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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Facts & Culture

Anthropologists,when they are not being self-consciously ‘objective’, tend to be very interested in new things … Anthropologists see over & over again that insanity is culturally defined … each culture has different criteria for what constitutes it … Anthropologists found that schizophrenia is strongest among those whose ties with the cultural traditions are weakest … psychoses, which are an extreme form of culture shock, emerge … because the cultural definition of values … has been changed …

… psychiatry can’t really deal with all of this because it is pinioned to a subject-object truth system which declares that one particular intellectual pattern is real & all others are illusions. Psychiatry is forced to take this position in contradiction to history, which shows … that one era’s illusions become another era’s truth … [also] in contradiction to geography … one area’s truth are another area’s illusions … not only does insanity vary from culture to culture, but sanity itself also varies from culture to culture …

… in the psychiatric wards … what the patients showed wasn’t any one common characteristic but an absence of one. What was absent was the kind of standard social role-playing that ‘normal’ people get into … the insane see this role-playing & resent it … Your static value system filters out the undesirable opinions & preserves the desirable ones … it isn’t just opinions that get filtered out. It’s also data.

We build up whole cultural intellectual patterns based on past ‘facts’ which are extremely selective. When a new fact comes in that does not fit the pattern we don’t throw out the pattern. We throw out the fact … a contradictory fact has to keep hammering … sometimes for centuries, before maybe one or two people will see it. And then these one or two have to start hammering on others for a long time before they see it too. Just as the biological immune system will destroy a life-saving skin graft with the same vigor with which it will fight pneumonia, so will a cultural immune system fight off a beneficial new kind of understanding with the same kind of vigor it uses to destroy crime.

… there’s nothing immoral in a culture not being ready to accept something Dynamic. Static latching is necessary to sustain the gains the culture has made in the past. The solution is … to look for those factors that will make the new information acceptable: the keys.

“Your static value system filters out the undesirable opinions & preserves the desirable ones ... it isn't just opinions that get filtered out. It’s also data.”