by John Beasley


In this article I suggest some refinements to the Metaphysics of Quality developed by Robert M Pirsig in his books 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' and 'Lila'. I will argue that Pirsig was correct in identifying quality as more fundamental to experience than traditional western philosophic categories such as mind and matter, and that his elaboration of dynamic and static quality is a helpful one, though perhaps more complex than it might appear. I also accept that the four levels of quality he develops in 'Lila' are useful constructs, and explain many of the perplexing and even tragic aspects of our experience. I will argue that the hierarchical arrangement of these levels is correct insofar as they are repositories of static value, but that for dynamic quality there is an inverse order, where the increasing component of knowledge, and intellect, in the higher levels, acts to subvert the dynamic element in our experience. I will show that the basis for mystic experience is at the biological level, rather than the intellectual, and explore some of the problematic issues that surround intelligence. In concluding I will risk some general comments on the need for a meta-morality which allows the individual to discriminate an acceptable balance between the three forms of dynamic quality which I describe.


Pirsig has proposed that quality is the fundamental substrate of human understanding and experience. In 'Lila', he further elaborates this insight by proposing that quality can be encountered as dynamic quality, but preserved as static quality, with both forms essential to our lives. He also proposes a hierarchy from inorganic quality, via biological and social quality, to intellectual quality, of which he says "it is more moral for an idea to kill a society than it is for a society to kill an idea."

The question immediately arises in my mind, "Which idea?" Is it really true that any idea is superior in some way to the evolved wisdom encapsulated in a society's moral and legal codes? Or is the truth somewhat more circumspect; that it is only through the emergence of dynamic quality in individuals who produce ideas (possibly already static to them though perhaps dynamic in relation to the society) that necessary dynamic input can occur in societies, hence we need to protect ideas and those who produce them until the dynamic can be winnowed from the chaff. Who selects the dynamic, or does it just emerge, spreading by contagion, a meme which survives and prospers in the intellectual environment? And how long should we wait? Do I suspend judgement on the ideas around me as they gestate? How would I ever achieve anything if I did? The problems are huge.


Pirsig suggests that quality cannot be defined, and is inclined to equate it with a number of other terms, particularly value, but also moral judgments, undefined fitness (Evolutionary theory), perfection (teleological theories), dim apprehension (Whitehead), religious mysticism and possibly here and now experience. I think Pirsig is too modest in leaving quality undefined, and too generous in equating it with a range of other terms. While words can never encompass quality, they can do quite a good job of pointing to the moon. Let's try.

Quality is experiential. We encounter quality in our experience. In other words, experience is not neutral. Using evolutionary ideas and language, we can say that living organisms have survived and prospered in an environment that is both nourishing and dangerous by developing finely tuned responses to sensory impressions of that environment. Over time the sensory modalities and their discrimination, and the sophistication of the response mechanisms has increased, and in human beings this 'wisdom of the organism' is quite remarkable. Without conscious thought I can notice a variety of threats, or opportunites, rank them in order of significance to my survival, and react appropriately, all in milliseconds. (The champion tennis player who believes he is consciously controlling his shots is acting under an illusion; the shot has been played before his mind can become conscious of his opponent's earlier return.)

Now by saying experience is not neutral, we are examining part of the sophistication of this evolved ability to respond to the environment. Sense organs generate huge amounts of information, constantly changing. Organisms cannot attend to all of this, so have learnt to cope by scanning this input for significant information. In human beings it appears that most information is filtered at a subconscious level for significance, and only a very small component is then subject to the more searching scrutiny that can lead to conscious awareness. It is likely that much of the scanning occurs in the so-called 'reptilian brain', located in the brain stem of humans, and deals with threats to the biological integrity of the organism, or the satisfaction of biological needs. Encounter with a hot stove, one of Pirsig's examples, results in a very quick assessment that this is a negative or low value environment, and damage is minimized by rapid action to leave it.

In human beings, and in other mammals, there is also a subconscious program to identify threats and potential rewards from other individuals in the society. Lyall Watson, in 'Dark Nature', makes the point that for chimpanzees the greatest threats to well being come from other chimpanzees, not shortage of food, or predation by other animals. Given this situation, it is not surprising that the so-called 'mammalian brain' has evolved to monitor the social environment. Research in monkeys appears to show that some neurons only fire if a monkey hand shaped object appears in the visual field. So the mental apparatus to discriminate just what will be attended to may be quite sophisticated, and very finely tuned. Again, the selection of what is significant occurs at the pre-conscious level, and only information which is selected as valuable is likely to reach the level of conscious attention. It seems likely that the discrimination of social threats and potential rewards is less direct than is the case in the biological sphere, and is mediated through complex emotions.

Only in human beings has the elaboration of the brain that allows for language and abstract thought occurred, with the massive development of the cerebral cortex. Even the most highly evolved mammels are surprisingly unintelligent - for example, a dolphin trapped within a net never thinks to jump out of it, which it is quite capable of doing. Intelligence and language have obvious survival values. I shall argue that these come at a very high cost. Also, there is a far more sophisticated process for discriminating what is valuable from the deluge of linguistic input. Some is fairly direct, such as our ability to attend immediately to our name being mentioned in another conversation, even though we were unaware that we were even monitoring it. What makes one poem sublime and another a jingle is far more difficult to fathom, and is heavily influenced by prior learning and personal and artistic taste. Indeed, it is likely that we are dealing with more than one meta process in the human brain. It is likely that intelligence is multifactorial, and artistic valuing is quite separate to intelligence. It is also less likely that an error in intellect or artistic sensibility will have the same immediate survival consequences that an error in the biological and social spheres would have.

Quality, then, is the immediate perception of value in experience. But experience is not unitary. Depending upon the type of input, it will be processed in different areas of the brain. The sight of a snake will activate immediate avoidance responses in the brain stem, even in a person who has never seen a snake before. But the poem by D. H. Lawrence which begins "A snake came to my water-trough..." is dealt with quite differently in the cerebral cortex, and the quality of the experience may only be decided over time, possibly upon reflection. Value is not unitary either. The value of avoiding a snake is rather different to the value attached to a felicitous use of words in a poem. Failure to appreciate these distinctions is the main limitation of Pirsig's metaphysics of quality, and leads to much confusion.

The Hierarchy of Static Values

While dynamic value is encountered in the unpredictable here and now flow of experience, not all value is of this kind. Pirsig uses the term static value to refer to the residue of dynamic value which is preserved in memory and particularly in language. In infants all experience is dynamic, yet somehow the child begins to discriminate differences and correlations and patterns, until after several months "he will begin to really understand enough about that enormously complex correlation of sensations and boundaries and desires called an object to be able to reach for one. This object will not be a primary experience. It will be a complex pattern of static values derived from primary experience." (Pirsig, Lila, Ch 9) Static values, then, are extracted from dynamic encounter and stored in the mind. Language is closely tied to static values, though as the example just quoted makes clear, static values precede language. The remarkable pace of language acquisition in late childhood, when several new words are learned every day, suggests that prelinguistic discrimination of static values and patterns of static value is highly active at this time. Once encoded in language, this knowledge can be transmitted from person to person, across generations, as the mythos, and largely defines the culture in which each individual develops.

What Pirsig proceeds to do with this insight is to propose an intellectual structuring of static values into a hierarchy of moral systems, based on evolutionary thinking. "In the Metaphysics of Quality there's the morality called the 'laws of nature' by which inorganic patterns triumph over chaos; there is a morality called the 'law of the jungle' where biology triumphs over the inorganic forces of starvation and death; there's a morality where social patterns triumph over biology, 'the law;' and there is an intellectual morality,which is still struggling in its attempts to control society ... the static patterns that hold one level of organization together are often the same patterns that another level of organization must fight to maintain its own existence. Morality is not a simple set of rules. It's a very complex struggle of conflicting patterns of values. This conflict is the residue of evolution." (Pirsig, Lila, Ch 13)

I find this hierarchy very satisfying as an explanation of why my experience is often so conflicted. Sexual attraction, for example, can be biologically good and socially destructive, and the turmoil it creates is explained, if not resolved, by this scheme. But Pirsig has unnecesarily complicated this insight by using the term 'morality', (a term taken from social discourse) to describe natural law and biological survival. His use of the term 'intellectual' also has its problems, which I intend to explore more fully. He also supposes "a fourth Dynamic morality which isn't a code. He supposed you could call it a 'code of Art' or something like that". (Pirsig, Lila, Ch 13) This is more and more muddled.

If quality is the immediate perception of value in experience, even allowing for different types of value and experience, value is located within the individual, or perhaps more precisely, at the contact boundary between the individual and his environment. Irrespective, quality is experienced by people, and in a more limited way by animals. Value links me to my environment: what I experience has consequences, good or bad, for me.

As a living organism, I strive to preserve myself by taking in nutrients from my environment and avoiding predation and other destructive forces within that environment. This is biological value. Social value is somewhat different, both in focussing on other people, and in the learned component of culture which influences how I will perceive those people. Intellectual and artistic values are different again, much more strongly influenced by training and education, much more variable between individuals, and less significant for biological survival. This diversity is not well served by using the inappropriate term 'morality' for all. And its use in describing the orderliness of nature as we comprehend it through the discipline of science is even less appropriate.

Let's use the more neutral term 'order' for the latter, and the somewhat vague term 'value' for the former. Order is only perceived through the filter of the intellect. It is an intellectual construct which may mirror in some way the structure of what is. But 'what is' is known primarily through human experience, which is value laden, so the scientific goal of objectivity is undercut at the source. All science is the attempt to discriminate what is objective from within the subjective experience which is my primary reality. It uses sensory experience and intellectual discrimination as its tools. It has been wonderfully successful in deriving a body of laws which can be used to predict future outcomes, and the scientific method has been hugely effective in refining those laws. Yet at base it is only as good as the current theoretical orthodoxy, subject to challenge and change, and excluding by its very nature that component of our experience which is value laden. It is hubris to assume that this theoretical construct, extracted from our value laden experience, is more real than that experience. This is where Pirsig's challenge to the subject object metaphysics underpinning science is so profound.

As Pirsig is acutely aware, writing a metaphysics is something like doing science, in that the quality of lived experience is reduced to mere formulae in words. Dynamic value is being discussed in a static medium, and this is not really possible. Like developing a perfect chess strategy, it can't be done. I would like Pirsig's next book to be on what drives us to even try. However, we do try, and it may be that apart from some considerable experience of dynamic quality in the attempt, some of the static value in a metaphysics may facilitate access to dynamic value in the society. Otherwise it all seems rather a waste, or at best a rather self indulgent activity by those who can afford the time and have the intelligence. Given these limitations, though, I now want to explore what I trust is a development of Pirsig's thought.

The Hierarchy of Dynamic Value - The Inorganic Level

It is my thesis that dynamic value, unlike static value, changes and perhaps becomes less reliable as we move up the hierarchy of moral systems. Since dynamic value is experienced by living things, and the full range is experienced only by human beings, I omit the physical level of the hierarchy. I remain unconvinced that atoms 'experience' anything, no matter how unpredictable their behaviour as perceived through the lens of quantum physics. So my metaphysics is consciously anthropocentric, though not totally idealist. The strange world of sub atomic particles may well exist, but our knowledge of it is mediated through a body of theory which is susceptible to change. There seems no convincing reason to credit such particles with experience. If Whitehead is correct, particles may consist of a sequence of events, prehensions, or whatever, and it may be that the intervention of an observer serves to fix their state, as quantum physics currently asserts, but these odd patterns can just as comfortably be subsumed under a term such as order or even law.

The Biological Level

So it is with the emergence of life, at the level of biology, that value emerges. What is valuable to the organism is presumedly linked to its preservation, and the strange struggle of living things to survive and reproduce. As Pirsig notes, this struggle is counter to the principle of entropy in physics, in which energy is dissipated and run down. Living things operate within the laws of physics to accumulate energy and use it for their sustenance and propogation. As I indicated earlier, we are fantastically well equipped as organisms to react appropriately and quickly to all manner of threats and opportunities. But not all. Madame Curie's body had no defence against intense radiation - there was no history of this in our species - so her death was a consequence of introducing a new threat into her immediate environment, one which now threatens us all.

So quality at the organismic level acts to foster survival. It is experienced by animals as well as people. While plants certainly respond to stimuli in life enhancing ways, there seems no good evidence that they are in any way aware or conscious. The minimum requirement for the perception of quality would seem to be the ability to attend to experience.

Dynamic quality at the organismic/biological level requires no self awareness, but it does require consciousness. This may account for the sense of oneness associated with this state; there is no split betwen the attending consciousness and the experience attended to by the organism. I suggest that the unitary consciousness so often described by mystics is located at the biological level. It is not surprising that we all have an appreciation of this experience - it was ours in infancy. Also the experience of becoming lost in work or some other activity, which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls 'flow', may similarly participate in this level of Dynamic quality, though it is also possible that it may occur at the intellectual level when the demands of the task are so engrossing that self awareness is momentarily lost.

The Social Level

The emergence of moral and ethical codes has served to moderate and set limits to interpersonal violence and abuse, and (in evolutionary terms) provides some protection to vulnerable groups and individuals, such as the young. Dynamic value in the moral sphere is encountered most clearly in the experience of injustice, with its strong emotional content of indignation and anger. The dynamic quality that can empower revolution or reform comes from the "It's not fair" reaction to oppression.

The dynamic experience of injustice differs from the dynamic experience related to survival. It is mediated by beliefs. What is fair is not always so apparent as what is nurturing or nourishing. People will kill, even sacrifice their own lives, defending political, religious or ethical systems, even when they are patently unjust. False consciousness can mask the inequalities within a social system. There are always victims ready to defend their oppressors. And it is not always easy to ascertain what is more moral in a situation; even amongst people of good will disagreement is likely. The brujo in Pirsig's story is indeed a bad man to many of his compatriots. Some of the things he does appear very negative to his society. Yet he challenges the power of the priests, and inaugurates a new accommodation with the conquering whites which is arguably to the long term advantage of his tribe. It is a little too easy to say his ideas show a higher value way for the tribe to operate. They are unlikely to be clear, especially at the beginning, and will make assumptions that not everyone will share. The clarity associated with dynamic quality experienced in attention to the here and now moment, at the organismic/biological level, is not always apparent at the social level.

In childhood we all pass through a sequence of stages of moral development, which are remarkably similar across cultures. Yet the young child who accepts moral guidance from an authority figure will soon change to applying a strict moral code, delineating right from wrong, and later will modify this in turn to take account of the situation. It is likely that at least the most primitive of these stages is shared with some animals. This may also be the origin of our fascination with celebrity, which Pirsig explores in 'Lila'. There is probably a spectrum of social experiences which trigger dynamic value in the participant, with injustice one of the strongest and clearest, and the most significant for the emergence of law.

The Artistic/Intellectual Level

If dynamic quality can be masked by intervening variables at the social level, the situation is notably worse at the intellectual and artistic level. Indeed, it is debatable just what fits within this level. Pirsig clearly prefers to limit this level to ideas and the realm of the intellect, though as we saw above he has some vague suggestion about 'a code of art' which he seems to think fits more with dynamic quality as distinct from the quality he describes at the intellectual level. As I have already made clear, I believe dynamic quality is experienced differently at the biological, social and intellectual levels, with perhaps the most profound level being the biological, for this is where the encounter with quality occurs most directly in attending to here and now experience.

Pirsig says in 'Zen' (Ch 7), "when analytic thought ... is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process ... but ... something is always created too ... a kind of death-birth continuity that is neither good nor bad.' I argue that a new dynamic quality, a new 'good', is to be found at the intellectual level, but it comes at a cost, as Pirsig indicates.

That dynamic quality can be encountered at the intellectual level is to me indisputable. But it is dependant upon knowledge, education, training and experience. To me, a new proof for a complex mathematical problem is just a series of meaningless marks on a blackboard. To a mathematician they have meaning, and can be deciphered. To the elite mathematician, though, there is a dynamic excitement in grasping the elegance of the formulation that is totally inaccessible to all who lack his level of knowledge and discernment. The dynamic experience is limited to those equipped to discern it.

The situation is similar with art. The dynamic quality of a work of art is not accessible to everyone. Only those with an appropriate cultural background, familiar with the trends in the art world that have led up to this new creation, are likely to find it dynamic. So Van Gogh's paintings were almost totally ignored in his own lifetime, yet today businessmen vie to acquire one at astronomical prices. It is quite possible that the most outstanding works of art being produced are totally ignored by the critics and curators of the art world, just because they take too bold a leap from the familiar, though given the frantic search for any difference amongst artists they are perhaps less likely to be ignored in our era than previously. However, like the fundamental limitation on all perception, which is that our brains filter out most input to concentrate on those aspects with value to us as living organisms, it is likely that an art work that strays too far from the dictates of culture will not even be noticed.

Gestalt psychologists early this century explored how we perceive unified wholes (gestalten) rather than lots of details which are then combined. Paul Goodman, writing in 1950, says that "contact, the work that results in assimilation and growth, is the forming of a figure of interest against a ground or context of the organism/environment field. The figure (gestalt) in awareness is a clear, vivid perception, image, or insight; in motor behavior, it is the graceful energetic movement that has rhythm, follows through, etc." (Perls, Hefferline and Goodman, 'Gestalt Therapy, p231) It seems to me that there are some very general terms which apply, possibly differently in different fields, to the dynamic quality in a wide range of culture mediated activities pursued by human beings. Amongst these I would include elegance, simplicity, flow, rhythm, closure, clarity, gracefulness, unity, vigor, fascination and release.

And how wide the spectrum of human activity is. Artistic and musical ability, and intellectual facility, are widely recognised. But there are a host of other activities as diverse as stamp collecting, gardening, chess, dance, meditation, football, and mountain climbing, all of which can provide participants with experiences of dynamic quality. I suspect that if there was no dynamic quality in writing a metaphysics, Pirsig would never have produced 'Lila'.

The values in some very ordinary activities may often be almost identical to those in an 'elite' activity. A 'good' garden will show the same values of unity, balance, contrast and so on as can be found in a 'good' sculpture. Even the technical skills are similar; design, placement of masses, balancing voids, definition of edges, treatment of surfaces, and so on. Probably the gardener, who shapes and arranges living and changing material, has a tougher job than the sculptor.

But while many disciplines share similar values, it is their diversity that is striking. Each activity is likely to spawn more specialized progeny, accessible only to those who have studied the field and specialized accordingly. Flower arranging is a good example. The Japanese style of flower arranging known as Ikebana has many differences to the symmetrical styles common in the West. But within the broad Ikebana tradition, some will specialize in those particular styles which have become known as the Sogetsu school. And even within the Sogetsu school, the more discerning may belong to an avant-garde in which flowers no longer appear in the arrangements. And so it is with a million different interests. So distinctive and pervasive is this trend, it seems that human beings are driven to define themselves by asserting their differences in such specialized ways. This is as far from the unity of the experience of dynamic quality in the biological attention to experience as it is possible to get.

What is similar is that dynamic quality is experienced in the here and now encounter with what is. It is still eternally fresh and able to surprise us, though those able to experience this encounter will be limited to the possibly small group who share the appropriate background to make sense of the experience. The dynamic is limited to those equipped to discern it.

Meta Values

Having opened up the suggestion that dynamic quality is experienced differently at the biological, social and intellectual levels, we can now ask if these varieties of dynamic quality share the same bedrock. It seems to me likely that they do, but that the increasing reliance upon experience and learning to facilitate contact with the dynamic quality comes at a cost. Put differently, the dynamic quality experienced at the biological level is 'better' than the dynamic quality experienced at the social level, which is itself 'superior' to the dynamic quality experienced at the individual/intellectual level. The intrusion of knowledge and experience actually diminishes unity and hence comes at a cost in isolation and obsession. This is the conclusion of the mystic.

The mystic reduces suffering by learning to give up thought. According to Aubrey Menen, in 'The New Mystics', "the honest sort of Indian mystic has something very simple to say. He knows a way of putting our minds to rest without resorting to drink, or drugs, or a crack over the head with a hammer. It is a way of stopping you thinking. It has no appeal to people whose worry is that they never seem to have started: but more intelligent people do often feel that they need a holiday from their own minds,while leaving them intact to come home to when the holiday is over. That is all Indian mysticism is about, but, ... it is one of the most revolutionary ideas in the history of civilization."

Mystics have gloried in the unity to be found in the simple consciousness of moment by moment experience, where the intellect is stilled and the self is reabsorbed into the phenomenal world. Yet even mystics catch aeroplanes, give speeches, and so on. Krishnamurti quite explicitly says that in his wholly different way of living there is an end to fear, yet concedes he would feel fear if he was to live behind the iron curtain. So what are we to make of this shifting perspective?

From an evolutionary perspective, it seems that the evolution of societies and intellects has paid off handsomely in survival terms, while at the same time increasing the differences between people, resulting in loneliness and alienation. Pirsig is extremely clear, even brutal, with the consequences that flow from the hierarchical structure of static value. "Where biological values are undermining social values, intellectuals must identify social behavior, no matter what its ethnic connection, and support it all the way without restraint. Intellectuals must find biological behavior, no matter what its ethnic connection, and limit or destroy destructive biological patterns with complete moral ruthlessness, the way a doctor destroys germs, before these biological patterns destroy civilization itself." (Lila, Ch24) If dynamic value flows in the opposite direction, can any similar consequences follow?

I think not. Dynamic quality cannot be limited by a morality, or a metaphysics. Yet we can say something about the varieties of dynamic quality that we experience, and the implications they have for us.

The pursuit of dynamic quality at the intellectual level comes at the cost of isolation. Pirsig's words from the end of chapter 5 in 'Zen' seem appropriate - "suddenly we are all separate, all alone in our private universes, and there is no communication among us." For communion, we must return to the biological level. Yet we cannot stay there. Social issues arise. I experience injustice. I am driven to act. Just as Pirsig recounts how he left the Indian university where he was studying when his lecturer denied the significance of Hiroshima, I cannot remain in the unity of unmediated perception when by doing so I condone suffering.

Pirsig has harsh words for "the ideal of a harmonious society in which everyone without coercion cooperates happily with everyone else for the mutual good of all". He calls it a "devastating fiction". ('Lila' Ch 24) Gestalt therapy at its inception was inclined to assume that the resoration of good contact with here and now reality would similarly solve the difficult issues that arise in society. If each individual was only in touch with experience, the 'wisdom of the organism' would resolve all the moral issues. Would it were so. Mystics are inclined to suggest that the experience of enlightenment, a sense of the unity of all things, will similarly resolve the conflicts that bedevil us. Both are similar in returning to a pre-intellectual immersion in experience. Both have some virtue, but are naive in assuming a child like innocence can prevail over injustice, or render it somehow unimportant or illusory.

But Pirsig's own metaphysics might also seem to provide all too simple solutions to moral issues. Just ascertain what is biological, what social, and what is intellectual, and the moral hierarchy of the four level static quality division will reveal the correct moral priorities. "We must understand that when a society undermines intellectual freedom for its own purposes it is absolutely morally bad, but when it represses biological freedom for its own purposes it is absolutely morally good." ('Lila' Ch 24) That these solutions are only partial is obvious when he discusses New York, the 'Giant', which is more powerful than individual or society. Or his strange suggestion that the Dharmakaya light will reveal quality. Sadly, the metaphysics of quality cannot guide us in our existential choices, though it may well assist us to avoid some awful pitfalls.

One of the most interesting paradoxes of 'Lila' is Pirsig's assertion in the midst of writing a metaphysics that it was a doomed, almost perverse, undertaking. Yet he continues to shuffle his cards, and he writes a metaphysics. What is happening here? For one thing, I think he is responding to the dynamic quality inherent in the intellectual winnowing of ideas, and the pleasure this offers a certain type of personality. In his postscript to 'Zen' he says "writing it seemed to have higher quality than not writing it, that was all." This is the sort of quality I describe as the artistic/intellectual level of dynamic quality. It isolates. Pirsig comes across as a very isolated person. (See 'Zen' Ch 7) This is one cost of the exploration of the dynamic quality to be found at the intellectual level. The obverse of this is that "the values of art and morality and even religious mysticism are verifiable" and "it becomes possible for more than one set of truths to exist". ('Lila' Ch 8) Perhaps exploration of the many truths that can exist is part of what makes life worthwhile, even if it also tends to isolate us from others. If both these suppositions are true, then finding a balance between the largely solitary exploration of the artistic and intellectual realms, and the more communal involvement in the social realm would appear to be one key to living well.


This is all very subjective, but I will risk an even broader generalization. My hypothesis is that a fully human life encompasses all three forms of dynamic quality. Our brains are so structured that all three are accessible to human beings. It would be strange if the secret of good life was to live using only one or two of the components of our brains. So while the mystic attention to the biological realm of dynamic quality allows us to take a holiday from thinking, which can become obsessive, and is always static, it does not provide some magical solution to the existential dilemmas of our lives. It is a corrective, and hugely dynamic in itself, but it is not everything. This is why Pirsig walked out of the Buddhist university - he was not prepared to sacrifice the dynamic quality experienced in a sense of injustice which is located in the turmoil of struggle within the social realm. Nor was he prepared to sacrifice the dynamic quality of writing a metaphysics, which then enters the field of intellectual quality as a static thing, yet able to provide a dynamic experience to those readers equipped to comprehend him.

Aristotle in his 'Nicomachean Ethics' proposed the notion of 'enough', the idea that however desires wax and wane, or differ between individuals, there can be too much or too little of most good things. Morality consists of conformity with 'right desire', the ability to separate wants from needs, and to assess what is enough. It may well be that the metaphysics of quality does not do away with some such ethics, as Pirsig seemed to believe. The static hierarchy is indeed a useful guide to moral choice, but as an intellectual construct, it is secondary to our encounter with dynamic quality. If, as I propose, dynamic quality differs within the hierarchy, with consequences for how life is lived, it is necessary to invent some higher order morality to judge the appropriate balance between each type. The metaphysics of quality does not itself provide this. Aristotle's ethics, rephrased for our era, may well be the best guide we have. It ties into the metaphysics of quality most convincingly when we examine how we might judge 'enough'. For it is the immediate experience of dynamic quality, both positive and negative, that will guide our choice. Perhaps this is the best that can be achieved.

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