Metaphysics of Quality
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Publish Date
Jun 29, 2021
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The Metaphysics of Quality (MOQ) is
Robert Pirsig
's philosophy based around the notion that quality or value is the essential force of the universe.


Pirsig postulates that everything can be assumed to be a value, but that Quality is not a thing. It is an event; one at which the subject becomes aware of the object.
And because without objects there can be no subject - because the objects create the subject's awareness of himself - Quality is the event at which awareness of both subjects and objects is made possible. Hot. Now he knew it was coming. This means Quality is not just the result of a collision between subject and object. The very existence of subject and object themselves is deduced from the Quality event. The Quality event is the cause of the subjects and objects, which are then mistakenly presumed to be the cause of the Quality!
The notion of quality as an event would really resonate with
Alfred North Whitehead
and his Process philosophy who understood that the world is composed of deeply interdependent processes and events, rather than mostly independent material things or objects.

Two kinds of Quality

Instead of dividing everything into subjects and objects, Pirsig divides reality into Dynamic Quality and static quality. Dynamic Quality is the term he gives to "the continually changing flux of immediately-experienced reality", while static quality refers to the hardening of Dynamic Quality into a fixed pattern. In a personal letter to Anthony McWatt Pirsig asserts "Dynamic Quality refers to what Buddhists would call ‘unconditioned reality’, and static quality refers to ‘conditioned reality’ – more commonly known by the Buddhists as ‘the everyday world".

Dynamic quality

Dynamic Quality is the force of change in the universe; "the pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality". This is a really hard concept to get your head around as it is the essence of abstract.

Static quality

Static quality is an easier concept to understand than Dynamic Quality as it is the epitome of the opposite of abstraction. It is what happens when Dynamic Quality becomes habitualised and is transformed from potentiality into actuality.

The similarities between MOQ and Meaningful Participation

There are some significant similarities between the Metaphysics of Quality and Meaningful Participation. Pirsig's concepts of Quality, Dynamic quality and static quality map pretty cleanly onto matching core concepts in Meaningful Participation.

1. Quality is equivalent to the Value-theory

Quality = Value-theory = Information. Pirsig's Quality is synonymous with Meaningful Participation's concept of the
. In the same way that Pirsig says that everything is Quality, Meaningful Participation makes a similar claim about the value-theory as the fundamental "atom" of the universe.
The value-theory in turn is analogous with
Information and entropy
. A unit of information is a value-theory (plan) that "reconciles" the
Meaning gap
between a meta-affirmative need-goal and a
Receptive force

2. Dynamic quality is sort of equivalent to
Meaningful Potential

Dynamic Quality is

3. Static quality is equivalent to
Fulfilled Realisation


The differences between MOQ and Meaningful Participation

I think it is because of these resonant similarities that there are some aspects of Pirsig's philosophy that surprise me the he didn't include. These are;
  1. The experiencer is not more explicit

    The experiencer is implicit but not explicit

    Firstly Pirsig doesn't make the experiencer more explicit within his theory of reality, however they clearly are an essential element.
    "Quality" or "value" cannot be defined because it precedes any intellectual construction of it and always exists as a perceptual experience before it is ever thought of descriptively or academically

    His metaphysical trinity is of subject, object and Quality

    The world now, according to Phaedrus, was composed of three things: mind, matter and Quality.
    Whereas in Meaningful Participation the trinity is
    So the experiencer sits between Dynamic quality and static quality in an arrangement that matches the metaphysical structure of
    The 3 potentials of life
    Quality-Value-Theories-Information (Receptive) is one of the components of the primary triad of life (Law-of-3) together with Energy ((meta-)Affirmative) & Matter (Receptive)
    This is to say that the
    is the hidden third force between subject and object (& between MPo & MVa?)

    Quality mediates experience but not creation

    Secondly Pirsig primarily talks of Quality as an experience, but not so much as a creation. In Meaningful Participation the Self author is a meaningful participant in their life shaping both their experience and their creations; their motto is
    My participation matters
    "The sum of quality," he wrote, "does not revolve around the subjects and objects of our existence. It does not just passively illuminate them. It is not subordinate to them in any way. It has created them. They are subordinate to it!”
    Mitch Olson

    Written by

    Mitch Olson