In This Best Selling New Book, His First In Seventeen Years, Robert M Pirsig, Author Of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, Takes Us On A Poignant And Passionate Journey As Mysterious And Compelling As His First Life Changing Work Instead Of A Motorcycle, A Sailboat Carries His Philosopher Narrator Phaedrus Down The Hudson River As Winter Closes In Along The Way He Picks Up A Most Unlikely Traveling Companion A Woman Named Lila Who In Her Desperate Sexuality, Hostility, And Oncoming Madness Threatens To Disrupt His LifeIn Lila Robert M Pirsig Has Crafted A Unique Work Of Adventure And Ideas That Examines The Essential Issues Of The Nineties As His Previous Classic Did The Seventies

10 thoughts on “Lila: An Inquiry into Morals

  1. says:

    It took me a long time to read this book, and I m not sure how much these disparate readings affected my overall impression of the book Pirsig doesn t have a narrative structure, he wanders And these wanderings tend to circle back around and all tie in to a greater point or idea he s trying to get to the root of Leaving the book for days or weeks at a time makes it hard to follow that strand and keep a sense of how the ideas you re reading about tie into the overall purpose of the book Zen is one of my all time favorite books and had a profound impact on my person So I m not 100% certain what it was about this book that didn t work for me It could be that i m an older discerning reader these days, and that maybe if I read Zen again today though I have re read it a handful of times in the past it wouldn t resonate as true with me either I am certainly knowledgeable about certain matters of science that I wasn t on my first readings of Zen This was something that I noticed a few times earlier on in Lila I found myself disagreeing with some things Pirsig was saying and I questioned whether it was because he was wrong, or if it was something I just wasn t able to grasp yet This is what struck me as different about this book When reading Zen I found myself instantaneously agreeing with and seeing the truth of much of what Pirsig said, and the things which I didn t understand in the book I assumed I would in time, after thought and reading which I have , because I thoroughly believed in the rest of the ideas i was reading In the case of Lila, I thought I understood , and found that I had disagreements with Pirsig This was a first reading though, and having read Zen multiples times, I always get out of it with each subsequent read It may be a bit early to fully judge Lila I ve also wondered if Zen was simply appealing to me because I love motorcycles and was able to instantly connect with that aspect of the book, whereas Lila herself and their story didn t really engage me in any way Pirsig s thoughts and ideas fascinate, but maybe the story he wrapped them in this time just had no appeal for me I was also really disappointed with the ending My problems with the actual ideas presented were twofold Certain ideas just rang false based on my understanding of the universe I m being vague, i know, but there s too much to respond to specifically Certain others I question the manner in which he comes to his conclusions Many of his ideas come to him in flashes He sees the truth of it, and then puts together all the pieces of the puzzle to explain it I wonder whether his reasoning is just a post hoc rationalization without any real merit That he is just finding things to fit his conclusions, which is what makes the simple brilliance of his ideas so right sounding to him and to the reader I will say that my thoughts did seem to change as the book went on I found his ideas about insanity really insightful And at some point all his talk of dynamic vs static quality, inorganic vs organic patterns, and biological, social, and intellectual patterns all started to make sense There seemed to be some sort of logical leap at the end though that jumped from the intellectual pattern being subservient to the mystic pattern which I think he equated with full dynamic quality.In the end, I think this is a worthwhile read, though it lacked the cohesion of Zen It purported to be an inquiry into morals and in my mind failed in a true exploration of that purpose But it further explores ideas in Pirsig s Metaphysics of Quality and even if many of the ideas he talks about don t all tie together neatly, they are all mostly fascinating in their own right For every idea I read which I disagreed with there were many that I not only agreed with, but almost felt this great sigh of relief escape me because here finally someone was able to express in words thoughts I have not been able to do so for myself Because no matter how rational and logical my reasoning is, how much it is based on a deep scientific understanding of the universe, there is a point where certain ideas i have about morals and ethics and good come down to certain assumptions that I have no method or framework to explain At the base of all his writings Pirsig is trying to explain this same something and so I very much value his works Not only because I think he is mostly correct in his assertions, but because I believe he is mostly responsible and thoughtful in his methods I appreciate that his process of explanation incorporates his understanding of physics and biology, evolution and anthropology, eastern mysticism and personal experience, and that he weaves all these different ways of understanding the universe into one grand idea.

  2. says:

    It s been 21 years since I read this book, and much longer since I read its predecessor, ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE 1974 , Persig s only two books I kept seeing LILA on my bookshelf and decided it might be worth rereading, both for its sake and to put ZEN in perspective It was, on both counts I think LILA is every bit as interesting as ZEN and may be clearer in expressing its central concerns about what makes life good or worthwhile LILA has some obvious similarities with ZEN Both books are travel books about an extended trip In ZEN it s on a motorcycle and in Lila it s on a small boat which makes its way down the Hudson River and through New York City to the ocean Phaedrus is a stand in for the narrator in both books , a man who is obsessed with metaphysical concepts of quality , both in the abstract and in his personal life Phaedrus in ZEN is accompanied by his son, and in LILA he spends much of the journey on his boat with Lila, a woman he has picked up in a riverside tavern Both are foils, objects of study,for Phaedrus and his speculations about constitutes quality in life At the heart of the book is an attempt to explain the world in other than subject object terms, a notion that is at the core of language itself When we use words we create a false dichotomy which fails to get at or to know reality We rely on verbal and intellectual concepts to create a sense of order, but it s a clumsy and arbitrary order Zen Buddhism recognizes this fact and warns us not to mistake our verbal approximations for the truth As one Zen koan has it, if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him , suggesting that if you think you re enlightened , you re not All verbal constructs are illusory even this sentence Now, it s true that for ordinary purposes, the subject object division works well, and it is at the heart of ordinary living and the bedrock on which the scientific method and western civilization rests That in turn has led to all of the inventions that make up our lives in the west Persig Phaedrus has no problem with this it s just that he wants something inclusive so that we can incorporate quality into our lives He works out a theory that society operates with two patterns There is a society that he calls static it regulates our lives and allows us to function in predictable ways Without it, we d have chaos But there is another type of pattern that he calls dynamic and it occurs when exceptional, often charismatic, humans appear Artists, visionary political leaders, sometimes truly revolutionary religious figures such as Christ, Mohammed, and Buddha, see reality in a different way, so different that it shatters normally static society patterns and shifts society into new directions The point here is that these people, if they functioned in normal static ways would never have made these breakthroughs Where do they come from Not from the intellect, limited by rigid subject object perceptions, but from the mysterious realms of quality if it were not mysterious and unexplainable, it would not be quality The difficulty, though, is that what is termed insanity is also part of a dynamic pattern Insane people, however, are unable to function in a a static society, a condition that Phaedrus has experienced in his past life mentioned in both books as what is commonly called a nervous breakdown In LILA, the woman he picks up teeters on the edge of a breakdown, and part of the dilemma of this book, and something that gives it narrative interest and momentum, is whether her dynamic quality is going to prove to be a dead end or a break through.These remarks are sketchy but I think they suggest some of the important ideas that the book takes up Persig, I understand from biographical information about him, has a background in philosophy, but he is often dismissed by academic philosophers as of little consequence The criticism is that Persig can t make up his mind if he s writing philosophy or fiction True, but I think Pirsig would contend he s trying to bridge the gap between the mental world and the physical world Not easy to do.The essential problem is summed up in conversations he had apparently these really took place with Robert Redford about exercising the movie rights to ZEN How can you make a movie that combines action with abstract thought It s almost impossible to do, and for that reason, has not been attempted And I suspect for many readers, both of ZEN and LILA, that they will have experienced the same frustration the philosophic ideas are interesting, if hard to follow, and the plot or the story, in the real world, while tantalizing, really doesn t arrive at any destination Trying to combine the two well, it s the elusive matter of quality again.

  3. says:

    Tja was soll ich Euch erz hlen H te Dich vor Fortsetzungen, denn sie k nnten einfach nur das schale, aufgew rmte Gericht vom letzten Mal sein Genau das trifft auf dieses Buch zu, es hat sehr wenig mit Moral zu tun und nervt aus mehreren Gr nden massiv.1 Redundanz Der Autor Pirisg bzw sein Alter Ego Phaidros versteigt sich, anstatt ein neues Gedankengeb ude f r Moral zu entwickeln, noch immer in ewig denselben Qualit tsdefinitionen wie in Zen oder die Kunst ein Motorrad zu warten er f hrt sie nur ein bisschen weiter aus, das h tte er aber auch noch in 2 zus tzlichen Kapiteln in Zen machen k nnen 2 Ungenauigkeit Er definiert mitunter sehr salopp und ungenau berheblich aus der Sicht eines berlegenen Amerikaners vor allem wenn er auf den europ ischen Lebensstil runterhauen kann Er meint viktorianisch, puritanisch, neurreich wenn er europ isch sagt Jedesmal, wenn er herkam, sp rte er wie die Menschen f rmlicher und unpers nlicher wurden und gerissener Ausbeuterischer Europ ischer Und kleinlicher, weniger gro z gig Pirsig hat einen Knall den typischen Turbokapitalismus der Republikaner haben die Amis ganz autonom aus den sterreichischen Theorien von Hayek entwickelt, das hat nix mit europ ischen Werten seit 1945 zu tun Ist schon komisch, da definiert er sich zuerst ber Qualit t und Werte einen Wolf, und dann ist er bei dem Wort europ isch derma en schlampig, vor allem weil er eine Ohrfeige mitten ins Gesicht eines jeden modernen Europ ers klatscht 3 Pr potenz Redet der Autor in der Figur des Phaidros ber Moral und Gesellschaft, wird er pr potent teilweise sogar gr enwahnsinnig In Zen konnte man das noch nachvollziehen, da er ja verr ckt wurde und durch eine Katharsis ging, nach der er sich selbst an den Haaren aus seinem eigenen Sumpf zog In diesem Roman ist Phaidros jedoch geheilt und der unagenehme onkelhafte Erkl rb r vom Typ mainsplainender Oberlehrer, der sogar meint, ein geisteskrankes junges M dchen heilen zu k nnen, das er nat rlich vorher gebumst und ausgenutzt hat W re spannend, ein Buch aus ihrer Perspektive zu lesen 4 Timing Die falschen Thesen zur falschen Zeit In einer Zeit, in der jegliche Aufkl rung und Wissenschaft quasi jeder Beruf wie Arzt, Journalist, jeder Naturwissenschaftler grad von p belnden Gehirnakrobaten, die in der Schule nicht mal 1 und 1 zusammenz hlen konnten, schlichtweg als Systemtrottlen, L gner und Betr ger in den Sozialen Medien derart grossfl chig vernadert werden, dass die Bev lkerung diese Berufe bereits verachtet, giesst ein Buch, das sich philosophisch kritisch mit Technokratie, Positivismus und Empirismus in der Wissenschaft der 80er und 90er Jahre auseinandersetzt, nat rlich komplett sinnloserweise l ins Feuer Erstens weil sich die Wissenschaft schon l ngst gewandelt hat Ja das haben wir n mlich nun davon, dass Wisssenschaftler der 3 Generation in einem holistischen, ganzheitlichen Ansatz nicht in ihrem Fachgebiet geblieben sind, sondern sich mit ihrem Fachwissen auch in fremde Gebiete begeben haben Phaidros schwurbelt was von Menschenverstand gegen empirische Wissenschaft in seiner Postivismuskritik in einer Zeit in der die Aufkl rung vielerorts wieder negiert wird von Eso Freaks, Flacherdlern, Impfkritikern, Chemtrailern In einer Zeit in der sich jeder Depp seine Individualempirie zusammenschustert ich kenne da aber jemanden , glauben auch Krethi und Plethi ohne Schulabschluss, mit Diplom von der youtubeUniversit t und ohne Verst ndnis von wissenschaftlichen Theorien, sich irgendwas von einer flachen Erde oder einem Zusammenhang zwischen Impfen und Autismus zusammenzuschwurbeln zu koennen Pl tzlich sind alle empirischen Aussagen, die bereits mit 90 99,9%iger Wahrscheinlichkeit bewiesen wurden, alles graue Theorie und gleichbedeutend mit jeder anderen Schwachsinnstheorie, die sie sich in ihrer Paranioa gegen ber Fachleuten aus ihren Fingern gesogen haben Und das nur, weil die Wissenschaft nie 100%ige Annahmen trifft nicht mal bei der Schwerkraft.Wenn ich das Wort Haus oder Menschenverstand oder Bauchdenken, mehr f hlen denn Denken, mehr Spiritualit t gegen ber Wissenschaft heutzutage schon h re, die der Autor auch mitunter propagiert selbstverst ndlich fundierter auf der Basis von wissenschaftlich philosophischen Methoden geht mir sprichw rtlich das Geimpfte auf sagt man so auf sterreichisch man k nnte aber auch sagen, geht mir ein Impfschaden auf.Somit ist das Buch, auch wenn der Autor es zwar gut argumentiert hat, aber in ein paar Punkten sowas von falsch liegt, Wasser auf die M hlen der aufkl rungskritischen Deppen von heute Ein paar Aussagen zur dynamischen vs statischen Qualit t und zur Wissenschaft und auch zu den Nazis habe ich dennoch sehr gut gefunden.Fazit Ich mag zwar die wissenschaftliche Art des Autors, die Welt zu sehen, zu analysieren, zu katalogisieren und zu strukturieren Leider kommt dabei Pirsig vom Hundertsten ins Tausendste, diese gedankliche Reise war nur m iig spannend und f hrte bedauerlicherweise ins NIRWANA der Mittelm igkeit.

  4. says:

    1 The story is compelling Post post midlife crisis man meets younger voluptuous woman They travel down the river together The convention is quite cheap But he never saves her or she him and neither victimizes the other either That s good It s not really sensual except for one scene And the self portrait of the narrator is absolutely unsparing as is his portrait of the girl She s not a waif or a femme fatale, but a complicated damaged person and him too 2 The philosophy is narratively compelling I really don t know how Pirsig manages this It s his thing, isn t it Somehow even if substance vs quality metaphysics sounds like a big hobby horse to you, you will want to find what the protagonist is searching for Clearly it means something to him and I, as a reader, found that absolutely compelling There s a particular scene about three quarters of the way through the book in which the narrator meets Robert Redford briefly in a hotel room to discuss selling the rights to his previous book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence where the drama of the story and the drama of the narrator s evolving ideas are particularly well integrated The scene is so lonely and absurd The juxtaposition of Robert Redford and all that meeting him ought to imply and the anonymous hotel room in NYC in the winter and the narrator s own crushingly lonely and solitary quest creates this huge tension, demand for an explanation What could this possibly mean In the end, even the superficial purpose of the meeting is rendered meaningless as the narrator gives Redford permission to go ahead while privately noting that he can always reverse his decision later Oddly the strange the scene feels the I felt that something important must be going on and would give Pirsig s Metaphysics of Quality a chance to explain it all And 3 His ideas are genuinely interesting People who are into philosophy or lit crit will probably dismiss what he has to say as unsophisticated or uninformed basically, amateurish but for those who naively wonder about whether the world might not be constituted of subjects and object, or are merely willing to take Pirsig on his own terms for what insights he might have to offer his philosphizing is amazingly clear and powerful.

  5. says:

    Robert Pirsig s previous book ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE is a profoundly influential book in my own life I have probably given copies of it as gifts to people than any other book except my own It is a powerful examination of the meaning of life in a pseudo novelistic framework that makes the philosophical explorations both palatable and understandable Pirsig s sequel, LILA, is an attempt to follow up and expand on the discoveries of the first book While it is not an unsuccessful book, it is in large far less compelling, far less easily understood, and far less magical than ZEN The philosophy Pirsig explores is deeply complex and intricate, something that the first book managed to overcome In LILA, there is some very rough slogging The novelistic approach, in which the philosophy is presented as it bears on a presumably fictional story of a mentally ill young woman who falls into the company of the author s alter ego, Phaedrus, on a boat journey down the Hudson River But only in the latter stages of this book does that story become fascinating, and in the meantime a great deal of effort must be made by minds no advanced than mine to parse and come to grips with the ruminations on Pirsig s ideas about the Metaphysics of Quality Pirsig wants to create a new understanding of morality, of good, and his arguments are often convincing, if confusing Occasionally, some of his insights are riveting, as when he explains the real meaning and ramifications of Victorian morality But for all its intelligence and eloquence, I fear this will be something of a disappointment to all but the most intellectual fans of ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE, which, still, 30 years after I first read it, is one of the most meaningful books in my life.

  6. says:

    What is quality Is it a noun or a verb Why is quality so important These are deep questions that affect everyone Pirsig follows up his Zen book with a smoother, sophisticated, and clearer book that may not be as mystifying and haunting, but is certainly mature This book made me rethink myself, my relationships with everyone I know, my professional behavior, and much about my research By my limited understanding of Lila, I am a effective father, friend, son, brother, teacher, scientist, leader.Without a doubt, Pirsig is one of the masterful philosophers of our time And maybe all time If anyone from the 20th century deserves to stand alongside Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Confucius, that would be Robert Pirsig.

  7. says:

    In societies that criminalize rather than attempt to understand mental illness, artists and philosophers may be the first to have the guts to discuss the topic publicly or sympathetically Such societies may first approach understanding mental illness through art rather than through education, medicine or philanthropy, let alone helpful treatment For women w mental illness, societal support toward a true understanding of mental health may be even slower coming than for men, if a male perspective is the society s metric for truth sanity women s experience will always be a bit aberrant suspect Pirsig differentiates Lila s madness from Ph drus in his first book and proposes a new way forward.In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance An Inquiry Into Values the narrator protagonist, like the author himself, is diagnosed characterized as schizophrenic and institutionalized He receives electric shock treatments but the treatment is no cure just a means to an end, a way of going back into hiding in plain sight Like Pirsig, Ph drus eventually is able to leave institutionalized mental care not because he is cured but because he elects to behave as he expects the staff want a healing patient to behave, by speaking as the staff hope he will etc From Lila He saw that the sane always know they are good because their culture tells them so Anyone who tells them otherwise is sick, paranoid, and needs further treatment To avoid that accusation Ph drus had had to be very careful of what he said when he was in the hospital He told the sane what they wanted to hear and kept his real thoughts to himself In Lila, as he considers options for ways forward for this female character heading toward insanity, the Ph drus character recalls his own previous non cure In time this strategy had brought Ph drus enough smiles to get out It made him less honest and it made him of a conformist to the current cultural status quo but that is what everyone really wanted It got him out and back to his family and a job and a place in the world again and this new personality of a conforming, role playing, ex mental patient who knew how to do as he was told without protest became a sort of permanent stage personality that he never dropped It wasn t a happy solution, to always role play with people he had once been honest with It made it impossible to ever really share anything with them Now he was isolated than he had been in the insane asylum but there was nothing he could do about it Her second alternative, he thought, would be to cave in to whatever it was she was fighting, and learn to adjust She d probably go into some kind of cultural dependency, with recurring trips to a psychiatrist or some kind of social counselor for therapy, accept the cultural reality that her rebellion was no good, and live with it In this way she d continue to lead a normal life, continuing her problem, whatever it was, within conventional cultural limits The trouble was, he didn t really like that solution much better than the first And Lila s battle is everybody s battle, you know Sometimes the insane and the contrarians and the ones who are the closest to suicide are the most valuable people society has They may be precursors of social change They ve taken the burdens of the culture onto themselves, and in their struggle to solve their own problems they re solving problems for the culture as well Pirsig posits that a new way of conceptualizing mental health is necessary The way to really deal with insanity, he thought, is to turn the tables and talk about truth instead Insanity s a medical subject that everyone agrees is bad Truth s a metaphysical subject that everyone disagrees about There are lots of different definitions of truth and some of them could throw a whole lot light on what was happening to Lila than a subject object metaphysics does He goes on to argue that The Metaphysics of Quality suggests that in addition to the customary solutions to insanity conform to cultural patterns or stay locked up there is another one This solution is to dissolve all static patterns, both sane and insane, and find the base of reality, Dynamic Quality, that is independent of all of them This notion of Dynamic Quality Pirsig s consideration and definition of the concept is where Lila An Inquiry Into Morals purports to take the reader now 25 years later in an era when discussions of mental health are likely to be about insurance coverage, access, and Rx s rather than talk therapy, when only the rich or the convicted criminal are likely to find themselves in an institution unless they re there for addiction how does Lila read Does Pirsig s way forward still look like a door people are likely to open

  8. says:

    I bought this book in Amsterdam, accidentally, for 0.5 It was lying on an old book shelf that stood right in the street I was walking past the book shelf after a meditation session and saw the word lila on the cover I was in the right mood, so purchased this book as a part of inspiration I haven t read Pirsig s first book, but had heard good opinions of it before It was quite interesting to read Lila for most part of the book It is a philosophical reflection rather than a novel per se The protagonist discusses his philosophy the Metaphysics of Quality I found these reflections to be stimulating at times, while quite outdated at other times The protagonist s views are highly evolutionary, and here they coincide with, for instance, Integral philosophy of Ken Wilber Pirsig writes about biological, social, and intellectual stages levels of evolution, where each subsequent stage tried to differentiate from the previous one and in a way negate it To compare, biological view roughly correlates with the Red altitude worldview and below of Wilber s developmental model, which is egocentric and archaic, social corresponds to the Amber altitude worldview Blue in terms of Spiral Dynamics vMEMEs , which is ethnocentered and is all about conventional norms, while the intellectual level in the book involves both Orange rationalistic and scientifically minded and Green pluralistic that s the parts of the book where the protagonist criticizes some of the limitations of cultural relativists.Pirsig also puts a strong emphasis on states of consciousness without naming them as such , specifically the ones related to what in meditative traditions is known as nonduality His idea of the Dynamic Quality which is contrasted to static patterns apparently, draws a lot from Whitehead whose philosophy maintained that each moment is a creative thrust into novelty Dynamic Quality seems to be analogous to Wilber s Eros, which in itself to a significant degree draws upon the Platonic tradition In overall, the book provides food for an integratively thinking mind however, after Ken Wilber s philosophy it seems a bit outdated while being advanced than all positivistic and reductionistic ideas, still rampant in our cultures, so instrumental to various destructive sociocultural processes Pirsig would have benefited enormously, had he encountered the notion of quadrants or primordial perspectives of reality in Wilber s Integral AQAL framework but the book had been written and published before Wilber made this famous discovery Pirsig still would have had the chance, had he studied carefully the Platonic lineages, especially Russian religious philosophy, which clearly differentiated and integrated the Big Three of the Good, the Beautiful, and the True The author s and protagonist s thinking would be much clearer if a clear grasp of the difference between an individual holarchy and a social holarchy were present.Still, lots of interesting thoughts from the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance An Inquiry into Values that was his previous book the first one he wrote, while this one was his second I don t think that the reflections on values per se were useful, at least to me, but all the picturesque verbal philosophical reflections around Dynamic Quality were energizing to read Some good intuitions and descriptions of mystical states are included as well.

  9. says:

    There are some really interesting ideas in this book Here are my favorites in my own words mostly Darwin s Theory of Evolution fails to account for improvement the author posits that it s not about survival, it s about striving towards Quality There are 2 kinds of Quality Static and Dynamic Dynamic Quality allows for change that creates improvement Static Quality prevents backsliding Too much Static Quality leads to stagnation Too much Dynamic Quality leads to chaos Cells are only interested in survival In their scale of time, mind is just some ephemera that arrived a few moments ago, and will probably pass away in a few moments It s as foolish to think of a city or a society as created by human bodies as it is to think of human bodies as a creation of the cells Societies are not inventions of man but higher organisms Being crazy is like being a culture of one What makes you crazy is simply that no on agrees with you.There are a ton really interesting ideas in this book that are all pulled together by the idea of Metaphysics of Quality It s very thought provoking and showed me perspectives I hadn t considered before.

  10. says:

    This was a fantastic read There were two mind blowing branches in this book The first centers around evolution and morality among the three basic forces biology, society, and intellectualism The second talks about morality and ties into quality in terms of metaphysics and having quality be a scientific metric to judge things This was a great book accessible than its predecessor to me and caused me to think quite a bit.