Customer Review

10 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, awful, awful, 1 Feb 2012
This review is from: Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: 25th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
The first sign that something was very wrong came on p40 where the author tries to argue that before the law of gravitation existed, the phenomenon of gravity itself didn't exist. Derp. And the rest of the book follows in a similar vein. There's much philosophising, but little in the way of convincing argument, plenty of unsupported assertions, and a boatload of non sequitur. Pretty much every point in the book is either demonstrably untrue or patent nonsense. The rest of the book is a dull tale about a father with mental illness and his son on a motorcycle trip.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Oct 2012 08:41:57 BDT
Dave Redman says:
I see what you're doing, but "derp" fails to be a valid refutation of what is actually a pretty widely held idea in the philosophy of science. You appeal to common sense, which holds that our natural laws are based on a fundamental truth which exists independently of whether it is known by anyone, but nowadays few scientists hold such a view. Instead, it is held that "laws" such as are proposed by Newtonian physics, are really only systems designed to predict outcomes based on observable data. Newton's laws are not "facts", and they did not predate Newton himself, rather they are ways of looking at the world which are judged on their usefulness in predicting phenomena. The more general and accurate the prediction, the more valuable the law. As soon as a law which better describes our universe is found, we abandon the old one.

In fact, this whole idea of immutable truth is fundamental to the book: it is one of the things Pirsig must refute in order to maintain his metaphysics, and it is crucial to his particular reading of Plato, Socrates and their spat with the Sophists. This idea, implied by what you say, of an unchanging truth, is Plato's Good, while the more currently accepted doctrine of relativism was generally the province of the Sophists. His system is concerned with unifying these two ideas under a monism which he called Quality, and which he believes to be the same or similar to the Tao of Lao Tzu. I do not argue for the merits of his metaphysics, I merely want to point out that, from your criticisms, it seems to me you have barely understood even the most basic aspects of the ideas proposed in this book. I came across no "unsupported assertions" or non sequiturs, quite the contrary, he is very careful not to say anything he cannot back up, and draw no conclusions which weren't supported by those assertions. As a logician, he is pretty keen.

I find it rather ironic that your criticism of the points in the book being "demonstrably untrue" is in itself an unsupported assertion. If they are demonstrably untrue, then you should go ahead and demonstrate their untruth.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Nov 2012 11:27:33 GMT
Last edited by the author on 17 Nov 2012 11:28:46 GMT
robaker says:
Many thanks for sharing your opinion of my opinion of reading a book.

Speaking of refutation, in your first paragraph you claim to know the beliefs of most scientists and then go on to build yourself a nice little straw man ("fundamental truth"). Having built him, you then proceed to attack an innocent bystander ("natural laws").

All very amusing, but you don't actually say anything about my problem with p40. Do you agree with Pirsig that, before Newton, gravity did not exist, so, presumably, everything was just floating around (or whatever)? Or was that not the point he was trying to make?

Your second paragraph starts out as a reading list, handily establishing your obvious "authority" in the subject area, with which you assume my ignorance (rather rudely, I thought). But, it doesn't matter how knowledgable you are about the Star Wars (TM) universe (for example). It is still just an elaborate work of fiction. Likewise, no amount of bible study will "prove" the existance of "god". By the end you are reduced to just claiming the opposite of my opinions; however, telling me you 'came across no ""unsupported assertions"' doesn't work for me given that I gave you one in my original review.

Having assumed my ignorance of metaphysics (and most other subjects, no doubt), you don't grant me the boon of
informing me of the level of education required to understand this scholarly work. I, mistakenly, thought I
was reading a popular, entry-level, coffee-table introduction, not an advanced work. But from your reading list I'm guessing there's at least an A-level of study required before I'm fit to even have an opinion on this book? Presumably all the other reviewers have the required credentials too? If not, please make sure to point out to them that their opinions, even the glowing "5 star" ones, are also made from ignorance and are, therefore, unworthy.

Where you find your ironies is of no interest to me. However, no, I do not have to demonstrate the untruth of the rest of the book. I read the stupid thing and gave one example of where I thought it was nuts. I don't have to list all the rest out for you. I'm completely entitled to share my opinion, that the rest of the book was just as bad. Also, it is, of course, not for me to have to disprove every part of any elaborate fantasy world, especially as there's no limit to just "making stuff up".

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jul 2013 21:55:39 BDT
Just ignore him, robaker. He left a equally windy dressing down (in 2 parts, written over 2 days) of another one-star reviewer of "Zen."
I've read that a humourless, very literal take on what others say is a sign of Asperger's Syndrome. After reading all the similar, assertively humourless pro-Persig replies to low-star reviews here and on Amazon.com, I've created a sub-category of "Persigian Personality Disorder"
I tried (in vain) to read "Zen" 25 years ago and I remember thinking 1.) how I'd hate to travel with him, and 2.) how he treated his son like crap. I say let these people take their journey with Persig, and good luck to 'em.
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