Lila - Deepstash


Robert Pirsig



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The story of Lila

The story of Lila

Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (1991) is a continuation of Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974). Phaedrus, the author's alter ego, spends his days on a boat working on philosophy. He meets Lila in a bar, has a one-night stand with her. A common friend challenges Phaedrus to explain why a woman like Lila has value.

This question and the events that follow serve as the background for Pirsing to describe The Metaphysics of Quality as a theory of reality: incorporating Sophism, East Asian & indigenous American philosophy.


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Represents a collection of the most general statements of the hierarchy of thought. What Aristotel called the first philosophy. It deals with questions like:

  • Are the objects we perceive real or illusory?
  • Does reality exist outside of our consciousness? If so it is spiritual or material? Or both?
  • Is the universe intelligible & orderly or incomprehensible & chaotic?

While a anticent part of philosophy, most scientist look at metaphysics as too mystical. As opposed to the hypothesis that natural science are an objective observation of reality. 


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Quality Metaphysics

Quality Metaphysics

Pirsig postulates that everything that exists can be assumed to be a value or quality. "Quality" or "value" cannot be defined because it empirically precedes any intellectual construction of it, namely due to the fact that quality (as Pirsig explicitly defines it) exists always as a perceptual experience. The concept is very similar if not the same as the Tao from the Taoist or Zen traditions. Or God. 

Quality can be broken down into 2 forms: static quality patterns (patterned) and dynamic quality (unpatterned).


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Value is not a subspecies of substance.

Substance is a subspecies of value.



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Static & Dynamic Quality

Dynamic quality cannot be defined. It can only be understood intellectually through the use of analogy.

When an aspect of Quality becomes repeated, it becomes static. Pirsig defines 'Static quality' patterns as everything which can be defined. 

Everything found in a dictionary, for instance, is a static quality pattern.


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Dynamic Quality is the pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, the source of all things, completely simple and always new.



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Without Dynamic Quality, the organism cannot grow.

Without Static Quality, the organism cannot last.

Both are needed.



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Static Quality Morality

Pirsig then divides static quality into inorganic, biological, social, and intellectual patterns, in ascending order of morality (based on evolutionary order):

  • Inorganic patterns: non-living things
  • Biological patterns: living things
  • Social patterns: behaviors, habits, rituals, institutions.
  • Intellectual patterns: ideas

Evolution thus is described as the moral progression of these patterns of value. For example, a biological pattern overcoming an inorganic pattern (e.g. bird flight which overcomes gravity) is a moral thing because a biological pattern is a higher form of evolution.


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Ideas are patterns of value. They are at a higher level of evolution than social patterns of value.

Just as it is more moral for a doctor to kill a germ than a patient, so it is more moral for an idea to kill a society than it is for a society to kill an idea.



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Write things down to forget them

In the book, the main character had his ideas written down on slips of paper. As he recalls "the main purpose of the slips was not to help him remember. It was to help him forget it."

The analogy he used is that of a 🍵 tea cup. To pour new tea you have to get rid of old tea. Your head is just like a cup. It has limited capacity. 


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Life-long learner. Passionate about leadership, entrepreneurship, philosophy, Buddhism & SF. Founder @deepstash.


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