The Mystical Experience of Domination, Conflict and Liberation


The universe of post-industrial late-capitalist societies is irrational.  This strikes many people as an odd statement, perhaps even as self contradictory, because the very force that designed these societies was that of reason itself.  Hundreds upon billions of human beings working for centuries with only the tools of the intellect have manufactured this, what many consider to be the pinnacle of reason.  And yet, looking around in the centers of this reason, the metropolises that symbolize the advances of the past centuries, one can see cold and uncaring form and substance.  Where once fields of grass and forests of pine lay, now there is pavement and structures of steel and concrete.  Majestic creations replaced by straight streets and sparse calculated rows of trees, so that one may get to the office in a reasonable amount of time in order to calculate the lives of people and the fate of institutions in terms of numbers, profit margins and above all, efficiency.  And it is clear to many that this monument to reason is wholly irrational, despite the statistics and formulas that reinforce the sensibility of it all.

            There are those among the throngs of followers that wonder about this irrationality.  Some of these individuals come from small intellectual groups, such as the Frankfurt school, and some come from the suburbs or ghettos with no special training.  They come either as groups that reinforce each other’s ideals, such as the large movements in the late 60’s, and some are just individuals lost looking for answers with no one to turn to, such as the lost soul known as Robert M. Pirsig.  But despite the different backgrounds and organizations of these people, there is a common thread that unites all of their thoughts and criticisms.  That is, the irrationality of rationality, the exclusion of a part of experience from rationality.  What is excluded is fundamental to humanity.

            In late-capitalist societies there exists a sort of cheap imitation of value.  The calculated efficiency is overlaid with a guise of esthetics.  Theorists like Herbert Marcuse look at this and demand true esthetics, highlighting the irrationality to show its absurdity.   They look into this society for real possibilities for change, for a qualitatively different existence for humanity, but seem to find only more examples of absurdity.  What they lack is a map of experience, a metaphysics that incorporates what the current scientific rationality leaves out.  With demands for value, there must be an inquiry into what value is. And hopefully if this metaphysics is complete enough, a map of the terrain of liberation can emerge.


The web of domination has become the web of Reason itself, and society is fatally entangled in it.  And the transcending modes of thought seem to transcend reason itself.[1]


The current Reason cannot fully account for the irrationality.  One can point in its direction, and show what is missing, but the terminology and structured world view that give substance to what is missing is lacking itself.  True liberation requires this broader form of reason to transform the current ways of doing things into something liberating and qualitatively different.  What is needed is not an extension of the branches of understanding, but a broadening of the roots.

            In 1974, Robert M. Pirsig published his novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values.  The overlap between Pirsig’s inquiry and the Frankfurt school’s ideas is not an accident, because all these individuals were struck by the same problems.  While the Frankfurt school focused on highlighting the world that lacks quality, Pirsig tried to highlight exactly what quality was and what significance it had for humanity and society.  Thus, the two fit together nicely, and it could even be said that both of these two schools of thought are necessary for truly realizing a rational society.

            Pirsig has often been passed over as a pop philosopher.  His book has been regarded by many as a feel good book that advocates taking a little time to yourself, maybe going for a little road trip every now and then to get away from the office.  No well known philosophers have bothered to critique his ideas for this reason.  But Pirsig should not be labeled a pop philosopher because his ideas are not as transitory as that title would lead one to believe.  His two books (the second being Lila, written in 1991) are not feel good books but serious critiques of current modes of thought which exclude value questions.  Pirsig addresses on a personal level what the Frankfurt school addresses on an institutional level, and for this reason Pirsig has been labeled “kitsch” and the Frankfurt school “obscure”.  The unification of these two sides of the same critique begins with Pirsig’s primary question: What is quality?


            Pirsig’s inquiry into quality begins in the days when he was a rhetoric teacher at a college in Montana.  After realizing that quality was precisely what he was supposed to be teaching, he asked his students to come up with a definition of quality.  Neither a single student nor the teacher himself could even begin a definition.  This is perhaps why the question is avoided by the Frankfurt school, because we all feel what quality is, but are unable to define it.  No one denies the existence of quality, yet no one can define it.  Pirsig’s conclusion was that Quality (now a metaphysical concept, so it will be capitalized) was something that existed before words.  There is initially the perception of Quality and then words and concepts are created by the mind around the initial perception.  Imagine sitting on a hot stove[2], there is the initial perception of very negative Quality followed shortly by a string of curses and the ideas of “hot”, “stove” and “stupid idea”.  It was not the idea of hot that caused the curses but the Quality Event itself.  This is the term Pirsig uses, “Quality Event”.  Quality is not an object, nor is it inherent in the subject; it is an event that makes the subject aware of the object.  By making the self aware of the non-self, the self is distinguished and therefore created as an entity, as is the object.  This is why Pirsig claims that Quality is indefinable, because it exists before even the creation of subject and object and even further before the names given to these things.

            This understanding of Quality sets up Pirsig’s metaphysics as a mystical one.  Mysticism is the discovery of existence through experience rather than through adherence to doctrine.  With this understanding, Pirsig admits the futility of even creating a metaphysics; “By even using the term “Quality” he had already violated the nothingness (read understanding before words) of the mystic reality.  The use of the term Quality sets up a pile of questions of its own that have nothing to do with mystic reality and walks away leaving them unanswered.”[3]  Thus, everything from this point on is not truth but only a way of talking about truth that distorts it.  This metaphysics, called the Metaphysics of Quality (or the MoQ), is just a map, not the terrain.  Having established this fact, one may explore the term Quality to its furthest extents and hopefully gain some real insight into the reality that the MoQ merely mimics.

            One may notice that by positing an existence prior to subjects and objects, Pirsig rejects the Subject-Object Metaphysics that has dominated western societies for the past 3,000 years.  This makes possible a qualitatively different existence than the profit and loss existence that naturally stems from having only subjects and objects in the world.  This has implications for science, production and human understanding in general which will be addressed later.  Metaphysics is simply a system of categorizing reality, of breaking it up into smaller things so that they can be understood intellectually.  And if Pirsig rejects the Subject-Object division as a useful primary division of Quality (which is the fundamental reality), he has to come up with a different and more useful one.  This distinction he makes between what he calls static and Dynamic Quality.

            It is impossible to talk about Dynamic Quality.  Dynamic Quality is the force behind the Quality Event itself, it is the force of birth and change that creates and alters the world every instant, it is transcendence.  It is the ultimate good.  Thus most of this discussion will be about static Quality.  Dynamic Quality creates patterns of Quality that are stored in static patterns to prevent degeneration.  Driven by Dynamic Quality, static patterns develop in an evolutionary manner.  The question is, what is the mechanism that drives this evolution and towards what?  However, this question implies certain things about the nature of existence which Pirsig rejects.  The question Pirsig asks is “Are things evolving away from mechanisms?” and this is the model of evolution that Pirsig uses.  Again, this description is not reality, it is of reality.  Thus although it may seem arbitrary, it is a useful description that does correspond with observation. 

            The static patterns identifiable from the human perspective are chaos, the inorganic, the biological, the social and the intellectual.  Each level is based on the one before it, but is radically different from it.  Pirsig uses the example of a computer:  Silicon (the inorganic) is laid in a complex pattern and then electrons are added to it which make a pattern of their own (biological).  There is a machine language (social) on the computer that communicates between the electron patterns and the program above itself, and although this pattern can be seen as a complex pattern of electrons, the programmer new only a few of the concepts of hardware design and the language has a meaning separate from electrons.  Above the machine language is the word processor program (intellect).  The programmer of this knew absolutely nothing about hardware design and little about the machine language.  A paper written in this program would be represented by patterns of electrons as well, but the words are much more than just that pattern despite the fact that they are based on that level.  However, in Pirsig’s evolutionary theory, each level is a rejection of the mechanisms of the one below it and is therefore in competition with it (and being rejected by the one above it, is in competition with that as well).  Thus life, which is a rejection of the value of entropy (the tendency to go from order to disorder) observed by inorganic matter, fights to remain a static pattern of biology and not succumb to the forces of the inorganic.  Society (defined by the exchange of information and patterns of behavior) thus rejects the various desires of the biological level for its own purposes in the process of sublimation; biological units are sent to their death in war and the high Quality biological act of sex is repressed for the good of the society.  Lastly the intellect level emerged when one biological unit of a society looked around and declared that it was separate from the rest of society.  The words and thoughts of an individual are based upon the language and mythos of the society, but form a complex pattern qualitatively different from just grammar and shared ideas.

            Despite the appearance of arbitrariness, this system of static levels clears up one problem in communication experienced under the old Subject-Object Metaphysics.  That problem was the appearance of society as being just a group of individuals, and also the obvious usefulness of the term “the system” to describe a non-human force that interferes with individual existence.  Although few individuals want to die or to kill, human societies wage massive wars, and Pirsig explains this by defining the social level as something different than just groups of individuals.  It is indeed a “system” with its own agenda contrary, in some aspects, to that of individuals.  In fact, to say that society is just a collection of individuals is to ignore the fact that biological units formed societies long before intellect and ideas of “me” and “mine” were in existence.  Intellect evolved as a tool for societies to carry out their own agendas, to build tools and weapons to dominate nature and other humans.  Intellect however has evolved into its own independent level with value concerns other than those of the societies.  There is conflict between the two.


            This conflict is what is described in detail by the critical theorists, but the MoQ view gives it a slightly new interpretation.  The domination in past centuries has been drastically different than the form of domination one sees today.  This is because societies were originally dealing with all problems as biological.  Murder and rape are obviously a conflict between biological urges and the social project, but problematic intellectuals were viewed as defective biological units and treated in the same manner.  This was accepted in centuries past because individuals and society had many of the same goals, most focusing on satiating the biological level.  The deaths of hundreds or thousands of individuals who had not conflicted with society from a biological level were acceptable because the dominance of the society kept all of the biological units alive. But recently, under industrialization, the biological level has been satiated to a great extent.  The goals of the intellect and the social now have little in common.  This is the stage of Marcuse’s one-dimensional society, where the goals of the social project and of individual’s projects conflict, where general ideas such as economic growth seem to neglect the true happiness of individuals.  Thus society works to keep opinions and thoughts homogenized to continue its dominance over the intellect.

            There are many ways to explain societies’ continued domination in the face of conflict.  The MoQ’s description gives the static levels as latching mechanisms for Dynamic Quality.  If a society just let every new idea take dominance it would be destroyed in an instant, and there is no way to tell the evolutionary ideas from the degenerate ones.  Static systems develop immune systems that destroy everything that is new for that reason.  The human body’s immune system will destroy a transplanted, life-saving organ as quickly and efficiently as a deadly infection[4]. Thus the immune system of society tries to homogenize revolutionary ideas along with the degenerate biological impulses.  The same institutions and practices that once homogenized society for the good of survival now also homogenize ideas that would allow the intellectual level to become dominant, and allow individual projects of happiness to dominate social projects of technological advancement and domination.


A broad way of summarizing the conflict between the social level and the intellect is this:  The social level requires that certain things get done, which may or may not be aimed at the general well being of the majority of individuals, while individuals require that they enjoy what they are doing[Comment1] .  Thus what is of value to the social level is efficiency, the ability to get as much done as possible in any given time frame.  But what is of value to the individual is more difficult to describe.  As patterns evolve away from mechanisms, the value structure gets more and more complicated.  The inorganic level values entropy and gravity (singularity), the biological level values perpetuation of a static pattern and the social level values expansion and therefore domination.  The intellect level brings with it notions of self and emotions, what makes a person happy is not as simple as gravity or perpetuation or economic growth.  Minds desire to explore freely without agitation or impediments, and what this exploration is for will simply be called peace of mind.  Peace of mind can be defined as the state the individual reaches when the desire to explore has been satiated and the agitations caused by perceptions of low quality, imperfection, have ceased[Comment2] .  This is not caused by apathy but by the realization of the goal of the pursuit of Quality.  The social level requires that things be done efficiently and the intellect requires that things be done in such a manner as to bring peace of mind. 

This further explains the existence of one dimensional society.  When things produced using the modes of production valued by society fail to bring peace of mind, individuals commonly respond in the way in which they have been raised and know best, by following the old social value system.  Thus they integrate themselves further into social values, falling further from peace of mind, seeking social values more desperately until they eventually relinquish any pursuit for intellectual Quality and conform to social techniques in hope that happiness will eventually follow.  Thus, the old social techniques, or static patterns of ways of doing things, dominate.

These social techniques dominate because of their pervasiveness, and because of the much more complex nature of “intellectual techniques”.  Theoretically the search for peace of mind follows a static pattern. However the tremendous complexity of this pattern combined with the fact that this pattern is ingrained in individuals rather than around them makes it exceedingly difficult to define and capture.  The ability to do so would result in a “new technology” which would produce things esthetically rather than efficiently, but these are fantasies based on an approximation of reality.  However it is the illusiveness of easy static ways of seeking intellectual Quality that makes it an inefficient and seldom pursued process.  Static social techniques then dominate education and thus also the development of the skills of intellect (critical thinking, self-reflection, etc.).


The modern educational system is a static social tool designed to form ideas useful for social goals.  Static techniques of education are employed, and static results are desired.  Standardized tests don’t ask a student whether he or she was challenged and engaged by the material.  Nobody asks the question of whether the student has been changed or if they have a greater appreciation for life.  Instead, the child is drilled for quantified facts to see if they have memorized things appropriately.  Despite innumerable English classes, no child is expected to be able to express him or herself creatively.  Despite philosophology (the study of philosophy) courses, no child is expected to be able to formulate an original thought, except possibly for the purposes of analysis of the thoughts of other philosophers.  Students who rebel against tired, pathetic modes of education, who do not accept the validity of certain basic assumptions, are disciplined along with the degenerate students.  Imitation is the only way to ensure success, as teachers and the institution are often unaccepting of revolutionary ideas.  Children thus memorize and internalize the institution’s static methods of doing things.  They are brought up with social imperatives rather than personal ones.  This is all too apparent in the language used with children.  The question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is almost never answered with “good”, “happy” or “the best I can be”.  The response is often an occupation as the child has been brought up to think only along the lines of social techniques.  Children feel their purpose is to employ techniques rather than explore their own personal projects which are different than social values.  This is how the critical theorist’s technological imperative enters the heads of individuals.

The technological imperative is the glorification of efficiency, of techniques.  With this in the heads of children and adults, reification is a necessary result.  Reification in the terminology of the MoQ is the divorcing of an object, subject or event from its intellectual value, leaving it only with biological and social value.  If a child is brought up learning that his ideas, if worthy of expression at all, are only of secondary importance or a mere reflection of a greater thinker, how can he or she be expected to adequately explore their own nature outside of the classroom as adults?  Sex cannot be an exploration of the unknown, of love (and a rejection of society), but it must be only biological pleasure or domination.  To a well educated art historian, a painting is a jumble of various cultural influences and techniques.  The history of the artist and his society become of great importance, and his play with set techniques of painting becomes his statement about that society.  Although the ologists experience Quality themselves, their descriptions are reified and so it is not uncommon for poets, painters and musicians to despise their respective ologists.  It is in these ways that social techniques stifle individual experiences with Quality, conforming perception to biological and social standards.  Education is the process of reification, which leads to experience which is quantifiable and can thus be used for social goals. 

This sort of reified information is consumed in the same manner as gadgets in modern capitalist societies.  It provides a large base of common social knowledge that can be referenced in various media, such as commercials and films, to foster a [false] sense of community.  A clever reference to the story of David and Goliath can help sell almost any product and reaffirm in an individual his or her participation in a larger culture.  But the individual does not gain a deeper insight into his or her own personal existence and thus has no inkling to strive for something beyond their role in that larger culture. Personal experiences with Quality are subjugated to a social understanding of the self, not an intellectual understanding, and one dimensional society perpetuates and expands itself.

This divorce of techniques from intellectual Quality is central to the current state of domination.  Disputes between Marcuse and Jurgen Habermas over the possibility of a “new science” hinge on this point: what possibilities there are for reconciliation and what the face of science would be under this reconciliation.  The questions raised by Marcuse and Habermas can be addressed under the MoQ.


The principals of modern science were a priori structured in such a way that they could serve as conceptual instruments for a universe of self-propelling, productive control.[5]


In MoQ terms, what Marcuse is proposing is that the social level is dominant over the intellect level because the tools of the intellect have social values imbedded into them.  Habermas objects to this claim with the idea that what Marcuse means is that we implant values of productive control into science, and that what is needed is not a “new science” but simply a new attitude.  Marcuse and Habermas take different definitions of what science (or Science) is and this explains the difference of opinion.  The language used by Marcuse seems to refer to the institution of Science; with a static, oppressive mode of thought and a clergy of people in white lab coats with clip boards espousing fundamental truths about Man’s place in the universe.  This way of practicing science that says anything goes as long as Man is the number one beneficiary, because Man is the only subject in a world of objects.  Habermas refers to science as not much more than the scientific method and a set of valid, yet not necessarily True ideas about existence.  The view of science as an intellectual tool derived from the MoQ would agree with Habermas in this respect.
            Marcuse is correct in saying that the current Science is incapable of being used for liberation.  The MoQ postulates however that the reason for this is not that Science has a political (social) a priori, but because it tries to close itself off to questions of Quality, which is fundamental to the universe and therefore science.  This denial sets up some problems for science.  Try asking a scientist if it is moral for a scientist to fake his scientific data, and the scientist is faced with a question about science that isn’t of science[6].  Thus it is defective as a true tool of the intellect and must rely upon social values.  Science did develop for a social project and science’s existence has altered this project as well.  This social project has instilled social values, such as efficiency, into the institution of science, but these values are not inherent in the scientific method as Habermas points out.  While shifting the value base of science would alter most of the institution of science, the fundamental core of logic and the scientific method would most likely be preserved.  Thus, there can not be any such “new science” that has a new scientific method and a new technology, but the current science can be turned on its head by what Habermas casually calls a new attitude.  Habermas, while able to postulate the origins and methods of the new understanding, lacked a metaphysics capable of mapping the depth and breadth of its implications. 


In order for this new attitude towards science to be liberating, it must be born of the intellectual level.  This means the new mode of science must recognize the human perception of Quality as the fundamental basis of reality, rather than social values which are determined by a specific social project.  Thus the first change to science under the new attitude is the idea of objectivity and Truth.  The idea that scientists can observe the world without value judgments, thus observing objectively, is pure fantasy.  Every bit of data that is incorporated into a study has been judged on its Quality, and it was even the Quality of that piece of data that drew the scientists’ thoughts or perception to it in the first place.  The selection of questions and problems to be addressed by science is also a judgment based on the perception of Quality.  And the core of science, the scientific method, is itself not a machine for pumping out answers but a process which requires creativity and thus perception of the Quality of hypotheses.

So an idea of an objective Truth rising out of this system of value perceptions is absurd.  What answers come out the end of the scientific method is a reflection of the values of the scientists who perceived the Quality of the problem, data and hypothesis.  Pirsig quotes William James: “Truth is a species of good.”[7]  Thus, scientists who are primarily concerned with domination of nature come to truths that aid in this endeavor and justify it.  Under a truly new attitude, scientists would necessarily be drawn to different questions, find different data and hypothesize liberating solutions.  The extent to which this alters the ideas of science is so great that one can see why Marcuse proposed a new science, while Habermas who had the right idea underestimated its effects.

So what sort of qualitatively different facts could this new attitude produce?  Under the attitude of domination, scientists looked for data and facts that could help in the control of nature.  Observing consistent behavior they posited laws of nature that could aid in its domination.  Determinism, A causes B.  This has of course led to many deterministic explanations for human behavior, and thus the domination of nature has led to the domination of man through nature.  A scientist now concerned with the prospects of liberation exists in the same world but with a different intent observes different facts and comes to a radically different answer.  This scientist observes himself and discovers the piece of data that people can make decisions.  He has also noticed that humans are made of cells which are made of atoms which are made of particles.  Thus, the fundamental particles of the universe can make decisions.  B chooses to exist because it values precondition A[8].  We can demonstrate this by taking the hand of a scientist and placing it on a hot stove.  The scientist removes his hand quickly.  Did the hot stove cause the hand to move? No, the scientist decided to move his hand because he valued a state free of pain.  Had he valued something else, he may have decided to endure the pain and keep his hand on.  Thus, determinism and free will can be deduced from the same world.  There are an infinite number of facts in the universe, and consequently an infinite number of hypotheses to explain them.  What determines their truth is their Quality in the eyes of the observer.  Science itself is not an answer machine that pumps out repressive notions, but a creative endeavor. 

The foundation of this new attitude Habermas calls symbolic interaction, which he holds in contrast to purposive rational action.  The MoQ would slightly reformulate these two categories into Dynamic interaction and static modes of action.  Dynamic interaction is based on acting according to immediate perceptions of Quality mediated through static social patterns.  It is easy sometimes to forget that although the intellectual level is in conflict with the social, the intellect depends and is based upon the social.  Setting standards of verbal and non-verbal communication is one such mediation which is vitally important for the intellect.  Thus symbolic interaction, based solely on mediated social norms, is very similar to Dynamic interaction but Dynamic interaction’s basis in Dynamic Quality distinguishes it.  Though, in many situations they can be considered to be the same.  Static modes of action are for all intents the same as purposive rational action.

Dynamic interaction is indeed liberating because it is based on immediate perceptions of Quality, where as static modes of action are carried out regardless of the Quality of the action.  However, Habermas falls short of explaining how symbolic interaction is the source of this new attitude.  His problem is similar to that of Marcuse’s, his description sounds wonderful but on closer examination it seems vague and slightly illogical.  “We can seek out a fraternal rather than exploited nature.  At the level of an as yet incomplete intersubjectivity we can impute subjectivity to animals and plants, even to minerals, and try to communicate with nature instead of merely possessing her under conditions of severed communication.”[9]  Add this fraternal relationship to Habermas’ definition of symbolic interaction which requires “consensual norms” and “reciprocal expectations about behavior.”[10], and one sees the conceptual problem.  Now there is the absurd notion that a rock, as a subject, has an expectation about human behavior.  Communication through symbols with inanimate objects (inanimate subjects?) such as nature seems illogical.  This logical confusion stems from the old Subject-Object Metaphysics which the MoQ rejects for reasons such as this[11]. 

What Habermas has actually suggested is not only a new attitude towards science, but a new way of viewing reason itself, which is liberating in its practice rather than repressive.  This view of reason is not so much new as under practiced and misunderstood.  Under a technological imperative, reason itself has become a static method.  It has become a set of rules through which problems are solved.  With the idea of symbolic interaction or Dynamic interaction, it can be seen that this is not the case.  Reason is much more like a language whose goal is also to intellectually grasp Quality. 

Just as rhetoric can be taught as a system of rules, grammar and outlines and such, so reason can also be distorted to appear to be no more than purposive rational action.  But to the theorists who truly understand and utilize reason as great authors utilize rhetoric and musicians use musical theory, the scientific method is one of the most creative of endeavors.  Under this practice of reason, one does not follow reason to a certain goal but interacts dynamically with the Quality of ideas, being changed by them and changing them until ultimately the theorist and the theory reach a point of high quality together.  The theorist and the theory move towards or fall away from Quality together[12], and the process stops only when the theorist reaches peace of mind with the ideas, or gives up unsatisfied.  This is the model of symbolic interaction described by Habermas where men do not communicate with rocks but struggle with the concepts of the rock until the thinker reaches peace of mind.  It is called symbolic interaction because one is dealing with symbols, words and concepts, and it is called Dynamic interaction because its source springs from Dynamic Quality and not static patterns.  Dealing with Dynamic Quality in this sense is pursuing the flashes of Quality that a thinker perceives rather than working towards a static goal.

This begins to illustrate a new idea of what humanity is and also a new direction for its liberation.  The Marxian concept of man was that of Homo Faber, man defined by his ability to create.  Man’s domination from this definition came from his alienation from his creations, from the separation of planning, producing and distributing.  Under the MoQ, humanity is defined differently.  Man is that which pursues intellectual (in the MoQ understanding of the word) Quality.  Arête is a Greek word which is often translated to mean virtue, but means something closer to excellence.  This new concept of humanity can be termed Homo Arête, if one excuses the mixing of languages, as man is defined by his ability to pursue personal excellence and Quality in all its forms.  A man who spends his entire life in a shop planning, producing and selling a product is not a free man, despite how un-alienated he is from his products.  If he is not allowed to love a significant other or allowed to raise a child of his own, if he may not leave his life of production and explore the world for some time, if he is not allowed the pursuit of Quality as he perceives it, he is a slave.  At the time Marx was alive, the alienation of man from his products was the most glaring aspect of his unfreedom.  But today, under one-dimensional society, humanity is unfree to a greater extent as questions of Quality are hardly ever explored.  Man’s alienation from the Quality of production is, however, still a glaring piece of man’s total alienation from his humanity.


The distinction between craftsman and menial laborer is the same distinction as between symbolic interaction and purposive rational action.  To the former, work is an end in itself whereas to the latter[Comment3]  it is a step in a process towards a higher static goal.  Craftsmen are pursuing Quality through their actions, they are guided by it and their job is only completed when they are satisfied.  Laborers see little Quality in what they are doing and while working let their thoughts drift to pursue Quality elsewhere, such as having sexual fantasies (biological Quality).  Their job is finished when the static goal has been filled and their personal perception of Quality does not play into their notion of ‘finished’.  Humanity’s freedom depends on each individual’s ability to realize craftsmanship in his or her work and thus do away with the notion of the laborer.  Under the current conditions this seems nearly impossible.

One reason that this is nearly impossible is the fetishism of commodities.  This phenomenon and its degenerative nature are clearly explained in MoQ terms.  It is a pursuit of social Quality.  Widely known in the social structure of many species is the idea of a leader.  By the nature of this leader it has rights to the excesses and higher Quality things.  Even in the most idealist communist countries has this social pattern been repeated and accepted.  Thus, on a social level, the accumulation of excesses is intimately tied with ideas of high social Quality.  Thus people with the means to do so often appropriate excessively large dwellings and an obscene amount of commodities, simulating the leaders, aristocrats and celebrities around them.  People often expect social recognition for the largest excesses and most expensive things, and the rest of the population follows the same social pattern.  This sort of behavior might actually be considered constructive were it not for the existence of the intellectual level. 

The intellectual level brings with it a new variety of Quality to be pursued.  This Quality is that of the individual.  Social displays of wealth are grasping at a value structure that, for true liberation, should be secondary to this value structure.  The fulfilling of this social value is an impediment to realization of freedom because it requires social, and therefore efficient means of production.  These means of production are in direct contrast to craftsman type production.  The demand that must arise in order for craftsmen to become dominant is the demand Marcuse and many students make, that of true esthetics.

Dynamic interaction, here distinguished from Habermas’ symbolic interaction, is key in this achievement of true esthetics.  The process of production which utilizes Dynamic interaction rather than static modes of production should be called peace of mind production.  This is because this form of production is an end in itself.  It is not based on future goals of monetary compensation or trade value, but the product itself is an expression of Quality.  Society often demands that products be thought of in a profit or loss context.  This makes possible a complex system of trade which is regulated by profits on one side equaling the losses on another.  On a social level this is highly effective.  Capitalism is perhaps the most dynamic social arrangement conceived of thus far, allowing people to work fairly independently yet remain in contact with the entire system by calculating their own profit and loss.  There is however now a value system above that of society and the profit and loss system of organization often compromises intellectual Quality.  What is the profit of a truly esthetic item that seems to radiate Dynamic Quality, and what is the loss of ones peace of mind?  These questions are central to humanities liberation from dominating static social patterns.


In production where the goal is that of individual peace of mind rather than social symbols or goals there is a necessary interaction between the individual and Quality.  Here the rejection of subject and object distinctions becomes important, for it is not the craftsman imposing his will upon an object, but the craftsman working on his personal state of mind and perception of Quality in a partnership with the material.  The movements of the craftsman become an expression of Quality, as does the material itself.  That which drives the craftsman to work is not social goals but his or her own perception of low Quality and the agitations caused by it.  To work well with the material is to create a situation of higher Quality and the work is done when the craftsman’s mind is no longer agitated, when he or she reaches peace of mind.  Thus the individual and not society determines when the job is completed.  Efficiency, a high Quality social goal, is replaced by genuine esthetics, a high Quality intellectual goal.  This mode of production is very similar to both the actions of the theorist and of the artist, and there is something in common between the three.

Dynamic interaction is this connection.  The theorist, out of infinite possible data and hypotheses, comes to a theory that he considers to be of high Quality.  The craftsman, out of the infinite possible things to make and ways to make them, comes to a final product that he considers to be of high Quality.  The artist, confronted with the infinite possibilities of the canvas, language, stone, wood, musical instrument, follows Quality until she is content.  The end result of all these endeavors is peace of mind, the satisfaction of having sought Quality and found it.  The process by which they find this Quality is by submitting to Dynamic Quality and interacting with it through Dynamic interaction.  Ultimately, there is not free will in the pursuit of peace of mind as actions are dictated by Quality.  A theorist, craftsman or artist cannot simply convince themselves that a particular thought or movement is high Quality; they are guided by Quality to make these things.

The result of this process of creation is a product of high Quality.  It radiates the esthetics which Marcuse demands.  The Quality of the product is dependant upon the perceptiveness of the creator to Quality, which is something that comes with experience with it.  A truly great creator may have such great insight into Quality that his or her work can create what Marcuse calls an aural experience.  The origin of the aural experience is, in MoQ terms, Dynamic Quality.  Upon viewing the work of a great creator all intellectual static patterns cease.  Words fail, attempts at explanation fail.  The great creator can capture in a static pattern the same Quality that guided the creation process.  The perception of this high Quality becomes an experience of Dynamic interaction between the viewer and the piece, and the Dynamic nature of the inorganic static pattern becomes apparent.  Because of this Dynamic Quality, the Quality of freedom, that the viewer experiences, there can be negation.  There is negation because Dynamic Quality can destroy the static patterns of the concepts of society, domination, and even of the self, of the “me”.  Thus if true attention is paid to Quality in the process of creation, there is incalculable benefit to both the creator and the viewer. 

One must note however that the Dynamic Quality is inexpressible.  The creator himself may be able to follow Dynamic Quality without comprehension or conceptualization, but through his actions the Dynamic Quality is mediated through a static social pattern, such as a skill or a language.  Einstein and Andy Warhol were following the same Dynamic Quality but it was mediated through entirely different static social patterns.  Thus the ability to agree upon high Quality and thus have Dynamic interaction with a theory, product or piece of art depends upon the shared social patterns of the creator and viewer.  This raises the question of the new role of education in a society of individuals striving for or who have already achieved liberation.


Education is indoctrination and the social level is based upon a certain amount of homogenization.  The intellectual level itself is based upon the social level, so intellect requires a certain amount of homogenization.  The existence of an individual requires a certain amount of homogenization.  This statement sounds preposterous.  But in fact, without a language with which to formulate a single thought, how would a child ever develop the concept of a self.  A child with no social education exists as a biological unit only.  Thus too little education and the child never rises out of the biological or social level, but to much homogenization and the child is stuck as an individual to firmly rooted in the social level to ever experience Quality for itself.  Many children in poor areas have to little a base to mediate their experiences with Quality into something expressible or intellectually graspable, and without this static latch the notion slips away.  And many children of rich areas have has so much education about their particular society that in America children grow up with the inability to grasp a single Marxian concept or to think critically outside a certain established framework.  The role of education then is to provide an extensive base for mediation of ideas but then allow room for independent ideas to develop.

Education is not restricted to children.  Human beings are constantly learning.  The earliest years of education by necessity must be indoctrination of social standards; language, reason, math, and basic concepts that are necessary for human interaction with both other humans and the world around them.  Methods of doing should be avoided unless necessary and the methods that are taught in the earliest stages should be addressed and challenged by later education.  The avoidance of ingraining ways of doing in all stages of education is vital.  This form of education is called instruction.  The most prevalent form of instruction in modern times is the instruction manual, designed to show novices how to build and operate devices that they would not be able to on their own.  This method is a static mode of production which lends itself only to purposive rational action.  The instruction manual, and instruction in general, for a liberated humanity would have the incorporate Dynamic or symbolic interaction.

Currently, instruction manuals are written by writers who get their information from the lowest level assembly line worker.  Anybody else who understands how the product is assembled could be more efficiently used on the assembly line or somewhere else.  This worker explains how he would put it together and thus every person who builds that product from then on will use that one way[13], which is hardly the absolute best, and most likely is not the best for the particular individuals assembling it at home.  But there is more than one way to assemble the device.  In a liberated society each individual would be allowed to explore for him or her self the best way to do it, to find the Quality of the device and follow it until it was finished in such a way that the individual found peace of mind.  By following directions the individual has no way of reaching peace of mind because they do not completely understand what it is they are doing.  In order for peace of mind to be reached then, the individual must chose what to do based on an understanding of the underlying concepts.  This new manual would not give only one static way of assembling the device but would map out the concept behind each part.  Each part is in fact a concept made into a static inorganic pattern, and with an understanding of what each concept is and why it was introduced to the whole, the individual can understand the whole.  From there the individual is free to assemble it anyway he or she chooses and is capable of reaching peace of mind.  If the product doesn’t work then, rather than disassembling it and trying to do the same thing over, the individual can perform various tests to find out which concepts aren’t working right and make the appropriate changes.  In the future, if the device breaks, the individual has the understanding of how to fix it and he or she can make changes to the design to fit their own personal tastes.  But most importantly, the individual has not just gained a chair or a motorbike but has gained experience with Quality mediated through reason.  Because the acuteness of the perception of Quality is based on experiences with it, the individual who has struggled with the assembly has gained a better understanding of Quality which may enter into many other facets of his being.

These methods of non-instruction can be applied in the classroom of older students as well.  For example, the teaching of rhetoric would involve the teaching of the various ‘rules’ of rhetoric, but it would also have to be explained that these ‘rules’ should not be followed as static ways of doing things that should never be broken for their own sake.  The rules are instead methods discovered to aid in the pursuit of Quality.  The rules of writing prescribed by George Orwell are “1, never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. 2, never use a long word where a short one will do.” And so on, the last rule however is “6, break any of these rules rather than say anything outright barbarous.”[14]  Although Orwell presents these rules to bring the English language back to something of higher Quality, he realizes that Quality is before the rules and that any of them should be broken if they compromise true Quality.  The rest of the rules are accompanied by explanations of how they lead towards Quality and examples that illustrate his point.  Thus the rules themselves are not stated as doctrine, but the value of their use is demonstrated.  A liberated model of education would be similar.

The focus here is of course Quality.  The role of education is to both provide the social framework in children that gives them ability to latch Quality Events into intellectual modes but also to allow the children to experience and explore intellectual Quality on their own.  This is an extremely inefficient way of teaching children.  It takes much longer for a child to grasp a concept himself through struggling with it than it does for the teacher to just impose her personal or social values.  Drawings made by children in coloring books may look much more like what adults want from children, but the child has been alienated from its humanity, from its ability to seek Quality.  Later, having less experience with seeking Quality, the child may not question the “five-paragraph essay” format, accepting it as Quality itself and not a guideline towards coherency and therefore Quality.  And so on and so on gaining less experience with Quality than the universe makes possible, and therefore becoming less and less free.  The actuality measured against the potentiality is, in a word, frightening.


It is easy at this point to blame domination on the social level.  The social level is in fact the source of the force of homogenization.  But, the social level is behaving the way it is supposed to.  For thousands of years the social level has operated with similar mechanisms allowing for the perpetuation of species and their evolution which has eventually led to the creation of the intellect.  To feel indignant towards the social level is like being offended by a rock slide that almost crushes you.  The responsibility to attain liberation rests upon the intellectual level, upon individuals.

Looking towards the institutions established for societal goals for liberation seems an odd notion.  These institutions by their nature impose values and dominate, whether this domination is for the general betterment of humanity, as it often is, or not.  Liberation imposed by institutions can not be considered true liberation.  Liberation is an attribute of the intellect; it is of a pattern too complex to be relegated to the social level.  It is thus in individuals and not from institutions that we must seek liberation.  In the past there have been those who have sought emancipation through social means, who have tried to impose freedom on those who did not know its value from experience.  The results have been between the genocide of Pol Pot and the vanguard party of Lenin.  None can be considered successful.  Even in Cuba the static pattern of aristocrats with wealth and impoverished lower classes continues. And theoretically if general wealth were available in Cuba, then would not the general population fall into the same static social pattern exhibited by Castro and create another consumerist society?  Thus, the imposition of emancipation upon those who do not know how to truly value it has been a failure.

Evolution is a slow process.  For approximately five times recorded history humanity existed with the tools of intellect.  From what writings we have, the intellectual level did not seem to separate as a level from the social until the death of Socrates, who died putting intellect above the social.  And then only several thousand years later did the intellectual level actually come into direct conflict with the old social values.  How long it will be before the social level exists dominated by the intellectual level there is no way to predict.  But, in order for the intellect to ever dominate, it must stop seeking legitimation [Comment4] from the social realm and legitimate itself in terms of the Quality it seeks. The Quality of life, the Quality of the individual.  There may be some social restructuring that is necessary as preparation, such as educational reforms, but the face of the final revolution cannot be economic, political or social.

If liberation cannot be imposed upon people through social institutions, how can it be achieved?  Individuals must be convinced of the value of such liberation.  This is done most effectively not through articles or television programs but through example.  The further removed the viewer is from the reflection of Dynamic Quality, the less they are exposed to it.  Thus someone truly guided by Quality has the biggest impact if he or she is observed directly in the pursuit of Quality.  Imagine watching a glassblower or some other craftsman working.  If this craftsman is truly skilled (which is a misnomer if skills are thought of as static patterns that guide the process, a truly great creator is guided more by Quality than by static methods) then one can see the intent on his face.  His actions seem in harmony with the molten glass, as if they both moved as one rather than subject banging on object.  There is an aural experience here and the viewer leaves most likely wishing they had that sort of skill.  What they actually desire though is to be that close to the Quality experience.  This craftsman is the ultimate negation of society, for in his work ideas of society slide away as the Quality of existence becomes all the more apparent.  Reading an article about the skill of glass blowers, watching it on television or hearing about it from a teacher removes the individual far from the experience of Quality.  Thus, the role of an individual in liberation is primarily to seek Quality in his or her own experiences.  These experiences will change the individual, bringing them closer to Dynamic Quality, and they will be able to find peace of mind in more that they do.  Individuals who see this person will be able to see first hand the value in the way that person lives.  This is the most convincing argument one can find for accepting intellectual values over social values, the experience of seeing intellectual values bringing contentedness where social methods and goals failed.

If individuals sought Quality in their lives, then others could see the value in this way of living.  If children can only be educated in schools, in static social techniques, then there is no possibility for liberation.  If children however, when they come home from school, have examples of those who seek Quality in their lives, then the child has some hope of realizing the value of this.  He may then go to school with values which rival education’s static methods, and perhaps some children will catch a little value second hand.  The more this process spreads the faster it will spread and the more individuals who happen to be citizens realize the personal pursuit of Quality, the more the institutions and foundations of society will change to accommodate.  Society would change to something qualitatively different, the face of these institutions we find nearly impossible to predict because this would be the mark of an era never before witnessed in human history, the domination of the social level by the intellectual.


A real understanding of Quality captures the System, tames it, and puts it to work for one’s own personal use, while leaving one completely free to fulfill his inner destiny.[15]


Although it may seem unbelievable at this point, the Metaphysics of Quality does not hold itself up to be the only way this utterly utopian society of individuals can be realized.  It is itself a map that Robert M. Pirsig found to be extremely useful in talking about reality.  Whatever map an individual finds useful, whatever terms and world view is just as good.  Just as good assuming of course that it has the same great strength as the MoQ.  This strength is its focus on mysticism and the primary truths of the universe as being only graspable through experience and effort.  As doctrine it rejects doctrine.  Doctrine is the old method of the social level; it is the source of homogenization.  Mysticism and experience are the methods of the intellect.  As long as one seeks Quality, Being, Transcendence, Happiness, God or whatever overarching metaphysical term one chooses actively and through experience rather than by adhering to doctrine, then humanity can begin seek liberation.  Domination begins in the social and ends in the individual.


Domination and Liberation in Parables

 The countryside is shaped by the highway.  Numerous signs and posters tell the traveler what to do and think; they even request his attention to the beauties of nature or the hallmarks of history.  Others have done the thinking for him, and perhaps for the better.  Convenient parking spaces have been constructed where the broadest and most surprising view is open.  Giant advertisements tell him when to stop and find the pause that refreshes.  And all this is indeed for his safety, benefit and comfort; he receives what he wants.  Business, technics, human needs and nature are all welded together into one rational and expedient mechanism.  He will fare best who follows its directions, subordinates his spontaneity to the anonymous wisdom which ordered everything for him.[16]


Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere.  We are just vacationing.  Secondary roads are preferred.  Paved country roads are the best, state highways are next.  Freeways are the worst.  We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with the emphasis on “good” rather than “time” and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes.  Twisting hilly roads are long in terms of seconds but are much more enjoyable on a cycle where you bank into turns and don’t get swung from side to side in any compartment.  Roads with little traffic are more enjoyable, as well as safer.  Roads free of drive-ins and billboards are better, roads where groves and meadows and orchards and lawns come almost to the shoulder, where kids wave to you when you ride by, where people look from their porches to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tends to be longer than you want rather than short, where people ask where you’re from and how long you’ve been riding.[17]

…we travel for miles on these roads without seeing another vehicle, then cross a federal highway and look at cars strung bumper to bumper to the horizon.  Scowling faces inside.  Kids crying in the back seat.  I keep wishing there were some way to tell them something but they scowl and appear to be in a hurry...[18]

[1] One Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse.  Beacon press, Boston, 1964. pg 168.

[2] This is an illustration used by Robert M. Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Paraphrases of rhetorical devices used by Pirsig which aren’t directly sited as his own example in this paper will be footnoted as Pirsigisms.

[3] Lila, Robert M. Pirsig, Bantam Books, 1991. pg. 124

[4] Pirsigism

[5] One Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse.  Beacon press, Boston, 1964.

[6] Pirsigism

[7] Lila, Robert M. Pirsig, Bantam Books, 1991.  pg. 416

[8] Pirsigism

[9] Towards a Rational Society by Jurgen Habermas, Beacon Press, Boston, 1971. Pg. 88

[10] Towards a Rational Society by Jurgen Habermas, Beacon Press, Boston, 1971. Pg. 93

[11] The difference between Dynamic interaction and symbolic interaction can be seen here.  Symbolic interaction is an event between two subjects.  Dynamic interaction, rejecting the Subject-Object division, is between the closed system, such as the man-rock system, and Quality.  This side of Dynamic interaction will be pursued further in the discussion of peace of mind process of production later in this paper.

[12] Pirsigism

[13] Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig. Bantam, 1974.  Pg. 147

[14] “Politics and the English Language” from A Collection of Essays, Orwell, George.  Harcourt, Inc. 1981. Pg. 170

[15] Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig. Bantam, 1974.  pg. 200

[16] Some Implications of Modern Technology, by Herbert Marcuse.  Sited from The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, edited by Andrew Arato, Continuum, New York, 2000. Pg. 143

[17] Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig. Bantam, 1974.  Pg. 4-5

[18] Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig. Bantam, 1974.  Pg. 6

 [Comment1]Dan says: too onesided and simple.  Societies have individual happiness as a goal somewhere in the back of its head.

 [Comment2]Acceptably high levels of Quality


 [Comment4]Spelled right?