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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 (P.S.) (original 1974; edition 2008)

by Robert M. Pirsig

Series: Phaedrus (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
13,515181159 (3.85)205
Member:karmabodhi
Title:Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (P.S.)
Authors:Robert M. Pirsig
Info:Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2008), Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:zen, buddhism

Work details

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig (1974)

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    Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford (prehensel)
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» See also 205 mentions

English (160)  Dutch (6)  Italian (6)  Finnish (4)  French (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Danish (1)  All languages (181)
Showing 1-5 of 160 (next | show all)
I didn't finish this - I think I was too young/naive.... I might try again if it ever falls into my hands.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
It took me some time (about two months) to get done with Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance, But it was a fun read. I usually like to take my time reading a book to enjoy going throughout some of its lines again and again or just turn back the pages to discover a meaning I might have already missed. The real story is about a middle aged father who travels within The U. S alongside his 11 years old son hitting the road with a motorcycle while he makes an attempt to share his idea of a new kind of understanding of the concept of technology and quality.
Having the book written back in the 70's I can imagine that the ideas were unique and original or maybe even unusual to some, so I somehow believe that it was the reason that got the book rejected by 121 publishers before it becomes the most read philosophy books of all times!
He starts a journey which is not about the destination, it is about him, it is a discovery within himself to rediscover parts of him that long being gone under the influence of mental treatments that was done on him during 60's.
I guess having a forward thinking and different kind of ideas about what's been already described and valued by many before can cause trouble, as it did for Pirsig, until it somehow became intimidating to himself and to his beloved family, but one can never have it all. Being able to attend university at the age of 9 the writer never been able to find what he has been looking for in an academic manner and instead he challenged the whole idea of quality and grading later when he became a university lecturer in his early 30's.
I found The way he questions quality and his way of rationalization quite stimulating to my mind. The comparison he makes between eastern and western philosophy is also compelling and as he describes the way to maintain a motorcycle he does it in the most focused and delicate style that it somehow makes you feel like he tries to teach you how to draw or dance and that's when you get to see what is the art of motorcycle maintenance is all about .
At the end the writer points out the message of Zen;you need to have a power over your thoughts and to be able to think right, to be at peace in your mind and in peace with yourself so that only you are going to have the ability to fix a motorcycle or anything else in this world. Nothing will ever get fixed until you reach a peaceful state of mind and to discover the quality inside you. ( )
  GazelleS | May 11, 2016 |
Really really enjoyed this book.

During a motorcycle trip across America the author combines the story of the trip and his past with a philosophical inquiry into the nature of knowledge, technology and the division lines within our system of education.

I feel like this is a book any scientist should read. It makes a number of interesting points about our scientific system which should be taken into consideration by anybody doing research.
Do we really have the possibility of finding objective data? Is not everything tainted by the theories we hold? Is it possible to even come to unbiased theories, or is any theory just something we impose upon our reality to make sense of it?
What is the division between subjectivity and objectivity? Is this division real or imagined, and how can we bridge it? How does this division relate to other division such as the one between art and science and the romantic and analytic worldviews?
In what measure is our view of the world and of science determined by the commonly accepted standards that have been handed down to us from the ancient Greek world?
What is the concept of quality, really? Do we have an idea of what quality really is, or is it only a post-hoc assessment? Is it related to the idea of 'the good' and ancient eastern philosophy? How do ancient philosophies tie into our current system of thought?

Though these issues are often left unmentioned in university courses, I do feel they are important; we are taught that doing objective research is important, but I feel like it's a good thing to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Any scientist should consider what objectivity really is and how our preconceived ideas influence our worldview.

Apart from the philosophical themes, the novel also gives a close view of a man with psychological troubles and the effects of the ECT treatment he received. It delves into the ways a person can go completely off track - and how ECT might not solve these problems entirely. It also gives some view of the impact this has on a family.

All in all a very rich book, a combination of a novel and a philosophical work, with a rich and intriguing set of characters. ( )
  Britt84 | Apr 11, 2016 |
Interesting. Difficult. Not sure if it’s because I already started learning about mindfulness, but mindfulness makes more sense to me as a word and the author seemed very… egotistical, superior and imprecise about his theory of Quality. At one point, the author asks What is Quality? What is Quality of mind? And then says it can’t be defined. Here’s what I wrote:

Quality is when something fulfills its purpose precisely, efficiently, exquisitely. Therefore quality of mind and statement is when statement: when the statement describes, explains or persuades precisely, efficiently, exquisitely. Quality of Mind is when one thinks about things thoroughly so as to meet the purpose. The reason different people may see difference in quality is partially due to what the person sees as the purpose. Quality can be measured with metrics of purpose. For example, if the purpose of art is to invite the viewer to think or feel in a new way, then the art is quality if that purpose is achieved.

The book in terms of a relationship between father and son was frustrating, because he said ostensibly that the purpose of the trip was to show his son quality or pursuit of quality. However, he doesn’t really (in the book) take much time to talk to his son and explore with his son. The son explores woods and goes for walks and sometimes wants to show him things, but the father usually says he’s too tired. When the son suggests an alternate route, he says no because it takes 100 miles longer. What’s the difference of 100 miles after a drive cross country and allowing the son to make some choices? He spent most of the time in quiet staring off times thinking about his philosophy of Quality, but not actually living it as a father, only as a motorcycle owner. ( )
1 vote kparr | Mar 1, 2016 |
I will probably revisit this someday, because I've heard great things and I really do want to read it. At the time, though, it was just too... abstract. Lots of tangents, lots of metaphor and allusion and imagination.
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 160 (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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Series (with order)
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People/Characters
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Important events
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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
Blurbers
Publisher series
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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 12 descriptions

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