Subject/Object Logic as Quality's Intellect
An Inquiry into Meaning
Comments and editing by Dan Glover 9/99
Based on Writings of Bodvar Skutvik and Robert M. Pirsig
Robert M. Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality, as proposed in his second book Lila; An Inquiry into Value, abandons any subject/object distinction in favor of experience, or static quality patterns of value, plus Dynamic Quality, which cannot be defined in any way. In this paper I hope to explore whether it is possible for those of us steeped in Western cultural traditions demanding subject/object distinctions to appreciate what Pirsig is saying and still hold on to our everyday way of subjectively objective perceiving reality. In other words, is Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality understandable from subject/object points of view? Or does understanding of MOQ require, for lack of better terminology, epiphanies or leaps of faith leaving behind any mention of subject and/or object? These questions are crucial to teaching and/or learning about Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality. If it can be understood from subject/object distinctions then it can be taught to others in traditional teaching style. If epiphany is required then it cannot be taught in traditional teaching style. Or is real understanding a matter of blending traditional with non-traditional?
In order to examine these questions I researched early archive files of The Lila Squad discussion group. My attention was drawn to Bodvar Skutvik and emergence of his Subject/Object Logic as Quality Intellect (SOLAQI). Therefore I decided perhaps more in-depth focus was indicated into Bodvar's attempt at marrying Subject/Object Metaphysics (SOM) and Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality (MOQ). Anthony McWatt interpreted Bodvar's idea in very helpful ways and I have referenced some of his comments as well but only used some private Pirsig quotes Ant so generously provided. I am not so much seeking to verify or vilify SOLAQI as I am seeking to expose this idea to scrutiny in hopes of shedding greater enlightenment into Quality.
Normally I use very few acronyms in my own writings, but in putting together this overview of Bodvar Skutvik's "Subject/Object Logic as Quality-Intellect" idea it seemed best to follow Bodvar's lead in using these selected acronyms:
InPoV - Intellect Pattern of Value
MOQ - Metaphysics of Quality
SAIOM - Subject/Object Metaphysics as Intellect of Metaphysics of Quality
S-O - Subject Object
SOLAQI - Subject/Object Logic as Quality-Intellect
SOM - Subject/Object Metaphysics
SOTAQI- Subject/Object Thinking as Quality-Intellect
ZMM - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Emergence of SOLAQI
As Good ideas often do, Bodvar's SOLAQI has evolved over time. Rather than following these developments linearly it seems best to simply begin medially. Acronyms in Bodvar's early attempts at definition included SAIOM (SOM as intellect of MOQ) and evolving from that was SOTAQI (Subject/Object Thinking as Quality-Intellect). On June 10, 1998 Bodvar writes:
A while ago I introduced the SAIOM idea (SOM as Intellect of MOQ).Through continuing dialogues with other members of TLS, SOTAQI evolved into our current topic, SOLAQI. It is perhaps of value then to look at some earlier developing heuristics (which I will examine in more detail later) outlined in Bodvar's just cited email. Quality-intellect is defined as [human] ability to distinguish self from society, thereby giving rise to subject/object definitions and thinking. What we call 'awareness', 'intelligence' or 'consciousness' is Quality-intellect, or highest Quality patterns of value we can perceive. Awareness does not reside in MOQ's other three levels, inorganic, biological and social, but moral values do. Since "Quality is Reality" all actions are moral actions through Quality's hierarchy.
Magnus accepted it in its original form and after a little
modification did Hugo find it compatible with his own ideas (so
did Donny I believe?) while Horse and Richard are doubtful. Anthony
has not responded to the last version. The modification is SOTAQI
(S-O thinking as Q-Intellect) which means that Q-Intellect
(generally) is the ability of an individual (biological organism) to
view itself as different from other (society) and thereby give rise
to the subject-object intuition which in time grew into the
According to this idea are "consciousness", "awareness",
"intelligence" and all other mind-evoking expressions (sedimented
from the primordial S-O abstraction) collectively the Q-Intellect.
There is no awareness at the Inorganic level or consciousness
at the Biological level, but please note: those terms aren't the
"supernatural" capabilities of SOM, but (merely) the highest
Still "Quality is Reality" so valueing goes on at all levels. Atoms
aren't matter particles passively reacting to natural laws, but moral
entities valueing Inorganic quality. And so on up through the
What do we mean when we say "thinking" or "logic" as pertaining to Pirsig's
In this May 25, 1998 discussion Donny Palmgren asked Bodvar:
Doesn't Pirsig indicate that Intellectual patterns = logical, rigerous, systematic thinking, like science and philosophy.Bodvar replied:
He does, and those patterns are Intellectual value, but it will beHere we see intellect = logic, fundamental to science and indeed to reality in general. Madmen do not follow logic and fall out of our mythos.
tiresome to list every conceivable InPoV individually so with my
SAIOM idea I try to define ALL intellectual patterns as S-O thinking
itself. (perhaps SAIOM should be renamed SOTAQI? (S-O thinking as
Q-intellect)). Can you imagine science without a more fundamental
subject-observing-objects notion, or philosophy without an individual
mind thinking about eternal truth?
Digressing even more...
On September 17, 1997, Bodvar wrote:
Principally the MOQ's static Intellectual 'dimension' has nothing to doEmergence of Quality-intellect does not mean emergence of intelligence since what we normally think of as intelligence is not intellect level of MOQ. In our language today subject/object distinction is taken for granted. Pirsig traces this subject/object distinction back to ancient Greece and struggles between Cosmologists and Sophists, between Truth and Quality. Emergence of Truth which is foundational to our Western cultural mythos began during this era. Under Cosmologists, Quality became categorized and defined as only small subsections of Truth. Sophists held Truth to be subservient to Quality. To Cosmologists, what is True supersedes what is Good. Sophists held Truth to be subservient to Quality, to what is Good. Emergence of this subject/object distinction of Truth idea is what our Western civilization is build upon.
with smartness, intelligence or ability to think. There are calculating
prodigies who can come up with the most amazing results in seconds, so
their "thinking" is not the least affected even if they are intellectual
AND SOCIAL nitwits. Also, consider the immense neural calculation (organic
value/mind) taking place for us to be alive.
... in TLS discussions there seemed to develop two seeming opposing sets of views concerning Pirsig's MOQ. Bodvar's SOLAQI seems to best represent one such view, in seeming opposition to quantum interpretations expounded by Doug Renselle, who went on to develop his own Quantonics web site and discussion group. This is significant but I mention it only in passing here and will not explore any quantum interpretations relating to SOLAQI until later in this paper when concept of "evil" is examined in greater detail. Along those lines, on Sept. 21, 1997, Bodvar Skutvik wrote-
I once said that seen from within, any level fills every nook of theHere Bodvar raises very crucial points in understanding what Niels Bohr said: "we are suspended in language." On September 30, 1997 he goes on to say:
universe. Life regards everything as leading up to its creation, sustaining
or threatening it. So does Society. Everything dead (inorganic) or
alive (organic) are positive or negative social values. Values from below
are everything from minor nuisances to outright evil while the value of
the Intellect is transparent or invisible. Dirt (Inorganic value) at wrong
places diminishes my social status as a clean person. Burping at the table
- or worse sounds - (organic value) may destroy it completely. Life's more
powerful values, sex for instance must be directed into acceptable
channels, the "evil" greed or lust given some acceptable social form.
The same goes for the Intellect. Seen from its high ideas/rationality perch
every bit of the universe is high or low intellectual value. We do our
discussion from Intellect's premises, and my error was to try to decide how
Society looks upon this and that ...in an Intellectual way. Its impossible;
THE METAPHYSICS OF ... cannot be employed at other value levels other than the Intellect..only QUALITY can. Human beings - when focussed on the social - or lower - level are not Intellectual. When we start rationalizing why we like that and hate that we're back on the Intellectual level. This why it is so horribly important to get the distinction between the MOQ Intellect and the SOM "Mind" sorted out.
"There is intellect outside of language" you state. Hmmmm. Perception,Pirsig's MOQ describes reality as sets of static quality patterns of value, all operating simultaneously and yet mostly independently of each other. All descriptions are intellectual patterns of value, just as real as inorganic, biological and social patterns of value, and we are trapped in them as soon as we start analyzing and quantifying reality. This isn't to say reality is all in our mind and subsequently falling into solipsism. Rather we must look at term "description" as becoming aware, or ability to define. We are aware of only miniscule portions of this iceberg we call "mind". What do we mean when we say "mind"?
experience, yes. Even intelligence, but the (Quality) Intellect is
dependent upon symbolic language. It IS language in my opinion.
Along these lines...
... Anthony McWatt shares some of his private correspondence with Robert Pirsig:
Here we have seemingly solid connections between what Western cultures consider "mind" and what Pirsig's MOQ considers it. Exact equivalents. Yet Pirsig says we really should avoid using this term whenever possible to minimize confusion as far as defining just what "mind" means. Preventing or reducing confusion. This is what we all seek, is it not?Last night I found a phrase (which I meant to paste on
the LS before) where Pirsig mentions mind. It states:
"The word "mind" is freighted with all sorts of historic
philosophical disputation. Buddhists use it much
differently than Western idealists who use it much
differently than Western materialists. Like the term
"God", it`s best avoided. To prevent confusion, the MOQ
treats "mind" as the exact equivalent of "static
intellectual patterns" and avoids use of the term when
(letter to Anthony McWatt, January 2nd 1998) [Ant McWatt, April 2, 1998, email to TLS]
Another offering from Anthony's private files:
This seems to give exclusive emphasis upon static quality patterns of value in everyday reality. Awareness of physical space itself is subjectively objectified intellectual patterns of value, giving rise to Bodvar's own SOLAQI. But first, before exploring further along those lines, let's digress momentarily to Pirsig's Subjects, Objects, Data and Values paper to which Bodvar refers here in his Mother of All Relativity post of September 15, 1997:Pirsig wrote to me about space:
"I have thought about Bell`s theorem and what it might mean
for the MOQ and so far have concluded that this theorem is
just more of the same subject-object mess. "Local" and
"non-local" presume a physical space. Physical space is a
subjective intellectual pattern which is presumed to to
correspond to an objective inorganic pattern. These patterns are so entrenched they are some of the last to disappear during the enlightenment process, but before pure Dynamic Quality is understood they must go. The "nothingness" of Buddhism has nothing to do with the "nothingness" of physical space. That`s one of the advantages in calling it "Quality" instead of
"nothingness". It reduces the confusion".
(letter to Anthony McWatt, June 1st 1996) [March 30, 1998, Ant McWatt's email to TLS]
[The Mother of All Relativity]Here we see some underlying heuristics developing, seed crystals forming, for Bodvar's SOLAQI. First, quantum reality is still generally considered objective. Second, there must be modes of contingency aiming at unambiguous communication between observers taken as complete unitary event. Third, unambiguous communications are intellectual patterns of value in Pirsig's MOQ, while classically it is held that objective language is that mode of contingency. Fourth, in "mind" they meet, if "mind" is defined from MOQ point of view. Fifth, as long as reality is described objectively, for all intents and purposes Quality intellect and subject/object thinking are identical. One might question whether language can be subtly altered to eliminate subject/object distinction? This would seem most productive but I will not explore those ramifications here, only imply them indirectly.
For the LS in general:
It was after reading the "Subjects, Objects, Data...." paper. In an
assembly of SOM based people Pirsig obviously tried to cater to their views as far as he could, so -superficially seen - his came to resemble a SOM approach. It struck me that the search for the reality of Quantum world gives the impression that there (in an MOQ view too) is an objective
reality - although on a still more basic level. I had in my essay used the
map metaphor, i.e. that reality is the terrain a theory has to match or
"represent" to be credible (Pirsig had in a way also, by using the map
projection metaphor, I now realize that he has the better one). But then;
what is this experience/terrain that the MOQ/map is supposed to match
better than the SOM one? I went cold as I saw that I had introduced good
old objectivity through the back door, and pondered this heavily. The
relief came from the said Dr Harris (who I still hope will turn up here)
who mentioned the Lorenz transformation equations which are applied when going from Newton physics (NP) to General Relativity (GR). I am no expert, but I know that GR in a sense "contains" the NP; it is principally possible to calculate a moon trip based on GR but it is far too accurate; NP
suffices with wide margins. Still, when speeds are high enough, as in
particle accelerators, GR must be applied. But NP does not give room for
relativistic effects and the Lorenz equations are used when switching
between the two physics' mode.
However, relativity seen from the classic view has the same trouble as the
MOQ when addressed from a SOM standpoint. We all know the space distortion quandary; if space curves, what straight measuring rod do we compare to? Or if time dilates what absolute time does it fluctuate compared to? It is used as a layman's "disproof" of relativity but the physicists couldn't care less; GR works perfectly, they use the said transformation procedures and do not speculate about "real" space or time (I guess this goes for Quantum Physics too, it predicts the outcome with great accuracy, but cannot be understood from a classic p.o.v.).
It struck me that MOQ is a General Relativity of Metaphysics. History as we know it has been a relentless passage from absoluteness towards relativity. Euclid's absolute flat geometry has given way to a host of special geometries (ZMM on Bolyai and Lobachevski), and Ptolemaian cosmology has been replaced by the Copernican universe that ended absolute direction (up/down) and centre. Now the mother of all relativity is in the wings: There is no absolute reality, it "curves" due to the dynamism underlying it all. And the resistance and attempts to overlook it from the establishment recur with tenfold force. Was it Anders who said that the MOQ was an invention of Pirsig just as gravity was an invention of Newton?. That shows a deep understanding of what's at stake (and that he has read ZMM!).
Any new idea needs firm static latches to really catch hold. Quality is undefined and so how does one go about communicating that undefined Quality unambiguously? Only by means of contingency dependent upon objectivity. By dropping subject/object distinction Pirsig's MOQ drops objectivity as well, much as Niels Bohr's framework of complementarity. Classically, when objectivity is dropped, emphasis shifts automatically to subject and cries of solipsism and subjectivism arise. As Pirsig wrote, this is all part of enlightenment and expansion of knowledge. Last stronghold of die-hard objectivism. Impossible to overcome, unless language is specifically tailored in ways audiences can relate to. Here relativity comes into play, and perhaps if classical and relativitivistic theories can be united, so can MOQ and SOM.
So questions arise, such as does Bodvar's SOLAQI mean ability to think? Is this exclusively human domain? Or instead, is SOLAQI intended to be equated with Lorenz transformations? If so, is Quality intellect our ability to think? Bodvar leaves this Dynamic afterthought:
Footnote: The SOM phrase "ability to think" means in MOQ lingo: "theWe can add more heuristics now to SOLAQI. Sixth, it is anthropocentric. Only human beings possess means of utilizing SOLAQI. Seventh, SOLAQI may not necessarily mean "ability to think" but rather thinking itself as we humans relate to each other. Eighth, thinking is not ghostly objectified abstractions seen apart from subjective observers but rather manipulated static quality patterns of value just as real as rock. Ninth, these static quality intellectual patterns of value depend on subjectively describing objective reality in unambiguous terms to avoid language traps. Tenth, SOLAQI acts as transformative agent from subject/object logic to Pirsig's MOQ.
ability to manipulate static intellectual values - language, mathematics
etc. This is no longer the subject/object ghostlike "abstractions in the
"mind", but as real as real comes ----- intellectually seen - and
resolves the nihilistic trap of SOM where it can be easily proved that there is no reality outside ourselves. Only humankind has entered the Intellectual level, but perhaps other primates are in the fringe zone.
Now let's make a quantum jump to July 27, 1998. Bodvar writes:
The SOTAQI says that subject-object thinking is the Q-Intellect: theSubject/object thinking as Quality-intellect IS Quality intellect. One mark of any theory is its simplicity and beauty which hide deeply woven complexities. Bodvar's SOLAQI seems very simple and elegantly complex, still, every new idea is built upon old ideas.
highest moral level (within the DQ ) while subject-object METAPHYSICS
(the claim to be all of reality) is deeply wrong! Translated into the
Newton-Einstein context it can be said that classical physics is the
necessary foundation for the "new physics" (Relativity, Quantum) and
still valid at "normal" conditions, but once (upon a time) it claimed
to be universal and that was all wrong. The same goes for geometry
where classical Euclid has become a subset within the general
In my essay I spoke about the post-Copernican use of the up-downHere Bodvar makes early reference to his emerging Subject/Object Logic as Quality-Intellect idea. In seeking a "transformative" equation from subject/object metaphysics to Pirsig's MOQ we find it right under our noses. Subject/object logic allows us all this distinct advantage language gives. Still there are many questions unanswered. Just what is "evil" if not SOM? Subject/object division as our highest good? Does quantum philosophy agree with this? Niels Bohr made subject/object distinction dependent upon observer. Pirsig begins with experience and rejects subject/object division while acknowledging this way of describing reality is essential in language. Still, experience must arise for value to arise. And for experience to be shared with others, unambiguous communication must arise. Now it may be that other creatures communicate betweeen themselves but it is pretty apparent none of them "think" like we humans do. But what do we mean by "thinking" as compared to "logic"?
adverbs, but did not really know how the subject-object terms could be
re-introduced in a relativistic sense, and advertised for a
"transformation" equation. Well, then Platt threw in the idea that
the MOQ itself was a possible next Q - development and it grew
into the - now - SOTAQI notion: subject-object thinking (or 'logic')
is the epitome of the Q-intellectual level. Suddenly every orphaned
piece of (my) puzzle fell into place, the S-O division is not an evil
to be shunned, but the highest good ....yet part of the big
In order to attempt an answer to some of these questions it is necessary to proceed to intermediate moq_discuss archives, where Bodvar further develops his SOLAQI. That will be presented as another page and a link will be added here when it is complete.
What it means to me
I've had many discussions with Bodvar Skutvik (and others) and pondered much on his Subject/Object Logic as Quality-Intellect idea. Starting with everyday reality we construct agreements with our environment. Generally speaking, Western culture has come to be dominate in our everyday reality. Determinism is taken for granted. Introduced by ancient Greece, objectively seeing our environment as separate and isolated subjects has become our way of constructing reality. Normal everyday language is based on subject/object thinking. To communicate effectively with others this point must be conceded. Subject/object logic must be used for unambiguous communication to arise.
I believe SOLAQI is one of many potentially valid world-views offered by Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality. Hopefully I have helped to shed some little light on Bodvar's general outlook or at least upon my outlook on his SOLAQI and how it fits into Pirsig's MOQ.
Part I Conclusion
History might tell us this: subject/object thinking or logic seems to have emerged in ancient Greece, tenuously at first. Before Greece rose to prominence there were wandering, nomadic sophists who simply taught Quality. In some fashion these early sophists must have been connected with even earlier shamans, thus their link to Dynamic Quality or the Conceptual Unknown. In order for subject/object thinking, or logic, to become dominant, this earlier sophist outlook on reality had to be ridiculed and destroyed utterly. When Quality is restored to prominence as it is in Pirsig's MOQ, should that expanded knowledge force us to utterly destroy subject/object logic and call it "evil"? Or do we take it and use it as part of Pirsig's expanded understanding called MOQ? As all ideas seem to lead to common ground,
Thank you for reading, and of course, comments are always appreciated.
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