I've just finished reading Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition and Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Between the two, I think I've read about as much Western approaches to metaphysics as I need to.
Ever since the New Yorker's piece on Martha Nussbaum, I've been taken with the idea that all modern philosophy, that is post Copernican/Galilean, is autobiographical. Arendt and Pirsig's works, Pirsig's in particular, Arendt's in other ways, really drove home the point.
It's funny, there's a lot of things in both of these books that I've been wanting to write about but now that I'm here, I can't think of where to begin. There's far too many things to say about both. There's a sort of irony there, in the inability to write about Zen, in particular, as the inability to express oneself is a cornerstone of the Quality that Pirsig so desperately seeks.
Ah, I remember now. Between these two books and one I read last year, David Deutsche's The Fabric of Reality, I have no more questions about the nature of either humanity, reality or ethics. That seems like a bold thing to claim, I suppose, but the reality is that Hannah's book does a incomparable job of contextualizing modern philosophic thought in relation to the sciences; David's book is a marvelous reach for a scientific basis on the physical composition of reality; and Robert's lurching take down on the subject-object divide in Western Aristotelian thought basically hits all the notes for me. I understand where the autobiographical bent of philosophy comes from via Arendt; Deutsche, in my opinion, completely obliterates and resolves once and for all the question of free will; and Pirsig situates the free will of a being into the rational framework first conceived by the ancient Greeks but that has dictated modern science since the Renaissance.
What are values, you ask? Pirsig says that it is Zen, it is Quality, it is the Tao, it is that moment when subject and observer interact. In Deutsche's multi-branching universe, Quality is the moment in which you decide, consciously or not, of which universe you want to live in.
Finally Arendt confirms it: the future is entirely unpredictable. Further, she posits that humans have developed two tools that let us live in this wholly unpredictable world: the ability to make promises and the ability to forgive.
I get it. I've heard the message. I have no more questions. Instead, I feel a strong desire to live the most Quality, the most human life that I can.
I wonder if this realization is what underlies the resistance, the fear, that Pirsig met with in the graduate philosophy department at the University of Chicago. His professors realized that if he was correct, if he could in fact show them where and what they were wrong about, they would be out of a job. That no one would seek them out as wise men any longer, because they would have been shown not to be, in fact wise, rather just experts on Aristotelian logic.
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