This post contains excerpts from Robert Pirsig's book Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals.

The words are all his, the editing choices are all mine, the consequences of reading are all yours.

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Better is Everything

… Determinism is the philosophic doctrine that man, like all other objects in the universe, follows fixed scientific laws…without exception. Free Will is the scientific doctrine that man makes choices independent of the atoms of his body … this battle [free will versus determinism] has been a very long and very loud one because abandonment of either position has devastating logical consequences.

In the Metaphysics of Quality this dilemma doesn’t come up. To the extent that one’s behavior is controlled by static patterns of quality it is without choice. But to the extent that one follows Dynamic Quality … one’s behavior is free … The Metaphysics of Quality says that if moral judgments are essentially assertions of value and if value is the fundamental ground-stuff of the world, then moral judgments are the fundamental ground-stuff of the world. The “Laws of Nature” are moral laws.

… it sounds peculiar at 1st … to say that hydrogen and oxygen form water because it is moral to do so. But it is no less peculiar … than to say chemistry professors smoke pipes and go to movies because irresistible cause-and-effect forces of the universe force them do to it. In the past the logic has been that if chemistry professors are composed exclusively of atoms and if atoms follow only the law of cause & effect, then chemistry professors must follow the laws of cause and effect too. But this logic can be applied in a reverse direction … If chemistry professors exercise choice, and chemistry professors are composed exclusively of atoms, then it follows that atoms must exercise choice too. The difference between these two point of views 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.

When inorganic patterns of reality create life the Metaphysics of Quality postulates that they’ve done so because it’s ‘better’ … this ‘betterness’ … response to Dynamic Quality … is an elementary unit of ethics upon which all right and wrong can be based.

“If chemistry professors exercise choice, and chemistry professors are composed exclusively of atoms, then it follows that atoms must exercise choice too.”