As well as his use of religious language throughout – bible, gospel, god(s) – we can forgive J R Patterson’s focus on long-distance motorcycling since, like Robert Pirsig, he too is a writer “with dirt under his fingernails”.
In his latest piece, “The Biker’s Bible” published in New Humanist, he compares notes of his own (2012) reading of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (ZMM, 1974) with fellow bikers and with another travelogue-genre writer Ted Simon (1979) “Jupiter’s Travels”. He also notes correctly that it’s a genre applied to situating gods in the world as old as Homer and Virgil.
“Quality then, is a kind of religion, though one preaching improvement for its own sake, rather than in the service of some deity … Much of its appeal lies in Pirsig’s prose …”
Well OK “kind of”.
I say “fans” because as Patterson says:
“Like most adherents, there was among them more enthusiasm (which means, as Pirsig points out, “filled with theos”, or God) for Pirsig than drive for understanding.”
The drive for actually understanding quality is of course hampered by it’s being ineffable, undefinable, an event rather than a thing. Something “you know when you see it”. Enthusiasm is much easier than understanding on the terms expected of “the church of reason”. Significant, maybe, that Patterson’s piece is published in New Humanist, the organ of The Rationalist Association of which (full disclosure) I have been a trustee and continue to be a member.
“The book, a bestseller, continues to be read by motorcyclists, philosophers and everyone in between …
We will not produce another writer like Robert Pirsig until we can differentiate quantity from Quality”
Machine learning (it isn’t artificial intelligence) curates based on its training data sets and they in turn come from the dominant ideology of the time unless careful work is put into their construction.
Note “careful” work. That doesn’t mean detailed, precise, comprehensive, thorough – it means with the human value / virtue of care. Curation isn’t about storing or preserving content for future access, it’s about careful management of transactions that create and use it.
So, we need to be careful not to leave humanity out of the loop in our efficiency drive for “automation”. Mistaking artificial stupidity for any kind of intelligence is humanity’s biggest so-called-AI risk.
I maintain the “Psybertron Pirsig Page” (PPPage) as an online static (occasionally updated) resource simply to provide fixed public links and updates to other resources related to the life and work of Robert Pirsig including his two books ZMM (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – An Inquiry into Values) and Lila (Lila – An Inquiry into Morals).
Although my PPPage includes a “More” section on my own content related to his work, it only ever concerned my contributions to that public resource, and was originally never intended to be about me and my work. Almost invariably however, contacts via the PPPage ask about how and where Pirsig’s work fits within my own? The answer is of course scattered throughout my work in the blog.
Vervaeke I know in so far as he has a whole Patreon-sponsored YouTube series called “Awakening from the Meaning Crisis” – A Psychology and Cognitive Science Professor, IntegratingScience and Spirituality to Solve the #MeaningCrisis. (I’ve not watched all of it.) His title is a good characterisation of the “thing” we all seem to be struggling with in the 21st C, our loss of “Wisdom” – and I’ve seen him in dialogue with others – eg McGilchrist and Peterson. What’s not to like?
I have a long-standing thread I refer to as #NothingNewUnderTheSun – essentially it’s impossible to read and give credit to every source. Let’s face it, our topic here is life, the universe and everything – all the libraries in all the world – and anyway almost all of us acknowledge “ancient” sources that pre-date “modern” intellectual history. Ways of knowing that seem to have been left behind in the victory which orthodox science has scored over all walks of modern life. So when I get a new source recommended, I’m not so interested in whether they’re good or right – they probably are given the authority of those I take recommendations from – but what is their thesis specifically?
When asked for that kernel @Kubbaj recommended this little summary put together by Kaleb Peters – a mash-up edited from several other Vervaeke talks:
He seems to have a thing about 4’s – the 4-P’s of types of Knowledge (Participatory, Perspectival, Procedural, Propositional) and the 4E’s of Cog Sci (Embodied, Embedded, Enactive, Extended). Clearly one of his reasons for the 4P’s is his focus on types of memory storage of knowledge, not just the act of knowing – Types of Knowledge, not just Ways of Knowing.
Anyway with my usual binary #GoodFences view, I see:
A clear distinction between the obvious “Propositional” (conceptual) knowledge – the recordable WHAT of belief and knowledge – and the other forms. Things that can be represented symbolically and evaluated on a truth axis as opposed to knowledge that doesn’t necessarily fit that model and is therefore easily forgotten in our analyses.
A clear distinction between “Participatory” (perceptual) knowledge and the other forms. His elaboration, into “affordances” etc, is because he’s modelling not just the act of participation, but the architecture of the different types of “memory” needed to hold them as knowledge thereafter, not just in intellectualised symbolic propositional forms. (Affordances after Gibson, and in my case, Dennett.)
The two extremes are indeed binary, but there is a spectrum, an architecture of different representations. I’d still group Propositional and Procedural as symbolic representations, even if procedural benefits from graphical and video formats beyond textual language. Ditto I’d group Participatory and Perspectival, the former being the event the latter the remembered situation.
What is interesting is, as a result of his affordances model, he also elaborates a model of types of things knowable in the world beyond the knower. None other than Physical, Biological, Cultural – (where in Pirsig terms the latter is bifurcated into individual-intellectual and collective-social). Which brings us to what does Henriques bring to the table with his “Tree of Knowledge” system: (system, notice)
Also shared by @Kubbaj
Where we see instantly that Henriques brings in the individual Minds (actually Brains) into the M-B-L-C stack. Like Pirsig, it’s the history of the cosmic evolution of stuff in the world. I think this “system” over-reaches in simplistic ways “a unifying solution to the problem of psychology” (?) but it has some good elements. Skinner’s “behavioural investment” sounds good for the individual brain/mind “governing” the individual animal – like Solms (?) systems and cybernetics, and Freud’s “justification hypothesis” (collective decision-making as I’ve referred to it) for the socio-cultural level – governance (cybernetics) at the group government level – where scientific knowledge is that which achieves cultural concensus. (That said – a very strong “science” focus running through the whole here?) McGilchrist and Solms both have a strong thread that Freud was close, but no cigar, to solving this already.
Good stuff, even on a brief investigation, even if there’s lots of overlap that can be usefully consolidated / integrated.
In that “C-B-L-M” axis I couldn’t fail to see a version of Pirsig’s levels of static patterns (of value or quality) – not to mention the participatory / perceptual starting point “into” the system at its “MB” Boundary.
Although I’ve been a little sceptical – probably misunderstanding – of Lee Cronin’s “Chemputation” work, I see instantly he and Sara Walker are the focus of the piece and that Sara is the link here to Chiara Marletto and David Deutsch. In fact as well as these names we have several references to Arizona State and Santa Fe. Paul Davies as PhD Supervisor to Jessica Flack. It’s all connected, but how much does it mean?
(Strangely, having asked AJ the check question that the piece linked Assembly and Constructor theories? – I notice I had already noted the explicit connection back here, though I hadn’t spotted the Walker connection when I asked.)
The “driving” (or guiding) forces in nature, patterns built into layers of complexity, and ergodicity, the history of paths through combinatorial “phase” space, spell the end of (reductive) determinism.
“Information is in the path,
not (just) in the initial conditions”
Also loving the fact that “AI” as an acronym is being spread at just the same time AI as “ChatGPT” style “Artificial (Stupidity) Intelligence” is exploding into public consciousness. Now as well as “Active Inference”, we have “Assembly Index”.
Shall have to take a closer look at AJ’s more critical review. Exciting stuff either way.
I’d not heard of Simms or his work before (Copyright 1968) but it contains lots of the stuff I’ve been using these last 20 years. The references include Bohr, Ashby, Shannon, Minsky and Schrödinger, which themselves include the Boltzmann and Gibbs references.
Entropy (and Negentropy) are naturally fundamental to the story – Boltzmann, Shannon and Schrödinger in the Foundational Concepts chapter – though I can’t for the life of me find any mention in that summary. He recasts the whole story in terms of “knowledge” and “energy that may usefully be directed” – total energy minus entropy, presumably, the energetic complement of entropy, negentropy – basically suggesting that Boltzmann’s thermodynamics will be too alien to biologists.
As well as quantifying such knowledge (per Joule) he provides bases of classification – a method of classifying all substances – amounts of knowledge and type, organisational, exchange and environmental.
He’s using “systems” language, and the organisation of available energy, internally and externally (environmentally). So far so good.
This is he:
This is also his
In 1978, when the book Living Systems was published, it contained the prediction that the sciences that were concerned with the biological and social sciences would, in the future, be stated as rigorously as the “hard sciences” that study such non-living phenomena as temperature, distance, and the interaction of chemical elements. Principles of Quantitative Living Systems Science, the first of a planned series of three books, begins an attempt to fulfil that prediction.
The view that living things are similar to other parts of the physical world, differing only in their complexity, was explicitly stated in the early years of the twentieth century by the biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy. His ideas could not be published until the end of the war in Europe in the 1940s. Von Bertalanffy was strongly opposed to vitalism, the theory current among biologists at the time that life could only be explained by recourse to a “vital principle” or God. He considered living things to be a part of the natural order, “systems” like atoms and molecules and planetary systems. Systems were described as being made up of a number of interrelated and interdependent parts, but because of the interrelations, the total system became more than the sum of those parts. These ideas led to the development of systems movements, in both Europe and the United States, that included not only biologists but scientists in other fields as well. Systems societies were formed on both continents.
Although I didn’t know him, he was well known to Dennis and other members of the ISSS (and wider) Systems Community.
Anyway, continuing the Measure of Knowledge, he makes only the one mistake – or leaves one gap – that I can see. In that epilogue, he summarises what he calls “The Semantic Problem”. Strangely, he doesn’t use the word “meaning” at all, but makes his distinction between “directing” and “willing”. Noting that not just most actions caused in the natural world, but even many human actions, are caused (directed) without being willed. Willed or otherwise he does point out the massive scale of knowledge and direction open to humans, beyond any other natural or living thing, and yet he doesn’t attempt to elaborate the “willed” element. The idea of purposeful intent arising from our conscious will. He concludes:
I feel that the greatest potential for [my “measure of knowledge” theory] lies in the field of behavioural and social sciences.
Given that he is so obviously right, it’s sad that he doesn’t get beyond the basic “resource economy” of human life – Malthus plus mathematically processable, quantifiable, objective knowledge – cybernetics as a set of algorithmic objectives. He omits – effectively denies – the conscious will of subjective human intent individual and / or collective. Intended meaning.
Like all orthodox scientists, he fails to cross Solms’ subjectivity Rubicon. Not surprising since his primary goal was to make human affairs scientific – “rigorous hard science” in his own words. It was Mike Jackson I last noted expressing this scepticism, that social sciences and human behaviour, within our cultural as well as natural environment, could be reduced to the mechanistic causal models of orthodox science?
I need to stop reading, and one of the open books on the nightstand is Richard Geldard’s translation and commentary on “Parmenides and the Way of Truth“.
I have quite a few notes on the Pythagorean influenced mysticism of unity in the one, and the Eleatic geography – pre-Socratic Greece in Veila, SW Italy – that seems to run through it, but I don’t really have the bandwidth to do it justice, so I’m quitting while I’m ahead. I see Geldard’s subject is Dramatic Literature and Classics and he’s an (Ralph Waldo) Emerson scholar. I loved the weary resignation in his intro, his colours are nailed to the same mast as mine:
“[Our purpose] is to learn from centuries of dead ends and blunted attempts just how and why the philosophic enterprise has argued itself into paralysis and gnostic dissatisfaction. It is as if today (2007) philosophy sits quietly in a wheelchair in a nursing home run by science, looking out at the scudding clouds, with its memories of great achievements. Meanwhile, out on the lawn and in basement laboratories, the physicists and biologists appear in ruddy health, enjoying the dance of particles and the advances in technology. For the moment, at any rate, they are firmly in charge.”
Quitting to make space for a little Kant. Just taken possession (in Kindle form) the three Critiques – Pure Reason, Practical Reason and Judgement.