Lila An Inquiry Into Morals

Lili An Inquiry Into Morals by RobertPirsig, Bantam Book / November 1991

ISBN 0553299611 In 1991, nearly twenty years after ZenAndTheArtOfMotorcycleMaintenance, Lila was published. In it RobertPirsig continues his inquiry into quality, life, reality, philosophy, and metaphysics. Lila, has not been as popular as Zen but in it he extends and develops his philosophical thinking into a theory he calls TheMetaphysicsOfQuality or MoQ for short. About five years ago a website, with two e-mail discussion groups were formed to investigate his philosophical musings. After reading both of Robert Pirsig‘s books one of the first questions that comes to many minds is:

What do real philosophers think of them?

You can search for scholarly tomes, scan the pages of philosophical periodicals, or browse the musty halls of academia, and for the most part what you will find is deadly silence. Only on the Internet will you find any interest or discussion of his work. And most of that will be by lay-people who have little or no philosophical accreditation. If you are looking for a filter to tell you what to think, you will have only a few critical book reviews to give a glimmer of what philosophers think. The following is a much condensed version of a review by an Oxford philosopher to give you a taste. ( italic words are from the review)

Excerpts from: Lone man on high seas by Galen Strawson, 27 October 1991

Pirsig, as his own hero, is a big nosed, poor-postured, drifter who has clumsily written two mind-numbingly unclear books with great stylistic anxiety that are interlarded with heavy slabs of historical anthropological-philosophical ruminations which are worthless and rigorously unoriginal! His problems begin with his controversial arguments attacking subject-object metaphysics, a straw man position held by no one. His position is brittle and insubstantial and sounds like a good old-fashioned strict empiricist, a neo-Humean extremist, and a heavily hierarchical proto-Hegelian. He is surely wrong and I suspect a little mad.

Pretty clear that neither the message nor the messenger are held in very high esteem. But why then did the reviewer end with this caveat?

But perhaps I am trapped in some dead theoretical outlook; perhaps Pirsig won't be properly understood for 50 years yet.

For Lila ten down, forty to go. -- ThirdWaveDave

Five more years on (2005), and Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality has reached formal academia. Dr Anthony McWatt achieved the first PhD at Liverpool University and organized the first MOQ Conference in celebration on 7th July 2005. Visit http://robertpirsig.org/Intro.htm. (Ian Glendinning 11th October 2005)


It was suggested on the Zen page that there might be some ties between the work of RobertPirsig and that of ChristopherAlexander. I believe there are many similarities and one has to get deep into Lila to help sort them all out. AlexanderPirsigConnection page is setup to explore that.
Offsite Links

The MoQ.org: (http://www.moq.org), which started as Lila Squad by lady living in Hong Kong is the oldest continuous public discussion of Pirsig's work on the Web. This site continue to operate, managed by "Horse" out of St Ives, Cambridge UK. (Ian Glendinning 11 October 2005)

Lila's Child: (http://members.tripod.com/~Glove_r/Childintro.htm) was created by one of those early members from the archives of the early Lila Squad e-mail sessions.

Or for a Quality Event try - http://home.online.no/~skutvik/ Home of one of the first people in the world to have photographic evidence of meeting Pirsig. A real quality guy.

Since the 7th July 2005 Liverpool Conference on Pirsig's MoQ, attended by Bob and Wendy Pirsig, many more people interested in his work have met him. For the conference papers, visit http://robertpirsig.org/Intro.htm. For a report and photographic record, visit http://www.psybertron.org/?p=1010. (Ian Glendinning 11 October 2005)


Because of Pirsig's repeated characterization in Lila of static patterns of value as latching or ratcheting mechanisms to ensure that the gains achieved by Dynamic quality are not lost, I felt there should be some reference on this page to HoldingTheGains and the RatchetEffect. Now there is. :-)


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