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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:…
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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (1974)

by Robert M. Pirsig

Series: Phaedrus (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
13,906191150 (3.84)207
  1. 50
    Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford (prehensel)
  2. 00
    My Mercedes is Not for Sale: From Amsterdam to Ouagadougou...An Auto-Misadventure Across the Sahara by Jeroen van Bergeijk (gonzobrarian)
    gonzobrarian: an inquiry into travel, adventure, and meaning
  3. 00
    A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (jeff.s.thomson)
  4. 01
    Stranger in a Strange Land (Uncut Edition) by Robert A. Heinlein (emf1123)
    emf1123: If you're in your late teens, reading both of these books back to back (stranger in a strange land, zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance) is a good quality mindfuck. I doubt that either have the same influence as one ages, though.
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» See also 207 mentions

English (170)  Dutch (6)  Italian (6)  Finnish (4)  French (2)  All (2)  Danish (1)  All (191)
Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
Covers a lot of ground in exploring the metaphysics of quality, mindfulness, and getting to the bottom of several "gumption-traps" that academics set. Where they work at all, I didn't find the ultimate syntheses of classical/romantic, narrator/Phaedrus, eastern/western all that earth-shattering (i've never thought philosophy needed any grand unification theory)...but the exposition in the road-trip/personal history brings the ideas to life. ( )
1 vote albertgoldfain | Mar 22, 2017 |
A father and his son take a motorcycle trip across the American Northwest. ( )
  JackSweeney | Jan 15, 2017 |
Instantly qualifies for my brief list of life-changing books. Summed up best by, "we have artists with no scientific knowledge and scientists with no artistic knowledge and both with no spiritual sense of gravity at all, and the result is not just bad, it is ghastly." Drop everything and read this book! ( )
  5hrdrive | Jan 9, 2017 |
Honestly, I'm not sure how to think about this book. If I look at it as mostly non-fiction, it seems self-indulgent and self-congratulatory. After all, the author spends a great deal of time writing about how amazing a philosopher he used to be while he's acting like an insufferable ass toward his kid and making sweeping judgements about the internal workings of others.

If I think about the book as mostly fiction, then I'm honestly not sure what he's trying to say about family and mental illness. It seems like this fantastical, childish, romanticized view.

Either way, much of the philosophy seems lazy. The support for his ideas seem to come from the story - the emotionally intense exchanges with his professors and the grand realizations. The observations he makes about culture and individuals are unsupported, sweeping generalizations presented as astute analysis.

There are a few good ideas in there. You could probably read chapter 25 along with a few other selected passages and get all the worthwhile material from the book. There's a concept of quality or excellence that includes logical, technical executions as well as beautiful, artistic creation. These aren't separate, but flow together. Technical execution alone leaves your work cold and without character or pleasure. Stylistic expression alone leaves your work without substance. A marriage of these two categories leaves you with something of value. The beauty and functionality can't be separated. I think there is something to be said for that approach.

So on the whole, I'm glad I read the book, but probably would have been better off with a few select passages and a good summary. Aside from the ideas I mentioned, I feel like this quotation sums up the book nicely:

“I take off my boots and socks which are soggy with sweat and set them out to dry on a rock. I stare at them meditatively as vapors from them rise up toward the sun.” ( )
1 vote typo180 | Jan 2, 2017 |
A "heavy" book. But it makes you think about how you think, our expectations, how we communicate, and how we relate to each other. Not for everyone. ( )
  Schneider | Jan 1, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
One is tempted to call the book a psychomelodrama, for Pirsig's intentions are as extravagant as his themes. The attempt to triumph over madness, suicide, death in the self, of his son, for our world, by means of the patient exploration of ideas and emotions is certainly an extravagant ambition. That he succeeds in finding a plausible catharsis through such an enterprise seems to me sufficient reward for the author's perseverance, and ample testimony to his honesty and courage.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times Book Review, Edward Abbey (pay site) (Mar 30, 1975)
 
Whatever it's true philosophical worth, it is intellectual entertainment of the highest order.
 
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Awards and honors
Epigraph
And what is good, Phaedrus,

And what is not good -

Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?
Dedication
for my family
Aan mijn familie
First words
I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning.
Quotations
You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It's easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.
Live in the future, then build what's missing.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Original language
Book description
Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. This 25th Anniversary Quill Edition features a new introduction by the author; important typographical changes; and a Reader's Guide that includes discussion topics, an interview with the author, and letters and documents detailing how this extraordinary book came to be. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. The narrator's relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning; the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.

In his now classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig brings us a literary chautauqua, a novel that is meant to both entertain and edify. It scores high on both counts. Phaedrus, our narrator, takes a present-tense cross-country motorcycle trip with his son during which the maintenance of the motorcycle becomes an illustration of how we can unify the cold, rational realm of technology with the warm, imaginative realm of artistry. As in Zen, the trick is to become one with the activity, to engage in it fully, to see and appreciate all details--be it hiking in the woods, penning an essay, or tightening the chain on a motorcycle. In his autobiographical first novel, Pirsig wrestles both with the ghost of his past and with the most important philosophical questions of the 20th century--why has technology alienated us from our world? what are the limits of rational analysis? if we can't define the good, how can we live it? Unfortunately, while exploring the defects of our philosophical heritage from Socrates and the Sophists to Hume and Kant, Pirsig inexplicably stops at the middle of the 19th century. With the exception of Poincaré, he ignores the more recent philosophers who have tackled his most urgent questions, thinkers such as Peirce, Nietzsche (to whom Phaedrus bears a passing resemblance), Heidegger, Whitehead, Dewey, Sartre, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn. In the end, the narrator's claims to originality turn out to be overstated, his reasoning questionable, and his understanding of the history of Western thought sketchy. His solution to a synthesis of the rational and creative by elevating Quality to a metaphysical level simply repeats the mistakes of the premodern philosophers. But in contrast to most other philosophers, Pirsig writes a compelling story. And he is a true innovator in his attempt to popularize a reconciliation of Eastern mindfulness and nonrationalism with Western subject/object dualism. The magic of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance turns out to lie not in the answers it gives, but in the questions it raises and the way it raises them. Like a cross between The Razor's Edge and Sophie's World, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance takes us into "the high country of the mind" and opens our eyes to vistas of possibility. --Brian Bruya
Haiku summary
Biker -- deep thinker:

finally finds acceptance

for his peace of mind.

(legallypuzzled)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060589469, Mass Market Paperback)

In his now classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig brings us a literary chautauqua, a novel that is meant to both entertain and edify. It scores high on both counts.

Phaedrus, our narrator, takes a present-tense cross-country motorcycle trip with his son during which the maintenance of the motorcycle becomes an illustration of how we can unify the cold, rational realm of technology with the warm, imaginative realm of artistry. As in Zen, the trick is to become one with the activity, to engage in it fully, to see and appreciate all details--be it hiking in the woods, penning an essay, or tightening the chain on a motorcycle.

In his autobiographical first novel, Pirsig wrestles both with the ghost of his past and with the most important philosophical questions of the 20th century--why has technology alienated us from our world? what are the limits of rational analysis? if we can't define the good, how can we live it? Unfortunately, while exploring the defects of our philosophical heritage from Socrates and the Sophists to Hume and Kant, Pirsig inexplicably stops at the middle of the 19th century. With the exception of Poincaré, he ignores the more recent philosophers who have tackled his most urgent questions, thinkers such as Peirce, Nietzsche (to whom Phaedrus bears a passing resemblance), Heidegger, Whitehead, Dewey, Sartre, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn. In the end, the narrator's claims to originality turn out to be overstated, his reasoning questionable, and his understanding of the history of Western thought sketchy. His solution to a synthesis of the rational and creative by elevating Quality to a metaphysical level simply repeats the mistakes of the premodern philosophers. But in contrast to most other philosophers, Pirsig writes a compelling story. And he is a true innovator in his attempt to popularize a reconciliation of Eastern mindfulness and nonrationalism with Western subject/object dualism. The magic of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance turns out to lie not in the answers it gives, but in the questions it raises and the way it raises them. Like a cross between The Razor's Edge and Sophie's World, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance takes us into "the high country of the mind" and opens our eyes to vistas of possibility. --Brian Bruya

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:19 -0400)

(see all 11 descriptions)

The novel, published in 1974, uses a long motorcycle trip to frame a prolonged exploration of the world of ideas, about life and how best to live it. It references perspectives from Western and Eastern Civilizations as it explores the central question of the how to pursue technology so that human life is enriched rather than degraded. Narrated in the first person, it incorporates a parallel presentation of trip details and an ongoing retrospective concerning dramatic events from the Narrator's past, creating rich symbolism and including numerous analogies reinforcing the overall theme of coming to terms with the mysteries of why we exist and how best to live.… (more)

» see all 12 descriptions

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