Thursday, March 16, 2006

Reading and Writing

So, Sam Norton said to me the other day, "When are you going to start blogging?" It actually hadn't really occurred to me. Besides, websites and all that stuff were for people who had more skill on a computer than copy and paste. I told him, "Blogging? That's far too hi-tech for me. I can barely run the internet to e-mail." And what would I do with a blog? But then I was tooling around at Ian Glendinning's blog and noticed a bunch of links to other blogs, including another compatriot Paul Turner. I've thought Paul had been developing very nice insights about Pirsig for some time, so I took a look. His very simple blog was basically a working tool of investigation. That piqued my interest. That's something I could use. And then a few days ago I noticed at the top of Paul's blog a little button calling to me: "Create your own blog." I thought I might as well explore how its done. Two minutes later I had a blog.

Like Paul's first entry, I thought I would just give my mission statement. The trouble is, of course, that I don't really have a mission statement. I'm not really pursuing any problems or lines of inquiry with philosophy. I don't really think about philosophical problems by themselves. I think about philosophers to be sure, but I don't think about problems in isolation of any particular writer. I think of philosophical problems as analogous to psychological problems. They just need to be massaged out by the proper therapy.

However, I am plagued by philosophical obsession. The title of my little blog here, "Matt Kundert's Pirsig Affliction," expresses succinctly what I think about because "Pirsig" for me is coextensive with "philosophy." In high school, when Mr. Waldeck first assigned me to read Pirsig's ZMM in his philosophy/religion class, I was already of a "philosophical disposition." Ya' know, the kids who like to think abstractly, if a little dumbly, about really large ideas. I had grown up Midwest Methodist, which essentially means I grew up to be a well-mannered atheist (when I told the Board Director that I probably shouldn't be the Youth Representative because I was an atheist, he said that it wasn't that biga' deal: "You were chosen because you're an upstanding gentleman and the other high schoolers talk to you and like you. We all go through phases when we are young. Maybe someday you'll come back to the fold."). In the High School Sunday School Class, we were provoked by our teacher (a Baptist-turn-Jewish philosophy PhD, something else that might only happen in Midwest Methodist churchs) to think about and defend our faith in God. Sunday School class was never easy on the brain for us. Naturally, upon entering the class I quickly decided that it would be easier to shed the mouthed I-believe-in-Gods and come out of the atheist closet. But I still went to Sunday School because I enjoyed the experience of being intellectually challenged.

And then came Pirsig. Well, actually I only read the first fifty pages of ZMM the first time. I wasn't much into high school, particularly reading things I was told to read, and the book really didn't catch me. Not that much did. It wasn't until I got to college a year later, and entered my Philosophy 101 class with Kay Picart, that the fire that was already lit began to be fanned. I remember walking into the University Bookstore the first week of classes to pick up my books and groaning to my friend, "Oah, I have to read ZMM again. Er, rather a first time." But following an interesting semester, we ended with ZMM, I read it, and was quite attracted to it. Soon after I read Lila for another class and that was it. The fire of philosophy, and Pirsig, was a bonfire.

Pirsig is my obsession and my muse. My interests in Pirsig and philosophy have changed, but the fact that I think about Pirsig hasn't. The main thing that has changed is that I've read Richard Rorty's entire corpus. But unlike Pirsig, rather than providing a fixating focus, Rorty has more provided me with tools. Most, if not all, of the philosophical ideas and moves I use are inheirited from him (and if not him, someone else). I'm not very original. I don't have any striking insights to unleash upon philosophy. I'm an amateur who enjoys reading philosophy. If there's anything I have, it might be a knack for putting writers together, seeing how they fit together, how bridges might be drawn between them. That's all I really know how to do, so that's all the meager wisdom I forsee offering here.

So that's really what all I guess will be offered on this little blog I now call home. I'll comment about what I read. One of the first things I might do, though, is go back through Rorty's writings, more or less as I read them, and connect the interesting spots with Pirsig. Things that made me go, "Oh, he's saying something that effects Pirsig." I get questioned a lot about this bridge, so I might as well provide more of a road map. It'll give me something to do.


  1. I am delighted that you have started a blog. I shall read you regularly, with pleasure.

  2. Ditto to what Sam said and consider this page bookmarked. Good luck Matt, have fun with it.

  3. AnonymousJuly 19, 2006

    Matt I must say that this is a very handsome looking blog. For someone who can only cut and paste, you've put a lot of organization and thought into it. It's especially refreshing that you allow UPPERCASE letters (dig to Ian). I noticed the Linkage section along the right-hand side-bar. How come Glenn's Postmortem MoQ Page is not in there? Must be an oversight :)

  4. Well, thanks Glenn. I appreciate that. Obviously, given, for instance, the lack of a link to your site, this isn't that well thought out, but I keep adding things as I go along as I think of them. (And, given my skills, learning how to add stuff.)

    But Glenn--if I added your page, I'd have to add links to everybody's sites, including the nigh incomprehensible Quantonics site. Besides, I added their links because they read my pages. Now that you've read a few posts, I'll add you in. Just watch your readership jump.

  5. OH! And by the way--I went to your site yesterday and you didn't have any links to anybody, and today, after trying to make me feel bad for not having you on my page, I notice that you have a nice little selection. You're not foolin' anybody. I'm not feelin' bad since you just added the stuff, too.

  6. AnonymousJuly 19, 2006

    Well I'm busted, lol. I'm guilty about links, at least of not having a links section (until this morning), but once you start one you're responsible for the choices and omissions.

    I know what you mean, though. When I added the links section to my site, every time I thought I was done I thought of another one. It looks like you thought of some I missed. Don't necessarily let me influence your criteria, though. If you were going on reciprocity instead of quality or completeness or whatever, that's fine.

    There was certainly some masked seriousness behind the smiley in my question, though, and with reason. I think I have a pretty good site. Anyone who is interested in the MOQ should give it a read. It should get more attention than it does from the MOQ community. Heck, I can't even get google to find my main page. There was a point earlier this year when no one was linking my site. And there was a period when a link to it from the MOQ entry of Wikipedia was repeatedly torn down. And then history was re-written when my parody paper was removed from the MOQ Conference proceedings. And these weren't even the worst of the bad shit that was going down. Don't ask.

    So thanks, Matt, for putting it up. I guess I need a hit counter now.

  7. No, you do have a good site. Many of my posts are the same way, reconstructed from discussion on The "reciprocity" thing was simply people in my immediate vision. (Afterall, does Anthony have a link to my site on his?) It was pretty much just oversight that left your link off. I wasn't thinkin' a lot about who I added.

    Like you, I find some of the tactics taken by ... mainline engagers of Pirsig to be less than savory. I think their instincts are to ignore criticism, which then just insulates and isolates them even more from philosophy and the world, turning it ever more into a small sect that is negligible simply because they themselves neglect everyone else.

    You have to get into the conversation, and the only way to do that is to talk to other people. If I had their mindset, I certainly wouldn't have Anthony's link on my page because of the way he's treated me in the past and because we have strong disagreements on what marks a good philosophy (and, subsequently, a good Pirsig). But part of being a good conversationalist is being at least able to direct people to the other side of the argument. At least, I think so.

  8. AnonymousJuly 20, 2006

    Yes, and well said.

  9. AnonymousJuly 29, 2006

    Hey Matt,
    How come our discussion above and the one about philosophizing while high aren't listed in the Recent Comments side-bar? There are entries listed after ours, but not ours. Does inclusion there require something of you or is it supposed to be automatic?

    Feeling left out (again).

  10. Oh Glenn ;-)

    When I was looking into having a "Recent Comments" list on the sidebar (part of my learning experience with blogging), I basically found two ways. I discovered the possibility on Sam's blog, but the code that Blogger gives you only enables comments on posts that are on the front page to be listed. Sam uses a different program called Halo. He discovered too late, though, that switching from Blogger keeping track of your comments to Halo deletes all the comments you accumulated before through Blogger.

    So his Halo program lists comments by most recent time, but mine only lists comments on recent posts. It's all automatic. Because I already had a bunch of comments, I decided to just stick to Blogger, though I did elongate my front page to try and keep as many posts and their comments to be listed as possible. But with 50+ posts, it'd probably be a little too unwieldy to keep all of them on the front page (no less the comments list becoming unreadable).

    Sorry about that. Don't worry though--I feel the same as you about having beautiful comments swallowed up and lost in an archive.

  11. AnonymousJuly 29, 2006

    Thanks. I feel better now :)


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