Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values First edition Author Robert M. Pirsig Country United States Language English Genre Philosophical fiction, Autobiographical novel Published 1974 (William Morrow and Company) Media type Print (hardcover and paperback) Pages 418 pp ISBN 0-688-00230-7 OCLC 673595 Dewey Decimal 917.3/04/920924 B LC Class CT275.P648 A3 1974 Followed by Lila: An Inquiry into Morals Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (ZAMM), by Robert M.
Pirsig, is a book that was first published in 1974. It is a work of fictionalized autobiography, and is the first of Pirsig's texts in which he explores his Metaphysics of Quality. The title is an apparent play on the title of the book Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. In its introduction, Pirsig explains that, despite its title, "it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice.
It's not very factual on motorcycles, either." Initially, the book sold at least 5 million copies worldwide. Structure According to Edward Abbey, the book is Pirsig's fictionalized autobiography of a 17-day journey he made on a motorcycle from Minnesota to Northern California along with his son Chris. The story of this journey is recounted in a first-person narrative, although the author is not identified.
Father and son are also accompanied, for the first nine days of the trip, by close friends John and Sylvia Sutherland, with whom they part ways in Montana. The trip is punctuated by numerous philosophical discussions, referred to as Chautauquas by the author, on topics including epistemology, ethical emotivism and the philosophy of science. Many of these discussions are tied together by the story of the narrator's own past self, who is referred to in the third person as Phaedrus (after Plato's dialogue).
Phaedrus, a teacher of creative and technical writing at a small college, became engrossed in the question of what defines good writing, and what in general defines good, or "Quality". His philosophical investigations eventually drove him insane, and he was subjected to electroconvulsive therapy, which permanently changed his personality. Towards the end of the book, Phaedrus's personality begins to re-emerge and the narrator is reconciled with his past.
Writing In a 1974 interview with National Public Radio, Pirsig stated that the book took him four years to write. During two of these years, Pirsig continued working at his job of writing computer manuals. This caused him to fall into an unorthodox schedule, waking up very early and writing Zen from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m., then eating and going to his day job. He would sleep during his lunch break and then go to bed around 6 in the evening.
Pirsig joked that his co-workers noticed that he was "a lot less perky" than everyone else. Philosophical content In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig explores the meaning and concept of "quality"; a term he conceives as undefinable. Pirsig's thesis is that to truly experience quality one must both embrace and apply it as best fits the requirements of the situation. According to Pirsig, such an approach would avoid a great deal of frustration and dissatisfaction common to modern life.
In the book, the Narrator describes the "Romantic" approach to life of his friend, John Sutherland, who chooses not to learn how to maintain his expensive new motorcycle. John simply hopes for the best with his bike, and when problems do occur he often becomes frustrated and is forced to rely on professional mechanics to repair it. In contrast, the "classical" Narrator has an older motorcycle which he is usually able to diagnose and repair himself through the use of rational problem solving skills.
In an example of the classical approach, Pirsig explains to the reader that one must pay continual attention: when the Narrator and his friends came into Miles City, Montana he notices that the "engine idle is loping a little," a possible indication that the fuel/air mixture is too rich. The next day he is thinking of this as he is going through his ritual to adjust the valves on his cycle's engine.
During the adjustment, he notes that both spark plugs are black, confirming a rich mixture. He recognizes that the higher elevation is causing the engine to run rich. The narrator rectifies this by installing new jets with the valves adjusted, and the engine runs well again. With this, the book details two types of personalities: those who are interested mostly in gestalts (romantic viewpoints, such as Zen, focused on being "In the moment", and not on rational analysis), and those who seek to know the details, understand the inner workings, and master the mechanics (classic viewpoints with application of rational analysis, vis-a-vis motorcycle maintenance) and so on.
The Sutherlands represent an exclusively romantic attitude toward the world. The Narrator initially appears to prefer the classic approach. It later becomes apparent that he understands both viewpoints and is aiming for the middle ground. He understands that technology, and the "dehumanized world" it carries with it, appears ugly and repulsive to a romantic person. He knows that such persons are determined to shoehorn all of life's experience into the romantic view.
Pirsig is capable of seeing the beauty of technology and feels good about mechanical work, where the goal is "to achieve an inner peace of mind". The book demonstrates that motorcycle maintenance may be dull and tedious drudgery or an enjoyable and pleasurable pastime; it all depends on attitude. Ancient Greek philosophy in Athens, romantically depicted by Raphael Pirsig examines the modern pursuit of "Pure Truths", claiming it derives from the work of early Greek philosophers who were establishing the concept of truth in opposition to the force of "The Good".
He argues that although rational thought may find a truth (or The Truth) it may never be fully and universally applicable to each and every individual's experience. Therefore, what is needed is an approach to viewing life that is more varied and inclusive and has a wider range of application. He makes a case that originally the Greeks did not distinguish between "Quality" and "Truth" – they were one and the same, arete – and that the divorce was, in fact, artificial (though needed at the time) and is now a source of much frustration and unhappiness in the world, particularly overall dissatisfaction with modern life.
Pirsig aims towards a perception of the world that embraces both sides, the rational and the romantic. This means encompassing "irrational" sources of wisdom and understanding as well as science, reason and technology. In particular, this must include bursts of creativity and intuition that seemingly come from nowhere and are not (in his view) rationally explicable. Pirsig seeks to demonstrate that rationality and Zen-like "being in the moment" can harmoniously coexist.
He suggests such a combination of rationality and romanticism can potentially bring a higher quality of life. It has been noted that Pirsig’s Romantic/Classical dichotomy resembles Nietzsche’s Dionysian/Apollonian dichotomy as described in The Birth of Tragedy. For example, in his book The Person of the Therapist, Edward Smith writes, “In his popular novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig (1974) also addressed the Apollonian and Dionysian worldviews, naming them respectively classical understanding and romantic understanding.
” See also Emotional intelligence Gestalt psychology Gumption trap Ideasthesia Lila: An Inquiry into Morals Index of philosophical literature Pirsig's metaphysics of Quality Quality (philosophy) References ^ a b Abbey, Edward (March 30, 1975). "Novelistic autobiography, autobiographical novel? No matter". The New York Times. ^ Reuters (25 April 2017). "Robert Pirsig, Author Of 'Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance,' Dead At 88" – via Huff Post.
^ 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Author' Robert Pirsig at NPR online audio archive ^ Part II, Ch. 8, pages 80,81 in the paperback edition for which the image is shown, ^ Smith, Edward W.L. The Person of the Therapist , McFarland & Company Inc, 2003: p.97. External links robertpirsig.org, A website containing a number of papers concerned with the Metaphysics of Quality. Pictures taken by Pirsig from the trip made famous in his book Audio: 1974 NPR Interview with Pirsig Audio: 1992 NPR Interview with Pirsig Guardian interview from 2006 Short version and Long version.
Reviews:Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance from Goodreads. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance data visualization and learning guide from LitCharts. Retrieved from "https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Zen_and_the_Art_of_Motorcycle_Maintenance&oldid=811686785"See Also: Brio St Louis
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Enlarge this image Author Robert Pirsig and his son Chris in 1968. Pirsig, who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died Monday at age 88. William Morrow/HarperCollins hide caption toggle caption William Morrow/HarperCollins Robert M. Pirsig, who inspired generations to road trip across America with his "novelistic autobigraphy," Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died Monday at the age of 88.
His publisher William Morrow & Company said in a statement that Pirsig died at his home in South Berwick, Maine, "after a period of failing health." Pirsig wrote just two books: Zen (subtitled "An Inquiry Into Values") and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals. Enlarge this image Author Robert Pirsig works on a motorcycle in 1975. William Morrow/HarperCollins hide caption toggle caption William Morrow/HarperCollins Zen was published in 1974, after being rejected by 121 publishing houses.
"The book is brilliant beyond belief," wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication. "It is probably a work of genius and will, I'll wager, attain classic status." Indeed, the book quickly became a best-seller, and has proved enduring as a work of popular philosophy. A 1968 motorcycle trip across the West with his son Christopher was his inspiration. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt reviewed Zen for The New York Times in 1974.
"[H]owever impressive are the seductive powers with which Mr. Pirsig engages us in his motorcycle trip, they are nothing compared to the skill with which he interests us in his philosophic trip," he wrote. "Mr. Pirsig may sometimes appear to be a greener‐America proselytizer, with his beard and his motorcycle tripping and his talk about learning to love technology. But when he comes to grips with the hard philosophical conundrums raised by the 1960's, he can be electrifying.
" Pirsig was born in Minneapolis, the son of a University of Minnesota law professor. He graduated from high school at 15 and enlisted in the Army after World War II. While stationed in South Korea, he encountered the Asian philosophies that would underpin his work. He went on to study Hindu philosophy in India and for a time was enrolled in a philosophy Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago.
He was hospitalized for mental illness and returned to Minneapolis, where he worked as a technical writer and began writing his first book. Enlarge this image Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was one of just two books that Pirsig wrote. It has endured as a work of popular philosophy. Alan Levine/Flickr hide caption toggle caption Alan Levine/Flickr Pirsig also helped found the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, then lived reclusively and worked on Lila for 17 years before its publication in 1991.
"A skilled mechanic, he performed repairs in his home workshop," writes the publisher. "He taught himself navigation in the days before GPS, and twice crossed the Atlantic in his small sailboat, Aretê." The protagonist of Zen attempts to resolve the conflicts between "classic" values that create machinery like the motorcycle, and "romantic" values like the beauty of a country road. He discovers all values find their root in what Pirsig called Quality: "Quality .
. . you know what it is, yet you don't know what it is. But that's self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There's nothing to talk about. But if you can't say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn't exist at all.
But for all practical purposes it really does exist."