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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Metaphysics of Quality

The idea that the world is comprised of nothing but moral values sounds impossible at first. Only objects are supposed to be real … but we see objects and subjects as reality for the same reason we see the world right side up although the lenses of our eyes actually … present it to our brains upside down … The culture in which we live hands us a set of intellectual glasses to interpret experience with … and the concept of primacy of subjects and objects is built right into these glasses.

If someone sees things through a somewhat different set of glasses or, god help him, take his glasses off, the natural tendency of those who still have their glasses on is … to regard his statement as somewhat weird, if not actually crazy … As Einstein said, common-sense (non-weirdness) is just a bundle of prejudices acquired before the age of 18.

The Metaphysics of Quality … [says] that the values of art and morality and even religious-mysticism are verifiable [empirical] … They have been excluded because of the metaphysical assumption that all the universe is composed of subjects and objects … There is no empirical evidence for this assumption at all. It is just an assumption … that flies outrageously in the face of common experience.

Unlike subject-object metaphysics, the Metaphysics of Quality does not insist on a single inclusive truth … then one doesn’t seek the absolute “Truth”. One seeks instead the highest quality intellectual explanation of things with knowledge that if the past is any guide to the future this explanation must be taken provisionally … until something better comes along … One can then examine intellectual realities the same way he examines paintings in an art gallery, not with an effort to find the “real” painting, but simply to enjoy and keep those that are of value.

… Saying that a Metaphysics of Quality is false and a subject-object metaphysics is true is like saying that rectangular coordinates are true and polar coordinates are false … A map with the north pole in the center is confusing at first .. but in the Arctic it’s the only map to have. Metaphysics of Quality provides a better set of coordinates with which to interpret the world … because it explains more of the world … and better … [it] can explain subject-object relationships beautifully … but a subject-objects metaphysics can’t explain values worth a damn.

“... one can then examine intellectual realities the same way he examines paintings in an art gallery, not with an effort to find the 'real' painting, but simply to enjoy and keep those that are of value.”