Disintegrating Values In Today’s World


`Self’ Cut Off From Any Hope Of Unity
Discussion on Pirsig continues
Ottawa Pub

“Watch out,” Jim replied, “I see the beginnings of a `soap box’ taking
shape. Batten down the hatches.”

“The narrator’s alter ego, Phaedrus,” Riley continued, “traced the
origin of the disintegration of Western values back to the split
between Aristotle’s fact-based studies in classification and
differentiation, and Plato’s more speculative approach to philosophy.
In ancient Greece, that separation between facts and subjective
qualities was not harmful, but in today’s society, where Western
values are worshiped as God, that widening abyss has thrown everything out of kilter.

“According to Phaedrus, Plato’s dialectical method was supposed to get at the essence of—`goodness,’ `love,’ and `beauty.’ But that didn’t
happen. Instead, we celebrate the dialectic itself as the `highest
truth.’ The very qualities it was trying to reveal, it now subverts;
reason and value, truth and goodness, split apart, giving rise to the
destructive dualisms that are at the heart of the disintegrating
values in today’s world. The same rational discourse that was supposed to disclose goodness, love, and beauty as the `highest truth’ usurped the highest truth by becoming the highest truth. Because Phaedrus was searching for wholeness in a culture intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally fragmented, he drove himself mad. And, to my way of thinking, the narrator’s schizophrenic personality was simply a metaphor for all these “feelings of isolation” that are so pervasive in today’s society.

“Society today, is caught in a conflict between—feeling/intuition,
and, sense perception/ reason. The gulf between these contrary ways of understanding has cut the `self’ off from any hope of unity. The abyss separating these contrary ways of knowing may in fact swallow more, much more, than mere values. But, hey, that’s just my reading of the story. Right Jim?”

“Shit Riley, with an imagination like that maybe you should write your
own book,” Jim replied. “What’s all that stuff about feeling isolated
anyway? If I’m being forced into some kind of `isolation cave’ then
why don’t I feel isolated? What do you mean, split? What split? I’m
not split! There’s the real world and an imaginary one–always has
been, always will be. I choose to live in the real one, which is more
than I can say for some of my closest friends. Plato lived in an
imaginary one! It’s a choice period–real or imaginary. But be
careful, if you make the wrong choice, you might go mad!”


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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4 Responses to Disintegrating Values In Today’s World

  1. frizztext says:

    out of (youth prison hostel) jail again?

  2. To Jim’s point, many people do make the wrong choice for themselves and do go quietly mad…

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      It would be hard to walk through life without, at times, negotiating slippery slops. I know I’ve slipped and fallen many times. Risk is built into a full life and the sane/insane distinction is sometimes hard to distinguish, especially if it is measured against a full life. We all have moments we wish we could erase from the record and that’s what keeps us on the sane side of the ledger–I think. Thanks for all the above responses.

  3. Mèo Lười Việt says:

    So scary warning, especially the last passage. But I’m not afraid. To take a stand. Everybody. Come take my hand. We’ll walk together this world through the storm. Whatever weather, cold or warm. Just lettin’ you know I’m not alone. 😀

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