Ian’s MoQ Picture

(In 2012) this is my working model / mental image of Pirsig’s MoQ. It’s limited by being in 2D with evolutionary time in one direction up the page – this limits the ability to show real-time / concurrent interactions between “levels” that are separate on the 2D page, or recursive cycles between the patterns or spiralling out of the page.


The focus of this view is what “distinguishes” the different “levels” of patterns, whether they are strictly levels or not. ie the little arrows are an initial attempt to point out what changes as you cross each particular interface. Also, since pre-conceptual (radical empirical) awareness is / has always been available as long as awareness itself, a main objective is also to show that “intellect” need not be constrained by SOMist concepts, hence three distinct higher “levels” actually interface with the living / organic level in this variant.

It’s possible to turn the picture back to the customary pyramid of four layers, if we treat SOMist Intellect or SOMism as just another social pattern – imposed by society’s prevailing “scientistic” memeplex – and to see real intellect as MoQish intellect. In effect that would be a picture – Pirsig’s picture – of the end-game, but that risks losing a view of some of the true evolutionary mechanisms through interaction between the different levels of patterns that get us there.

If you get hung up on exactly what is the definition of “intellect” as opposed to high quality mental behaviour (whatever you call it, however you conceptualise it) then this becomes contentious. Part of the definitional problem is a recursion, our “suspension in language” and our inability to talk about intellect without using intellect as a concept to describe concepts. Not surprising that any definition of this kind is limited.

If your aim is to do rather than talk, this ceases to be a problem. Of course there are actually similar definitional problems with the boundaries between all the layers. However, we are much more accustomed to taking common sense physics for granted whilst we debate in the rarefied layers of intellect those things we value highly like “freedom, truth and beauty” – so these definitions tend to be less contentious. It is nevertheless still possible to draw and redraw any of the boundaries with alternate definitions of what we mean by physical or living or whatever. It’s always a matter of what matters to our perceived purposes. So for example elsewhere, I have an “informational” view of the physical world – the most basic things that arise from the continuum are “significant differences” – but this is not important to the overall picture.

Important also not to see the image as a Venn (set) diagram. Each “level” includes those below it, values are added at each step. There is no sense in which you can “pull up the ladder” once you’ve made it. We all depend on the static latches that anchor us to our foundations, and provide conservative forces as a balance against freedom to re/de-evolve either from scratch or degenerately. Remember the Irishman, if you want to get there, you might not want to start from here.

[Note that Tuukka has a good attempt at a multi-dimensional view where each level of patterns can interface with any other – imagine a sphere comprising Möbius strips, rather than a flat pyramid – which may help.]

[Post Note 2020: The same “radical empirical” pre-conceptual quality of knowing, and the intellectual knowledge conceived, both figure in this relational triad I’ve compiled from various sources over the years. I credit the linguistic distinctions to Foucault, but it’s perennial amongst those that dare to diverge from the “scientism” of objective primacy, not just panpsychists. It forms part of my informational pan-proto-psychist monist metaphysics, also linked there.]

7 thoughts on “Ian’s MoQ Picture”

  1. Yeah, I only posted it when John asked his question. I’ve had various versions knocking around for several years.

  2. Seeing this picture’s characteristic shape forces me to elaborate on some perennially networked metaphors.
    I encountered “The Perennial Philosophy ” by Aldous Huxley in 1972 and found myself agreeing with Sufis , Christians and atheists like myself . And so I was happy to explore promising avenues of thought despite the taint of religion.

    So I read several works on Chakras , Stupas and Tantra all of which referred to a hierarchy of engagement with experience which was modelled in the form of the Stupa.

    A very rough , from memory , would be thus :

    Air Parasol Compassion

    Fire Pyramid Power Control

    Water Hemisphere Biological Reproduction

    Earth Square Physical Survival

    These levels are seen in a hierarchy which stifles the higher levels when the more basic levels are under threat.

    To recognise this in The Levels of Static Quality , when I encountered Lila was inevitable.

    I found empirical use of a virtually identical image in “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”

    Yet again we seem to be living proof that “Analogy is the Core of Cognition” as Douglas Hofstadter put in his lecture of that name.



  3. Oh, and by the way, I’ve coined the concept of PoPoMo (Post-Post-Modernist) for the stance that takes all these modern and post-modern alternative views on an underlying perennialism as just being part of the fabric of life – the context for everything else in 21stC. In the same way I said I no longer debate “details” of Pirsig specifically – I’ve kinda left behind researching all the new links you are giving me – simply accepting that they “probably” exist, and the net result is already a “given”.

    But fascinating none-the-less.
    This is a recent PoPoMo post on Pirsig and Foucault for example http://www.psybertron.org/archives/10828

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