new way of seeing affords a way out of Pirsig's own crisis of madness. Phaedrus went mad not because he was mentally impotent, but because he was too strong for the culture; he didn't fit. He found that our cultural "mythos," the totality of myths or paradigms which grounds our culture and provides the framework for our rationality, is one of a "rigid subject-object" dualism (Pirsig 346). Hence it is the culture which is inherently fragmented, without wholeness. The mythos itself, he observes, is "insane" (Pirsig 346). But whereas in Chicago Phaedrus had fled the mythos without an alternative model of reason, Pirsig is now able to offer a cogent, alternative way of seeing. He thus performs his task of "expanding the nature of rationality itself" (Pirsig 163).
Pirsig is not alone in his attempt to expand our conception of reason to include values and emotions. Thomas Conley points out that Pirsig's analysis "is by no means a novel diagnosis. Wayne Booth has recently reminded us . . . of the results of the dichotomy between 'fact' and 'value.' This dichotomy, in its various guises ... has also touched off what McKeon has called an intellectual revolution in the 20th century which has sought to deal with the noncoalescence of which Pirsig speaks" (Conley 49). And Crusius notes that recently an entire school of rhetorical thought has tried to close the gap between thought and feeling, means and goals, by extending rationality beyond its Cartesian parameters to include value; the rational for thinkers like Wayne Booth and Chaim Perelman is no longer only the empirically verifiable or the consistent according to formal logic, but includes all informal reasoning including those involving values. E. M. Adams cogently argues that "there is value knowledge as well as factual knowledge and a value structure of the world as well as a factual structure" (Adams 294). And Stanley Deetz demonstrates that recent phenomenological thinking about perception, cognition, and communication parallel Pirsig's argument. For Deetz, the split between subjects and objects is derivative to interpretation, which occurs "prior to the subject/object split making possible the very experience that is then abstracted into subjective and objective components" (Deetz 43).
The similarities and contrasts between Pirsig's project and those of Booth, Perelman and others would demand lengthier examination than I can provide here. But Pirsig's argument, and his place in the rhetorical tradition, may be located directly by elaborating his dispute with Plato. As Crusius notes, "while Booth and others like him trace our problems to Cartesian logic, Pirsig digs deeper and wider, going back to the sophists and to Plato, and to the subject-object split profoundly embedded in the Western mind" Crusius 170). For having discovered that "analytical, dialectical" reason is inadequate, Pirsig finds that his primary opponent is Socrates. As Richard M. Weaver demonstrates, Socrates was the first major opponent of rhetoric, offering dialectic or abstract reasoning about propositions as "sufficient for all the needs of man" (Weaver 62). Just as Nietzsche earlier found that it was Socrates, "the great exemplar" of theoretical man, the "mystagogue of science, who killed Greek tragedy, Pirsig now finds with Weaver that it was Socrates who undermined the earlier rhetorical emphasis on Quality (Nietzsche 92-93).
For Socrates had battled with the Sophists, the early Greek humanists and teachers of rhetoric. The Sophists argued that men could achieve excellence or arête by competing in the various contests or agons of their community. Pirsig's kinship to these early Sophists is clear, since he too is concerned with teaching effective communication, and in so doing encouraging his students to attain Quality. Such Quality is created, he believes, through enthusiastic caring, an emotional and moral engagement in the practical cares of daily life. The means to achieving Quality include the use of an intellectual "knife," dividing and combining phenomena; but the primary means are emotional, those of maintaining the proper attitude. What becomes paramount is the wholeness or sanity of the engaged person-- the emotional, moral and rational individual aware of his own biases, limits and capacities.
Recognizing one's own limitations and biases becomes crucial for Pirsig; an individual always speaks "from one place in time and space and circumstances" (Pirsig 166). An emotionally and morally engaged person is always biased, and always limited. But this does not invalidate what lie says; rather, it delineates the extent of its truth, for all truths are relative to place and time. "Objectivity" in any absolute sense becomes illusory, since, as Rosenfield argues, one must usually be passionately interested in something before beginning "to bother discussing it at all"; and one's ensuing understanding of things is better characterized as "appreciation" than "objectivity" (Rosenfield 492). Such was the view of the Sophists, and, writes Pirsig, "what the Sophists sought to teach was not principles but beliefs of men. Their object was not any single absolute truth but the improvement of men.
Pirsig's alternative formulation of wholeness and reason affords him a possible way out of his personal crisis. Appropriately, lie finds that he needs more than reason to face his insanity; and what lie needs is his son Chris's care and love. Through Chris, ultimately, he is able to integrate his present and past selves. "I haven't been carrying [Chris] at all," lie finds. "He's been carrying me" (404). "Trials never end, of course," he admits. "Unhappiness and misfortune are bound to occur as long as people live" (406). But it is by living and struggling in the world that we may become truly sane. Analogously, the public dimension of the crisis demands more than a new model of reason. It requires that we become engaged in a task, that we begin to struggle with our technological world rather than rejecting it or ignoring our place in it. Each of our situations will differ from Pirsig's, and we cannot simply generalize from his case to our own. But if we can learn from his example, we may achieve the courage to seek out own wholeness through struggle and growth.
E. M. Adams, Philosophy and the Modern Mind (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1975).
Aristotle, Categories and De Interpretatione, trans., J. L. Ackrill (Oxford: Clarendon, 1962).
Richard Coe, "Zen and the Art of Rhetoric," Rhetorical Society Quarterly, 6 (1976).
Thomas Conley, review of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Communication Quarterly, 24 (1976).
Tim Crusius, "In Praise of Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," Western journal of Speech Communication, 40 (1976).
Stanley Deetz, "Words without Things: Toward a Social Phenomenology of Language," Quarterly Journal of Speech, (1973).
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (New York: Signet Books, 1964).
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, trans., Francis Golffing (New York: Doubleday, 1956).
Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (New York: Bantam Books, 1975).
Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension (New York: Doubleday, 1966).
Lawrence Rosenfield, "An Autopsy of the Rhetorical Tradition," In The Prospect of Rhetoric, ed. Lloyd F. Bitzer and Edwin Black (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971).
Lawrence Rosenfield, "The Experience of Criticism," Quarterly Journal of Speech, 60 (1974), 492.
Richard Schuldenfrei, rev. of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Harvard Educational Review, 45 (1975).
Richard M. Weaver, Visions of Order (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1964).
 The name "Phaedrus" means "lone wolf" in Greek, and also refers, perhaps ironically, to the young rhetorician in Plato's dialogue. See the Phaedrus, trans., W. C. Helmbold and W. G. Rabinowitz (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1975). Pirsig never spells out the precise relationship between his earlier self and the young man in Plato's text. The two share a concern with love, madness, and rhetoric, and each argues with Socrates. But here the similarity seems to end, Plato's Phaedrus being subservient, playful and acquiescent to Socrates; Pirsig's persona being aggressive, hostile, and intense, driving him into insanity.
 By focusing his paradigm of rationality on the "art" of motorcycle maintenance, Pirsig emphasizes the centrality of personal engagement in a task, and hence attempts to transcend the classical-romantic dichotomy. Pirsig's miniature study of rationality is a paradigm in what Margaret Masterman ("The Nature of a Paradigm," in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, ed. lmre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1970], p. 65) argues is Thomas Kuhn's "artifact" sense of "paradigm." This notion of paradigm stresses the concreteness of the model, in contrast to the abstractness of the "metaphysical paradigm" or set of beliefs, and to the "sociological" paradigm of a particular group. The artifact paradigm functions, for Kuhn, as an analogy (Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions [Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 14); and, as Pirsig states in a characteristically broad sweep, "everything is an analogy" (393).
 Heidegger, p. 175. Pirsig's view of emotion as grounding and shaping our cognition also echoes Albert Camus' remark that "great feelings take with them their own universe, splendid or abject. They light up with their passion an exclusive world in which they recognize their climate. There is a universe of jealousy, of ambition, or of generosity." (The Myth of Sisyphus, trans., Justin O'Brien (New York: Random House, 19551, p. 8). And William Fortenbaugh has recently argued that even Aristotle, long interpreted as separating emotion and cognition, looks, in the Rhetoric, "upon cognitions as an essential element in emotion." ("Aristotle's Rhetoric on Emotions." in Aristotle: The Classical Heritage of Rhetoric, ed., Keith V. Erikson [Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1974], p. 205).
 Aristotle distinguishes two dimensions of the "places," the eidai or specific aspect of the places, and the koinoi topoi or common aspect of the places. The former are specific terms in a context, "derived from the propositions relative to a particular species or class of things"; the commonplaces are applicable "to a large number of inquiries of diverse sorts." The Rhetoric of Aristotle, trans., Lane Cooper (New York: D. Appleton, 1932), 1358a 17; 1358a 13-14.
 Although Socrates at times distinguishes between Sophists and Rhetoricians, I here follow Pirsig, construing the labels "sophist" and "rhetorician" as more or less interchangeable. Malcolm Brown and James Coulter in this vein argue that Socrates' first speech in the Phaedrus is one which a Sophist might give, the Sophist being "a hunter of young men of rank and distinction who works not by violence, but by persuasion." ("The Middle Speech of Plato's Phaedrus," Journal of the History of Philosophy, 9 , 421). Pirsig admits that his defense of the Sophists against Plato is not original; indeed such a defense dates to the nineteenth century. Everett Lee Hunt elaborates this point in his "On the Sophists," in The Province of Rhetoric, ed. Joseph Schwartz and John A. Rycenga (New York: Ronald Press, 1965); and in "Plato and Aristotle on Rhetoric and Rhetoricians" (Historical Studies of Rhetoric and Rhetoricians, ed., Raymond F. Nowes [Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell Univ. Press, 1961], p. 20), he writes: "It is to Hegel that the Sophists owe their rehabilitation in modern times." Hunt also shows that Lewes, Grote, Sidgwick and John Stuart Mill all joined in the defense.
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