Lila – Brain Dump Notes

Pirsig’s Lila – finished at last, after many interruptions.
Will add a review, but may need to re-read final few chapters to absorb.
Thoughts for now.

The lunatics take over the asylum again. Should I be worried ? – in ZMM I identified with Phaedrus, in this, I am Lila ! The “game” of Catch22 and the “character” of Cuckoo’s Nest feature very strongly, but only implicitly, in passages about “insanity”. (The reference to an imposter in an asylum, spotted by the inmates, but not the staff – is surely a reference to Cuckoo’s nest, or shares a common source. Similarly the strategies inmates play to convince staff of “sanity” are full of Catch22 allusions – no references made to Heller or Kesey anyway.)

Levels of intellectual / social / biological cultures very reminiscent of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (not mentioned by Pirsig), as used to describe motivation of individuals and groups within organisations / cultures. A culture having ascended to a higher level (or dynamically within a higher level), those levels below become static “hygiene” to be challenged / controlled from the higher culture, but not undermined, without replacement foundations. Equally, static cultures must not be allowed to control / restrict higher dynamic cultures – necessary controls to avoide degeneracy must come from within or from higher levels. This is the main framework of Pirsig’s commentary on “morals”, and the concepts of absolute goodness and badness, and or course, his “Metaphysics of Quality”. (Consequently – lots of good stuff on the bounds of scientific argument vs value judgements.)

Main thread revolves around “anthropology” and its history as a “science” (or not). Encouraging to my main thread – pointing to ethnography / behavioural / process model for “information” (Interesting description of Philosophology as distinct from Philosophy.)

Lots of new references (philosophical and philosophological) and lots of namedropping arising from his post ZMM celebrity. The general line is a clear development of his thoughts in ZMM, but somehow as a novel, it is less gripping than the original, possibly due to the constant references to the previous book. The underlying narrative, Hudson river boat trip / New York locations (and WTC / Manhattan skyline references too) has some good emotional twists though, so definitely recommended reading (after ZMM – no point reading out of sequence.) Post Moby-Dick note – Did Pirsig have Melville in mind when he chose the Hudson ?

[Post Note 2002 – since reading ZMM and Lila, Pirsig became for a time a project in his own right – see Pirsig Pages. Interesting, updating links in 2015, that these notes already carry all my ongoing agenda items – except maybe the realisation of scientific vs anthropological knowledge-and-decision-making converging in governance or “cybernetics”.]

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