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Thanks Chris.

I am also a BIG fan of Robert Pirsig.  In the 70s, I got stuck with a project that really had no instructions and a huge penalty for failure or abandonment.  I must have read his suggestions for finding gumption in Zen about 25 times before I got that project done.  Because of those instructions, I hold a 19-claim product-by-process patent.  I have not met Pirsig but I'm afraid I would babble incoherently if I did.

You also may be interested to know that both Pirsig and Veblen came from that Minnesota tool culture I admire so much.  Veblen was raised in an environment where MULTIPLE tool skills were necessary for mere survival.  Pirsig was the son of the Dean of the University of Minnesota Law School and actually felt like something of a failure because he was a "mere" technical writer for Honeywell (who wouldn't kill for a job like that these days) when he wrote Zen.  

I am not sure he understands the incredible popularity of Zen to this day.  My pet theory is that the people who LOVE to build and master tools feel woefully misunderstood and for them, Pirsig has become one of their philosophers.  I also believe that both Pirsig and Veblen got this understanding almost by accident--they were so immersed in the tool culture around here it became part of their intellectualization about other things.

My favorite example of how deep the culture is-- I personally know 4 men who have built airplanes they fly around in.  I met a guy who lives close by who is so skilled with a CNC mill, he got his employer to let him use the same tools to build an airplane for himself.  So the guy now has a "homebuilt" that conforms to the same specifications as an F-16--because he made tools for both.

But no, this door project needed almost no gumption.  Gumption is for the young.  We slightly more mature set have to get by on experience.  Not only have I hung more than 200 doors in life if you count furniture, but I have a builder brother who once showed me his 45-minute door hanging method that was so damn clever, I felt like I had been admitted to a secret fraternity.  This project took about 6 hours if you include getting rid of the rotten door and I used every one of my brother's methods I could.  Fortunately, slow and graceful still gets the job done.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 02:36:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you know, I had entirely forgotten where Pirsig set out on his motorbike FROM.

Dohhh.

And if I ever read about his father's antecedents, I had forgotten that,too.

Since I am maybe based more in the "Romantic" tendency I find I do not have the same connections with the book as people from the "Classic" tendency who have the skills and therefore a more intimate appreciation of what it is to work with the hands.

So the lessons that I draw, and the writing that resonates more with me are clearly different, but the genius of the book is that it not only appeals to both "traditions" / classifications, but it actually identifies them.

I was intrigued the other day to hear Professor Robin Downie - at the recent launch of Glasgow University's new "Centre for the Study of Applied Ethics and Legal Philosophy" (Pirsig would have been in there like a ferret down a drainpipe - it gives me hope that we may yet see a new Enlightenment) - quoting directly from Pirsig on this very subject, again from a "Classic" tradition, as one would expect of an academic...

For me, Pirsig's Metaphysics allows me to ask the right questions of Reality - adapting J A Wheeler's

"Reality is defined by the Questions you put to it".

That is Pirsig's - largely unrecognised, IMHO - genius.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 04:04:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Those of us on the classic side of things are utterly delighted when someone from the more romantic traditions get Pirsig.  Congratulations!

What I find so amazing about him is that his search for some philosophic truths led him to open confrontation with the Aristotelian traditions at the University of Chicago--yet the only way he can explain his frustration with that form of academic posturing is by talking about keeping his motorcycle on the road.  

Amazingly, Aristotle still has influence in the more conservative schools.  Of course, no one takes his science seriously, but classical logic is still widely taught.  Bart Kosko, the guy who first did the math that "proved" why fuzzy logic was valid, wrote a book with a chapter called "The Road from Athens."  In it he argues that we wasted over $20 billion trying to give computers artificial intelligence and failed utterly because we tried to teach them Aristotle.  Yes, fuzzy is a bad name.  Yes Zehdi is Iranian.  Yes, new forms of logic coming from Berkeley in 1964 were going to be met with skepticism.  But even so...

I believe Kosko was right.  The REAL problem was Aristotle's logic.  When the Japanese found a thousand applications for fuzzy, they knew all the criticisms but it simply did not matter to them--they had never made Aristotle into a demi-god.  I mean, can you even imagine the steady-cam routines built into even the cheapest videocameras without fuzzy?--I can't.

Veblen most biting criticism was to call some form of thinking "mere taxonomy."  That was Pirsig's problem with Aristotle, if you recall.  And yet, I'll bet there are still universities that grant advanced degrees in the teachings of Aristotle.  No matter how wrong, the Aristotelians never seem to give up their debating points.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 07:20:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is in the Scots' "Not Proven" middle ground between Guilty and Not Guilty that something new is emerging IMHO.

I had HEARD about "Fuzzy Logic" and never understood it until today's visit to Wikipedia.

To me "Fuzzy" Logic is better described as "Relational" logic (which probably means something else entirely!), and to have gradations of IF/THEN, but no ELSE is IMHO at the heart of Pirsig's argument, and at the heart of our relationship with Reality.

It is only when you realise that Money and Property are in fact RELATIONSHIPS and not OBJECTS that you can come to an understanding of exactly how the partnership-based phenomenon which I call "Open" Capital actually works.

We may now synthesise the conflicting either/or legal claims of (absolute/infinite "ownership") Equity and the (absolute/finite) Debt to give a continuous indefinite form of Capital ie for as long as I use Capital, I share the revenues or production from it...

"Transactions" are the "Value events" which occur as we go through economic life making "Value judgements" that A is more "Valuable" than B by reference to a "Value Unit".

And it's all Relative.


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 08:33:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my experience the AI people are transfixed by Set Theory, Boolean Logic, and Statistics.  Aristotle?  Not so much.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 10:44:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If they subscribe to the "law" of the undistributed middle, they are intellectual children of Aristotle.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 01:37:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The undistributed middle is a logical fallacy. If you mean the excluded middle you have a point.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 02:59:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I get those old Aristotlian terms confused--sorry.  It's been awhile.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 07:13:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I need to take another look at Fuzzy Logic. It's been many years and I was unimpressed by what I was told about it.

The economy needs to be thought of as a garden, not as a wild ecosystem
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 07:21:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suggest Bart Kosko's Fuzzy Logic for a layman.

My take on fuzzy can be found here:
http://www.elegant-technology.com/FUZZY.html

And it's applications in the social sciences can be found here (pdf alert):
http://www.elegant-technology.com/resource/THM_ITVA.PDF

I have been told that fuzzy instructions can be written in Java.  So it is not THAT arcane.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 08:16:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have been told that fuzzy instructions can be written in Java.  So it is not THAT arcane.

Ah, so fuzzy logic can be underlied by boolean logic.

One of my problems with logic is that it seems the question of which logic is fundamenal is a matter of choice because all can be constructed in terms of the others. So maybe one should learn all of them and then use the one that is more suited to the question at hand.

The economy needs to be thought of as a garden, not as a wild ecosystem

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 02:36:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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