Robert M. Pirsig quotes

Robert M. Pirsig photo
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Robert M. Pirsig

Birthdate: 6. September 1928
Date of death: 24. April 2017
Other names: رابرت پیرسیق

Robert Maynard Pirsig was an American writer and philosopher. He was the author of the philosophical novels Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals . Wikipedia

Works

„The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 25
Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
Context: I think that if we are going to reform the world, and make it a better place to live in, the way to do it is not with talk about relationships of a political nature, which are inevitably dualistic, full of subjects and objects and their relationship to one another; or with programs full of things for other people to do. I think that kind of approach starts it at the end and presumes the end is the beginning. Programs of a political nature are important end products of social quality that can be effective only if the underlying structure of social values is right. The social values are right only if the individual values are right. The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there. Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. <!-- p. 304

„When one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

This is attributed to Pirsig by Richard Dawkins in the Preface to The God Delusion (2006), p. 28, but cannot be found prior to that. It is obviously a paraphrase of the following from Pirsig's Lila - An Inquiry Into Morals (1991): „An insane delusion can't be held by a group at all. A person isn't considered insane if there are a number of people who believe the same way. Insanity isn't supposed to be a communicable disease. If one other person starts to believe him, or maybe two or three, then it's a religion." ( books.google http://books.google.de/books?id=51i6WkGn6qYC&q=%22An+insane+delusion%22; books.google http://books.google.de/books?id=WZtRAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA426)
Disputed
Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

„The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 1
Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

„Between the subject and the object lies the value. This Value is more immediate, more directly sensed than any 'self' or any 'object' to which it may be later assigned.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Lila: An Inquiry into Morals

Lila (1991)
Context: Between the subject and the object lies the value. This Value is more immediate, more directly sensed than any 'self' or any 'object' to which it may be later assigned. It is more real than the stove. Whether the stove is the cause of the low quality or whether possibly something else is the cause is not yet absolutely certain. But that the quality is low is absolutely certain. It is the primary empirical reality from which such things as stoves and heat and oaths and self are later intellectually constructed.

„Lightning hits!
Quality! Virtue! Dharma! That is what the Sophists were teaching! Not ethical relativism. Not pristine "virtue." But aretê. Excellence. Dharma!“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 29
Context: Lightning hits!
Quality! Virtue! Dharma! That is what the Sophists were teaching! Not ethical relativism. Not pristine "virtue." But aretê. Excellence. Dharma! Before the Church of Reason. Before substance. Before form. Before mind and matter. Before dialectic itself. Quality had been absolute. Those first teachers of the Western world were teaching Quality, and the medium they had chosen was that of rhetoric.

„The Immortal Principle was first called water by Thales. Anaximenes called it air. The Pythagoreans called it number and were thus the first to see the Immortal Principle as something nonmaterial. Heraclitus called the Immortal Principle fire and introduced change as part of the Principle.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 29
Context: The Immortal Principle was first called water by Thales. Anaximenes called it air. The Pythagoreans called it number and were thus the first to see the Immortal Principle as something nonmaterial. Heraclitus called the Immortal Principle fire and introduced change as part of the Principle. He said the world exists as a conflict and tension of opposites. He said there is a One and there is a Many and the One is the universal law which is immanent in all things. Anaxagoras was the first to identify the One as nous, meaning "mind."
Parmenides made it clear for the first time that the Immortal Principle, the One, Truth, God, is separate from appearance and from opinion, and the importance of this separation and its effect upon subsequent history cannot be overstated. It's here that the classic mind, for the first time, took leave of its romantic origins and said, "The Good and the True are not necessarily the same," and goes its separate way. Anaxagoras and Parmenides had a listener named Socrates who carried their ideas into full fruition.

„He begins to discard things, encumbrances that he has carried with him all his life. He tells his wife to leave with the children, to consider themselves separated. Fear of loathsomeness and shame disappear when his urine flows not deliberately but naturally on the floor of the room. Fear of pain, the pain of the martyrs is overcome when cigarettes burn not deliberately but naturally down into his fingers until they are extinguished by blisters formed by their own heat. His wife sees his injured hands and the urine on the floor and calls for help.
But before help comes, slowly, imperceptibly at first, the entire consciousness of Phædrus begins to come apart — to dissolve and fade away. Then gradually he no longer wonders what will happen next. He knows what will happen next, and tears flow for his family and for himself and for this world.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 30
Context: For three days and three nights, Phædrus stares at the wall of the bedroom, his thoughts moving neither forward nor backward, staying only at the instant. His wife asks if he is sick, and he does not answer. His wife becomes angry, but Phædrus listens without responding. He is aware of what she says but is no longer able to feel any urgency about it. Not only are his thoughts slowing down, but his desires too. And they slow and slow, as if gaining an imponderable mass. So heavy, so tired, but no sleep comes. He feels like a giant, a million miles tall. He feels himself extending into the universe with no limit.
He begins to discard things, encumbrances that he has carried with him all his life. He tells his wife to leave with the children, to consider themselves separated. Fear of loathsomeness and shame disappear when his urine flows not deliberately but naturally on the floor of the room. Fear of pain, the pain of the martyrs is overcome when cigarettes burn not deliberately but naturally down into his fingers until they are extinguished by blisters formed by their own heat. His wife sees his injured hands and the urine on the floor and calls for help.
But before help comes, slowly, imperceptibly at first, the entire consciousness of Phædrus begins to come apart — to dissolve and fade away. Then gradually he no longer wonders what will happen next. He knows what will happen next, and tears flow for his family and for himself and for this world.

„What is essential to understand at this point is that until now there was no such thing as mind and matter, subject and object, form and substance. Those divisions are just dialectical inventions that came later.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 29
Context: What is essential to understand at this point is that until now there was no such thing as mind and matter, subject and object, form and substance. Those divisions are just dialectical inventions that came later. The modern mind sometimes tends to balk at the thought of these dichotomies being inventions and says, "Well, the divisions were there for the Greeks to discover," and you have to say, "Where were they? Point to them!" And the modern mind gets a little confused and wonders what this is all about anyway, and still believes the divisions were there.
But they weren't, as Phædrus said. They are just ghosts, immortal gods of the modern mythos which appear to us to be real because we are in that mythos. But in reality they are just as much an artistic creation as the anthropomorphic Gods they replaced.

„These shapes are all out of someone's mind. That's important to see.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 8
Context: These shapes are all out of someone's mind. That's important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone's mind. There's no steel in nature. Anyone from the Bronze Age could have told you that. All nature has is a potential for steel. There's nothing else there. But what's "potential"? That's also in someone's mind!

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„Any person of any philosophic persuasion who sits on a hot stove will verify without any intellectual argument whatsoever that he is in an undeniably low-quality situation: that the value of his predicament is negative.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Lila: An Inquiry into Morals

Lila (1991)
Context: Any person of any philosophic persuasion who sits on a hot stove will verify without any intellectual argument whatsoever that he is in an undeniably low-quality situation: that the value of his predicament is negative. This low quality is not just a vague, woolly-headed, crypto-religious, metaphysical abstraction. It is an experience. It is not a judgment about an experience. It is not a description of experience. The value itself is an experience. As such it is completely predictable. It is verifiable by anyone who cares to do so. It is reproducible.

„Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Lila: An Inquiry into Morals

Lila (1991)
Context: Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions. <!-- p. 73

„Anaxagoras was the first to identify the One as nous, meaning "mind."
Parmenides made it clear for the first time that the Immortal Principle, the One, Truth, God, is separate from appearance and from opinion, and the importance of this separation and its effect upon subsequent history cannot be overstated.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 29
Context: The Immortal Principle was first called water by Thales. Anaximenes called it air. The Pythagoreans called it number and were thus the first to see the Immortal Principle as something nonmaterial. Heraclitus called the Immortal Principle fire and introduced change as part of the Principle. He said the world exists as a conflict and tension of opposites. He said there is a One and there is a Many and the One is the universal law which is immanent in all things. Anaxagoras was the first to identify the One as nous, meaning "mind."
Parmenides made it clear for the first time that the Immortal Principle, the One, Truth, God, is separate from appearance and from opinion, and the importance of this separation and its effect upon subsequent history cannot be overstated. It's here that the classic mind, for the first time, took leave of its romantic origins and said, "The Good and the True are not necessarily the same," and goes its separate way. Anaxagoras and Parmenides had a listener named Socrates who carried their ideas into full fruition.

„He knew that to understand Quality he would have to leave the mythos. That's why he felt that slippage. He knew something was about to happen.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 28
Context: Religion isn't invented by man. Men are invented by religion. Men invent responses to Quality, and among these responses is an understanding of what they themselves are. You know something and then the Quality stimulus hits and then you try to define the Quality stimulus, but to define it all you've got to work with is what you know. So your definition is made up of what you know. It's an analogue to what you already know. It has to be. It can't be anything else. And the mythos grows this way. By analogies to what is known before. The mythos is a building of analogues upon analogues upon analogues. These fill the collective consciousness of all communicating mankind. Every last bit of it. The Quality is the track that directs the train. What is outside the train, to either side—that is the terra incognita of the insane. He knew that to understand Quality he would have to leave the mythos. That's why he felt that slippage. He knew something was about to happen.

„Uncle Tom's Cabin was no literary masterpiece but it was a culture-bearing book. It came at a time when the entire culture was about to reject slavery.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Afterword (1984)
Context: Uncle Tom's Cabin was no literary masterpiece but it was a culture-bearing book. It came at a time when the entire culture was about to reject slavery. People seized upon it as a portrayal of their own new values and it became an overwhelming success.
The success of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance seems the result of this culture-bearing phenomenon. The involuntary shock treatment described here is against the law today. It is a violation of human liberty. The culture has changed.

„It is the little, pathetic attempts at Quality that kill.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 30
Context: The city closes in on him now, and in his strange perspective it becomes the antithesis of what he believes. The citadel not of Quality, the citadel of form and substance. Substance in the form of steel sheets and girders, substance in the form of concrete piers and roads, in the form of brick, of asphalt, of auto parts, old radios, and rails, dead carcasses of animals that once grazed the prairies. Form and substance without Quality. That is the soul of this place. Blind, huge, sinister and inhuman: seen by the light of fire flaring upward in the night from the blast furnaces in the south, through heavy coal smoke deeper and denser into the neon of BEER and PIZZA and LAUNDROMAT signs and unknown and meaningless signs along meaningless straight streets going off into other straight streets forever.
If it was all bricks and concrete, pure forms of substance, clearly and openly, he might survive. It is the little, pathetic attempts at Quality that kill.

„The involuntary shock treatment described here is against the law today. It is a violation of human liberty. The culture has changed.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Afterword (1984)
Context: Uncle Tom's Cabin was no literary masterpiece but it was a culture-bearing book. It came at a time when the entire culture was about to reject slavery. People seized upon it as a portrayal of their own new values and it became an overwhelming success.
The success of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance seems the result of this culture-bearing phenomenon. The involuntary shock treatment described here is against the law today. It is a violation of human liberty. The culture has changed.

„The Professor of Philosophy has made a mistake.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 29
Context: The Professor of Philosophy has made a mistake. He's wasted his disciplinary authority on an innocent student while Phædrus, the guilty one, the hostile one, is still at large. And getting larger and larger. Since he has asked no questions there is now no way to cut him down. And now that he sees how the questions will be answered he's certainly not about to ask them.
The innocent student stares down at the table, face red, hands shrouding his eyes. His shame becomes Phædrus' anger. In all his classes he never once talked to a student like that. So that's how they teach classics at the University of Chicago. Phædrus knows the Professor of Philosophy now. But the Professor of Philosophy doesn't know Phædrus.

„Those first teachers of the Western world were teaching Quality, and the medium they had chosen was that of rhetoric.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 29
Context: Lightning hits!
Quality! Virtue! Dharma! That is what the Sophists were teaching! Not ethical relativism. Not pristine "virtue." But aretê. Excellence. Dharma! Before the Church of Reason. Before substance. Before form. Before mind and matter. Before dialectic itself. Quality had been absolute. Those first teachers of the Western world were teaching Quality, and the medium they had chosen was that of rhetoric.

„I don't know his whole story. No one ever will, except Phædrus himself, and he can no longer speak. But from his writings and from what others have said and from fragments of my own recall it should be possible to piece together some kind of approximation of what he was talking about.“

—  Robert M. Pirsig, book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Ch. 6
Identifying his "destroyed" personality as "Phædrus"
Context: Now I want to begin to fulfill a certain obligation by stating that there was one person, no longer here, who had something to say, and who said it, but whom no one believed or really understood. Forgotten. For reasons that will become apparent I'd prefer that he remain forgotten, but there's no choice other than to reopen his case.
I don't know his whole story. No one ever will, except Phædrus himself, and he can no longer speak. But from his writings and from what others have said and from fragments of my own recall it should be possible to piece together some kind of approximation of what he was talking about.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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