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All information current as of 14:21:13 Pacific Time, Monday, 21 February 2005.

Lila's Child: An Inquiry into Quality

   by Dan Glover / Robert M. Pirsig

    01 January, 2003


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Editorial description(s):

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Reader review(s):

Lila's Child, May 13, 2003
Any book project that concerns itself with the challenging matters of philosophy is doomed if nearly all its contributors lack the proper background in philosophy or cannot translate thought to word with high fidelity. Such is the case with Lila's Child. Its writings were never intended to be published, and it shows. This is so plainly evident that Robert Pirsig himself makes a half-hearted attempt at damage control in his introduction, not exactly countering the notion that the book is awful, but to argue that it's more interesting that way.

Even if it were interesting, why someone would pay good money to read these postings as a book instead of for free over the hard to understand, unless the notes Pirsig adds makes them worth it. And quality annotations would be highly valued by anyone interested in the Metaphysics of Quality (MOQ) - Pirsig's muddled, re-packaged form of idealism that could dearly use some clarity. But Pirsig mostly misses this opportunity and manages only a scant clarification here and there, such as when he expresses his desire to reverse the impression left in Lila that all moral issues can be solved with his system, or when he categorically states that only people, and not animals, are social patterns of value under the MOQ.

A typical notation of Pirsig's consists of one or two clipped sentences that do little or nothing to further understanding, except perhaps in the overactive imagination of some readers, and on a couple of occasions he appears distressingly detached from his own ideas, such as when he makes a statement that is prefaced by the qualifier, 'If I understand the MOQ properly,...'.

The book does manage to capture some of the excitement of a crusading bunch who are under the illusion that Pirsig's ideas will change the world, although it becomes exasperatingly apparent that no two people can exactly agree to what those ideas are, or how they should be applied. One contributor, Doug Renselle, went on to invent Quantonics, an offshoot of the MOQ that is a worthy addition to the burgeoning field of psychoceramics.

Dan Glover does a serviceable job of rearranging the posts to make them more readable, and Struan Hellier makes some incisive comments, but beyond that the book is notable only for its confusions, illogic, and philosophical stabs in the dark.

A Unique & Important Work, March 12, 2003
Robert Pirsig stated in the 25th anniversary edition of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" that he would not write a third book. This was a disappointment for Pirsig's legions of fans, including myself. Pirsig is an utterly unique thinker.

He made us wait over fifteen years before releasing the sequel to ZMM, a book called LILA, published in 1991. It was a much more intellectual book than ZMM, and therefore not as popular, but many people found its ideas utterly fascinating. A website was formed by a small group of intelligent folks who wanted a place on the internet to discuss LILA and philosophy. That was over six years ago. The website is still around (thanks Horse!) and the discussions continue. It is the only website endorsed by Pirsig himself (he mentions it in the 25th anniversary edition of ZMM).

LILA'S CHILD contains the first year's worth of discussions from the website, painstakingly compiled and superbly edited by Dan Glover. It is a fascinating repository of debate and discourse, and indispensable to current and future fans of Pirsig. Although he didn't directly participate in the original discussions, the entire book is annotated by Pirsig, who offers his personal insights on the topics of discussion, and (at some points) critiques the views of individual participants. His annotations contain new insights and personal opinions not found in ZMM or LILA. Here we have pure Pirsig.

LILA'S CHILD is a fitting and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy which began with ZMM and continued on with LILA. As with those two books, LILA'S CHILD is a book that can be picked up and read over and over again and new gems of insights discovered each time. Pirsig fans will not be disappointed. Thank you, Dan Glover, for making it happen.

An important contribution to Quality, May 22, 2003
This book is an excellent compilation of on-line discussions which occurred in the late 1990's regarding the Metaphysics of Quality. The discussions themselves are a joy to read, but Pirsig's annotations and comments make this an absolute must for anyone deeply interested in the philosophical system of thought called the Metaphysics of Quality. The contributors bring up and discuss many of the problems and difficulties lesser philosophers than Pirsig, such as myself, have had with the MOQ. Pirsig's clarifications and notes go a long way toward solving many of these problems.

This book is no Pirsig "lovefest." Dissenters abound in the discussions, many of whom are quite intelligent and learned. Pirsig's well-reasoned responses to the best dissenters provide some of the book's greatest insights.

By integrating the age-old wisdom of the most enlightened Buddhist and mystic philosophers into a rational, scientific, metaphysical framework, the Metaphysics of Quality may be the greatest intellectual achievement of the 20th century. Lila's Child, the third in the trilogy started by Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila, is an important work to help integrate this achievement into our intellectual culture.

New Age Nonsense!, December 6, 2003
Lila's Child is a record of a rather sad bunch of predominantly middle class, middle age, white males, waffling inanely about that of which they know very little.

It is easy to be fooled by the works of Pirsig. In true mystical fashion, he uses the language of science and philosophy, yet emptied of its cognitive meaning, to persuade the gullible that the vast majority of us are ignorant of what he sees as the spectacular insight that `Quality' (although he literally does not know what this means) is the godhead, the font of everything. Furthermore, and following in the footsteps of religious fundamentalists everywhere, Pirsig and his followers claim that those of us who are immune to this intellectual virus are simply too blind or stupid to understand that which should be obvious to anyone with the wit to remove his or her culturally tinted spectacles.

Although the website that spawned this book has stagnated badly it is still in some semblance of operation, despite most, almost all, of the contributors to this book having given up hope of ever getting this muddled nonsense recognised in academia. Perhaps the most impressive of these contributors, a professional writer, was ousted from the website she created after calling this book `not very good, (her actual words were somewhat different). Others have despaired at the authoritarian censorship of dissenters that pertains under the new regime and the remainder, at least those who don't reject metaphysics altogether, seem to find pontificating about such enlightened subjects as whether the haloes that Christian saints have round their heads are the result of their superior connection to Dynamic Quality, (Falsify that!!), to be a good use of brain power.

For the die hard Pirsig acolyte, there are the rather amateurish and ill conceived comments from the man himself that litter (literally) this book. One of my favourites is the almost `ex cathedra' proclamation that `life is matter which has been configured by DNA.' Superficially, this is simply an incoherent mixing of tenses, but, more importantly, a worse definition of life is hard to formulate and no more than one sentence is needed to dispose of such nonsense. My cat was configured by DNA, yet it has been dead for sixteen years. Pirsig, on that definition, would think nothing of walking to its grave and shouting `kitty, kitty' while holding forth a tin of tuna. Perhaps Pirsig means something different here. If so, it is a shame that he lacks the ability to express himself with any clarity.

From the introduction where Pirsig as much as states that this book is terrible, before bizarrely trying to persuade us that it might be a worth reading, right through to the conclusion which doesn't exist, this book does nothing but diminish those who contributed to it. Unless you have already fallen for the new age cult that is Lila, I suggest you give it a wide berth. For philosophical discourse, `Noddy Goes to Toyland' beats it hands down.

Engaging and Illuminating, April 7, 2003
I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig as an assignment in high school about five years ago but didn't really see what all the fuss was about. About 3 months ago I came across Lila in a bookstore and bought it out of curiousity. I fell in love with it. Afterwards I bought a copy of Zen and read it again. This time I got much more out of it. I searched the Internet for more on Pirsig and found this wonderful book. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in Quality.

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