Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as written by Robert Pirsig, focuses on a number of philosophical life values. These values include quality, identity, duality, and Zen. This paper will focus mainly on the subject of quality and the effect dwelling on its definition had on Pirsig.
Pirsig has put an incredible amount of thought into defining Quality. Starting just about at the start of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the subject of Quality is introduced. Pirsig explains that this journey is considered to be a Chautauqua of sorts, focused on a number of philosophical ideas, including the question, “What is good”? ...view middle of the document...
In the first phase, Phaedrus considered Quality to be so obscure, it could not be defined. Later however, in the second phase, Phaedrus created a rigid guideline to explain the relationship between Quality and everything else. Pirsig attributes this second phase as to what drove Phaedrus mad. Being left with fragments of Phaedrus’s thought, Pirsig is left to piece the fragments together into Phaedrus’s final conclusion.
Phaedrus attempted to teach his students to make their own observations instead of relying on memorized facts. In an effort to do this, he withheld his students’ grades to test his theory that an institutional setting stifles Quality. This sudden change at first confused his students, but did eventually succeed in expanding their mind and allowed them to think freely.
Unfortunately, while Phaedrus has made progress in understanding Quality, he comes to the conclusion that without a positive goal to work towards, it would be unfair to refuse to give grades. This leads to Phaedrus deciding that there is still work to be done in coming up with the concept of Quality.
Phaedrus again uses his students to explore Quality, holding discussions on Quality and refusing to define the concept. This motivates his students to engage more with his class, and shows Phaedrus that the current academic structure stands in the way of Qualitative attainment of knowledge.
Finally, once Pirsig begins to examine “esthetics”, he comes to an understanding of Quality where the concept cannot be defined. His rational approach to Quality is what stands in the way of him recognizing the concept. This preoccupation of defining that which cannot be defined is what ultimately drives Pirsig insane. Quality transcends the groundwork of reason, and Pirsig explains that Quality closes the gap between the romantic and...