Robert M. Pirsig

Robert M.
Pirsig
1928

American Writer and Philosopher best known for his book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values" and "Lila: An Inquiry into Morals"

Author Quotes

What Phaedrus had been talking about as Quality, Socrates appears to have been describing as the soul, self-moving, source of all things. There is no contradiction. There never really can be between core terms of monistic philosophies. The One in India has got to be the same as the One in Greece. If it?s not, you?ve got two. The only disagreement among the monists concerns the attributes of the One, not the One Itself. Since the One is the source of all things and includes all things in it, it cannot be defined in terms of those things, since no matter what thing you use to define it, the thing will always describe something less than the One Itself. The One can only be described allegorically, through the use of analogy, of figures of imagination and speech- Everything is an analogy.

The most moral activity of all is the creation of space for life to move around.

The range of human knowledge today is so great that we're all specialists and the distance between specializations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely between them almost has to forego closeness with the people around him.

The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that goodness can shine through.

This inner peace of mind occurs on three levels of understanding. Physical quietness seems the easiest to achieve, although there are levels and levels of this too, as attested by the ability of Hindu mystics to live buried alive for many days. Mental quietness, in which one has no wandering thoughts at all, seems more difficult, but can be achieved. But value quietness, in which one has no wandering desires at all but simply performs the acts of his life without desire; that seems the hardest.

We are at the classic-romantic barrier now, where on one side we see a cycle as it appears immediately... and this is an important way of seeing it... and where on the other side we can begin to see it as a mechanic does in terms of underlying form... and this is an important way of seeing things too. These tools for example... this wrench... has a certain romantic beauty to it, but its purpose is always purely classical. It's designed to change the underlying form of the machine.

What Ph‘drus thought and said is significant. But no one was listening at that time and they only thought him eccentric at first, then undesirable, then slightly mad, and then genuinely insane. There seems little doubt that he was insane, but much of his writing at the time indicates that what was driving him insane was this hostile opinion of him. Unusual behavior tends to produce estrangement in others which tends to further the unusual behavior and thus the estrangement in self-stoking cycles until some sort of climax is reached. In Ph‘drus' case there was a court-ordered police arrest and permanent removal from society.

The mythos. The mythos is insane. That's what he believed. The mythos that says the forms of this world are real but the Quality of this world is unreal, that is insane!

The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.

The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology. That?s impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barrier of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is ? not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both. When this transcendence occurs in such events as the first airplane flight across the ocean or the first footsteps on the moon, a kind of public recognition of the transcendent nature of technology occurs. But this transcendence should also occur at the individual level, on a personal basis, in one's own life, in a less dramatic way.

This is the hardest stuff in the world to photograph. You need a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree lens, or something. You see it, and then you look down in the ground glass and it's just nothing. As soon as you put a border on it, it's gone.

We do need a return to individual integrity? My personal feeling is that this is how any further improvement of the world will be done: by individuals making Quality decisions and that?s all. God, I don?t want to have any more enthusiasm for big programs full of social planning for big masses of people that leave individual Quality out. These can be left alone for a while. There?s a place for them but they?ve got to be built on a foundation of Quality within the individuals involved. We?ve had that individual Quality in the past, exploited it as a natural resource without knowing it, and now it?s just about depleted. Everyone?s just about out of gumption. And I think it?s about time to return to the rebuilding of this American resource?individual worth. There are political reactionaries who?ve been saying something close to this for years. I?m not one of them, but to the extent they?re talking about real individual worth and not just an excuse for giving more money to the rich, they?re right. We do need a return to individual integrity, self-reliance and old-fashioned gumption. We really do.

What shortens the life-span of the existing truth is the volume of hypotheses offered to replace it; the more the hypotheses, the shorter the time span of the truth.

The mythos-over-logos argument points to the fact that each child is born as ignorant as any caveman. What keeps the world from reverting to the Neanderthal with each generation is the continuing, ongoing mythos, transformed into logos but still mythos, the huge body of common knowledge that unites our minds as cells are united in the body of man. To feel that one is not so united, that one can accept or discard this mythos as one pleases, is not to understand what the mythos is.

The real evil isn't the objects of technology but the tendency of technology to isolate people into lonely attitudes of objectivity. It's the objectivity, the dualistic way of looking at things underlying technology, that produces the evil.

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.

To all appearances he was just drifting. In actuality he was just drifting.

We have artists with no scientific knowledge and scientists with no artistic knowledge and both with no spiritual sense of gravity at all, and the result is not just bad, it is ghastly.

What the Metaphysics of Quality would do is take this separate category, Quality, and show how it contains within itself both subjects and objects. The Metaphysics of Quality would show how things become enormously more coherent--fabulously more coherent--when you start with an assumption that Quality is the primary empirical reality of the world. . . . . . . but showing that, of course, was a very big job.

The next time you have trouble getting started on a writing project, consider that it may not be the words that are blocked but your vision . Try looking hard at your subject--beginning with the upper left-hand brick.

The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn't misled you into thinking you know something you don't actually know. There's not a mechanic or scientist or technician alive who hasn't suffered from that one so much that he's not instinctively on guard. That's the main reason why so much scientific and mechanical information sounds so dull and so cautious. If you get careless or go romanticizing scientific information, give it a flourish here and there, Nature will soon make a complete fool out of you. It does it often enough anyway even when you don't give it opportunities. One must be extremely careful and rigidly logical when dealing with Nature: one logical slip and an entire scientific edifice comes tumbling down. One false deduction about the machine and you can get hung up indefinitely.

The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination. It's all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost, the whole blessed world we live in. It's run by ghosts. We see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau and Jefferson and Lincoln, on and on and on. Isaac Newton is a very good ghost. One of the best. Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past. Ghosts and more ghosts. Ghosts trying to find their place among the living.

To an experienced Zen Buddhist, asking if one believes in Zen or one believes in the Buddha, sounds a little ludicrous, like asking if one believes in air or water. Similarly Quality is not something you believe in, Quality is something you experience.

We keep passing unseen through little moments of other people's lives.

What was behind this smug presumption that what pleased you was bad or at least unimportant in comparison to other things?? Little children were trained not to do just what they liked? but ? but what?? Of course! What others liked. And which others? Parents, teachers, supervisors, policemen, judges, officials, kings, dictators. All authorities. When you are trained to despise just what you like then, of course, you become a much more obedient servant of others ? a good slave. When you learn not to do just what you like then the System loves you.

Author Picture
First Name
Robert M.
Last Name
Pirsig
Birth Date
1928
Bio

American Writer and Philosopher best known for his book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values" and "Lila: An Inquiry into Morals"