Lila: An Inquiry into Morals

From Academic Kids

Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (1991) is the second book by Robert M. Pirsig, who is best known for his cult favorite, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This semi-autobiographical story takes place in the autumn as the author sails his boat down the Hudson River. Phædrus, the author's alter ego, is jarred out of his solitary routine by an encounter with Lila, a straightforward but troubled woman who is nearing a mental breakdown.

As in his past book, the narrative is embedded between rounds of deep philosophical thought. The main goal of this book is to develop a complete metaphysical system based on the idea of Quality introduced in his first book. (See Metaphysics of Quality) Unlike his previous book, in which he creates a dichotomy between Classical and Romantic Quality, this book centers on the division of Quality into Static and Dynamic.

Another goal of this book is to critique the field of Anthropology. Pirsig claims traditional Objectivity renders the field ineffective. He then turns his concept of Quality toward an explaination of the difficulties Western society has had in understanding the values and perspective of American Indians. One interesting conclusion is that modern American culture ( Culture of the United States) is the result of a melding of Native American and European values.

Another theme analyzed using the Metaphysics of Quality, is the interaction between Intellectual and Social patterns. Pirsig states that until the end of the Victorian era, social patterns dominated the conduct of members of our culture. In the aftermath of World War I, intellectual patterns and the scientific method accended to that position, becoming responsible for directing the nation's goals and actions. The later occurrences of Fascism are seen as an anti-intellectual struggle to return social patterns to the dominant position. The Hippie movement, having percieved the flaws inherent in both social and intellectual patterns, sought to transcend them, but failed to provide a stable replacement, degenerating instead into lower level biological patterns as noted in its calls for Free love .


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