Objective Levels

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The objective levels of static value patterns are the inorganic, the biological, the social and the intellectual. Of these, inorganic quality seems to connect to a romantic cluster that could be called sense-data. The existence of sand, stones, heat and such is inferred from sensory experiences, which are a distinctive type of romantic quality. Biological quality, on the other hand, connects to the lower needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: physiological needs and the need for safety. The former includes breathing, food, water, sex, homeostasis and excretion. The latter includes security of body, resources and property. Ecspecially the former corresponds quite stricly with biological quality in Pirsig’s levels.

Social quality is about the needs that are categorized under “Love/belonging” and “Esteem” in Maslow’s hierarchy. These include friendship, family, sexual intimacy, self-esteem, confidence, achievement and respect. I call these higher needs. Intellectual quality is about Maslow’s “self-actualization”, including creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts. These I call deliberation.

So we end up with inorganic level meaning conceptual systems about sense-data, biological level meaning conceptual systems about lower needs, social level meaning concetual systems about higher needs and intellectual level meaning conceptual systems about deliberation. Each level in Pirsig’s hierarchy has two components: the dialectic classical component (the references) and the romantic component (the referents).

Pirsig’s levels of static value patterns run somewhat parallel to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, although Maslow’s hierarchy is possibly more focused on empirical evidence while Pirsig’s theory is more forcused on the dialectic structure of the theory itself. This is yet another similarity that makes Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality appear less novel, ecspecially as Maslow published his paper already in 1943 – almost fifty years before Lila. But they are not the exact same theory. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is probably more scientific in the traditional sense, but the Metaphysics of Quality has philosophical content beyond the scope of Maslow’s work.

Furthermore, Maslow’s hierarchy is less comprehensive than the Metaphysics of Quality, as it does not include the needs associated with the inorganic level. It’s reasonable to believe there are such needs, and that they are omitted from Maslow’s hierarchy because they are too easy to satisfy to seem practically important. But if people are placed into sensory deprivation, they may begin to hallucinate. People placed in rooms, that are completely quiet, are usually anguished by the experience and do not wish to stay in the room for a long time. It is probably a human need to have a perceptual world, that is, to experience things by the senses. But in normal conditions this is always possible. Nature does not tend to spontaneously create conditions of sensory deprivation, or if it does, the creatures who experience them are usually unable to communicate the experience to us.

See also