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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Platypus

This problem of trying to describe values in terms of substance has been a problem of a smaller container trying to contain a larger one. Value is not a subspecies of substance. Substance is a subspecies of value.

Early zoologists classified as mammals those that suckle their young and as reptiles those that lay eggs … then a duck-billed platypus was discovered in Australia laying eggs like a perfect reptile and then, when they hatched, suckling the infant … The discovery created quite a sensation. What a mystery! What a marvel of nature! … Even today you still see occasional articles in nature magazines asking ‘Why does this paradox of nature exist?’.

The answer is: it doesn’t. Platypi have been laying eggs and suckling their young for millions of years before zoologists declared it illegal. The real mystery is how mature, objective, trained scientific observers can blame their own goof on a poor innocent platypus.

In a subject-object classification of the world, Quality is in the same situation as that platypus. Because they can’t classify it, the experts have declared there is something wrong with it. And Quality isn’t the only such platypus … free will vs determinism, relation of mind to matter, discontinuity of matter at the subatomic level… are all monster platypi …

The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do. There are always some pieces like platypi that don’t fit … we can ignore [them] … give them silly explanations … or we can take the whole puzzle apart and try other ways of assembling it that will include more of them

When one takes the whole ill-shaped, misfitting structure of a subject-object explained universe apart and puts it back together in a value-centered metaphysics, all kinds of orphaned puzzle pieces fit beautifully that never fit before.

“The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do.”