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Lila: An Enquiry into Morals by Robert M.…

Lila: An Enquiry into Morals (original 1991; edition 1991)

by Robert M. Pirsig

Series: Phaedrus (2)

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1,888225,805 (3.57)30
The author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance examines life's essential issues as he recounts the journey down the Hudson River in a sailboat of his philosopher-narrator Phaedrus.
Title:Lila: An Enquiry into Morals
Authors:Robert M. Pirsig
Info:Bantam Press (1991), Hardcover, 389 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, philosophy, pb

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Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals by Robert M. Pirsig (1991)

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English (21)  Italian (1)  All languages (22)
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In societies that criminalize rather than attempt to understand mental illness, artists and philosophers may be the first to have the guts to discuss the topic 'publicly' or sympathetically. Such societies may first approach understanding mental illness through art rather than through education, medicine or philanthropy, let alone helpful 'treatment'.

For women w/mental illness, societal support toward a true understanding of mental health may be even slower coming than for men, if a male perspective is the society's metric for truth/sanity women's experience will always be a bit aberrant/suspect.

Pirsig differentiates Lila's madness from Phædrus' in his first book and proposes a new way forward.

In [b:Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values|629|Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance An Inquiry Into Values|Robert M. Pirsig|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1410136019s/629.jpg|175720] the narrator/protagonist, like the author himself, is diagnosed/characterized as schizophrenic and institutionalized. He receives electric shock treatments but the 'treatment' is no "cure" just a means to an end, a way of going back into hiding in plain sight.

Like Pirsig, Phædrus eventually is able to leave institutionalized mental care not because he is cured but because he elects to behave as he expects the staff want a healing patient to behave, by speaking as the staff hope he will etc.

From Lila:
"He saw that the sane always know they are good because their culture tells them so. Anyone who tells them otherwise is sick, paranoid, and needs further treatment. To avoid that accusation Phædrus had had to be very careful of what he said when he was in the hospital. He told the sane what they wanted to hear and kept his real thoughts to himself."

In Lila, as he considers options for ways forward for this female character heading toward insanity, the Phædrus character recalls his own previous non-cure:

"In time this strategy had brought Phædrus enough smiles to get out. It made him less honest and it made him more of a conformist to the current cultural status quo but that is what everyone really wanted. It got him out and back to his family and a job and a place in the world again and this new personality of a conforming, role-playing, ex-mental patient who knew how to do as he was told without protest became a sort of permanent stage personality that he never dropped."

"It wasn't a happy solution, to always role-play with people he had once been honest with. It made it impossible to ever really share anything with them. Now he was more isolated than he had been in the insane asylum but there was nothing he could do about it. "

"Her second alternative, he thought, would be to cave in to whatever it was she was fighting, and learn to "adjust." She'd probably go into some kind of cultural dependency, with recurring trips to a psychiatrist or some kind of "social counselor" for "therapy," accept the cultural "reality" that her rebellion was no good, and live with it. In this way she'd continue to lead a "normal" life, continuing her problem, whatever it was, within conventional cultural limits."

"The trouble was, he didn't really like that solution much better than the first."

"And Lila's battle is everybody's battle, you know? Sometimes the insane and the contrarians and the ones who are the closest to suicide are the most valuable people society has. They may be precursors of social change. They've taken the burdens of the culture onto themselves, and in their struggle to solve their own problems they're solving problems for the culture as well."

Pirsig posits that a new way of conceptualizing mental health is necessary: "The way to really deal with insanity, he thought, is to turn the tables and talk about truth instead. Insanity's a medical subject that everyone agrees is bad. Truth's a metaphysical subject that everyone disagrees about. There are lots of different definitions of truth and some of them could throw a whole lot more light on what was happening to Lila than a subject—object metaphysics does."

He goes on to argue that "The Metaphysics of Quality suggests that in addition to the customary solutions to insanity—conform to cultural patterns or stay locked up—there is another one. This solution is to dissolve all static patterns, both sane and insane, and find the base of reality, Dynamic Quality, that is independent of all of them".

This notion of Dynamic Quality -Pirsig's consideration and definition of the concept is where [b:Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals|31093|Lila An Inquiry Into Morals|Robert M. Pirsig|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1346459192s/31093.jpg|2374212] purports to take the reader . . . now 25? years later in an era when discussions of mental health are more likely to be about insurance coverage, access, and Rx's rather than talk therapy, when only the rich or the convicted criminal are likely to find themselves in an institution unless they're there for addiction how does Lila read? Does Pirsig's way forward still look like a door people are likely to open?
  nkmunn | Nov 17, 2018 |
A plot of sorts, a boat, a river, a journey and many digressions. None of what the characters do or say is purely to take along the story. Everything has meaning. Everything signifies something. A book to take to the desert island to read and re-read. A first skim leaves me suspended between boredom and enquiry. ( )
  Steve38 | Jun 24, 2018 |
The book seems to be trying to present a philosophical argument and to be a work of fiction at the same time. It succeeds at neither.

Philosophically, Robert Persig is presenting his idea of the Metaphysics of Quality as a philosophical concept. Yet he uses the emotional tie-ins of his fictional story to sell the idea. From the start, it bothered me that his use of Quality is quite different from our usage. I would think another term would be more appropriate, but I believe he wants us to associate his idea with our idea of quality without having to say it.

His initial ideas are interesting, and it started to look like it may have some merits. However, after the mid-point of the book he tries to sell rather odd ideas. He redefined science from a set of objective truths to subjective truths, because that fits better in his philosophy. Now science can have different truths in different cultures, which is the opposite of the goals of science.

Psychology, likewise is defined as culturally dependent. He sells his ideas using Lila, a psychotic young woman who responds beautifully to the predictions of his philosophy. She is not likable and not very believable. Some of her behavior doesn't feel consistent, the author would describe her as following a value system that is not consistent with that of society, but has "value". In his philosophy, value comes from experience.

As a work of fiction, Robert Persig is constantly talking to the reader. The characters are one-dimensional and I eventually lost interest in them.

It only got worse. I have not been able to finish the book. ( )
  Nodosaurus | Sep 5, 2017 |
The man only wrote two books and I love them both. Wish this one had a little more sailing and a little less New York, but every page contains at least one treasured bit of wisdom. Love his views, so sorry he's left us. ( )
  5hrdrive | Jul 25, 2017 |
I took quite some time to get into this book. I found the story of Lila itself quite intriguing, and while I wish he had gotten deeper into the story, maybe it is best that he left it that way.

For the first half of the book, I must say that I was not quite taken up by the musings of Robert Pirsig. They came to life, for me, in the second half of the book. This is when I thought that he had started to get into the whole topic of morality in a most remarkable manner.

I think he is a bit confused by Hindu-Vedic thought, in the sense that Vedic philosophy preceded Hindu philosophy in India. However, maybe he just used the term 'Hindu' loosely to avoid confusing readers. If so, this would be sad.

A good book indeed, however. It is quite deep, and one needs to read it slowly. It would be advisable to read a few passages several times, to allow them to sink in.

For me, however, 'Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' is still his masterpiece. ( )
  RajivC | May 24, 2017 |
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Pirsig, Robert M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jonkers, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Wendy and Nell
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Lila didn't know he was here.
Getting drunk and picking up bar-ladies and writing metaphyisics is a part of life.
'In de metafysica van de Kwali¬teit doet zich dit dilemma (tussen vrije wil en determinisme-JV) niet voor. Voor zover iemands gedrag wordt beheerst door statische kwali-teitspatronen, is er geen sprake van keuzen. Maar voor zover men Dynamische Kwaliteit nastreeft, en die is onde¬finieerbaar, is het gedrag vrij.'(p.¬170)
'Je kunt je van statische patronen bevrijden door ze in slaap te sussen. Dat wil zeggen, dat je ze zo voortreffelijk beheerst dat ze een onbewust onderdeel van je natuur worden. Je raakt er zo aan gewend dat je ze volslagen vergeet en dan zijn ze weg. In het middelpunt van de grootste saaiheid van statische ritualistische patronen kan de Dynamische vrijheid worden gevon¬den.'(p.414)
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