Education, Pirsig, and Subject-Object splitting and non-splitting
Pirsig's views are close to emile's; i.e. Pirsig's 'Quality' is emile's 'Resonance'' (subject-object nonduality).
[Note: 'subject-object splitting' = 'duality', 'subject-object non-splitting' = 'nonduality']
Letting go of one's fixed identity is essential in order to avoid cultural mediating of one's relational inclusion in the world. it opens the way to experiencing one's 'natural Self' as a relational feature that is uniquely, situationally included in the transforming relational continuum.
this is where one's 'uniqueness' resides. pirsig wants to get rid of the 'thing-in-itself' identity of the 'motorcycle' so as to understand the motorcycle, and things in general, including himself and his students, in terms of pre-fixed-identity relational dynamics.
The exercise he gives to a student who gets a mental block when asked to write an essay on american history (it is too big and there is too much to it and she is overwhelmed by the magnitude and scope and doesn't know where to start), ... is one in which she must dissolve her voyeur centre.
He suggests that she comes at this from the experience of a brick in the front wall of the Opera House in Bozeman and she has a 'high Quality' experience and writes an excellent essay on history through the experience of the brick. The brick doesn't have to go out and scan what is going on in the country over all of space and time from newpaper reports etc, but history can be interpreted in the continuing now of the brick's experience, by the transformation of Bozeman and from who and what is passing through the street, where they are coming from and going to, how they are dressed etc. etc.
Essentially, Pirsig's approach in his search for meaning is to get the fixed ego-self 'out of the way' because it is the centre of cultural mediating. People who have a strong sense of 'who they are' impose this on their view of the world around them ["this frenchie food is no good. I want hamburgers and hotdogs like I get back home"].
Systems sciences pioneer Erich Jantsch, in 'Design for Evolution' made the same point by comparing 'Robinson Crusoe' and 'Suzanne de la Pacifique', the former castaway reworking his south pacific paradise to make it like his home back in Britain, and Suzanne, conversely, approaching her life as a castaway by entering into a relational synthesis with the new world she found herself in.
But people who undertake the collapsing of their ego can be viewed as 'crazy' and be put into mental hospitals [letting go of the ego has to be done carefully] as happened to Pirsig [they diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic].
"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, develops around Pirsig's exploration into the nature of "Quality" ... "it is an exploration of the underlying metaphysics of Western culture" ... "that challenges our subject-object view of reality". "Pirsig finds in "Quality" a special significance and common ground between Western and Eastern world views".
"Pirsig became greatly troubled by the existence of more than one workable hypothesis to explain a given phenomenon, and that the number of hypotheses appeared unlimited. He could not find any way to reduce the number of hypotheses—he became perplexed by the role and source of hypothesis generation within scientific practice. The question distracted him to the extent that he lost interest in his studies and failed to maintain good grades. Finally, he was expelled from the university."
there are similarities in emile's experience, and commonality in the view that all hypotheses are subjective and incomplete; i.e. there is no 'truth', as Nietzsche also points out. That is, there is no 'common truth', no 'objective reality'. Whether there is or not continues to be a divisive issue [one can see it play out in the Lone Raven - emile dialogue following the Confusing figureheads for fountainheads: Hierarchical leadership' article ].
What is 'true' is our unique personal experience which is unmediated by a load of rational analytical conceptualization, until we open our mouths and talk about it. As relational forms within a transforming relational continuum, we are a 'resonance' or as R.D. Laing puts it, a 'cosmic fetalizing' and when we are in touch with this, we are having a 'Quality experience' in Pirsig's terms. Of course, it is impossible to have this 'Quality experience' while we continue to carry the baggage of nationality, gender, political loyalties etc. etc.
Essentially, where Pirsig is coming from, is from suspending the common Western culture metaphysics of dualism, the assuming of a subject-object split. In the emile-Lone Raven dialogue, Lone Raven could not see his own dualism because it is like water to fish in Western culture. This blindness to dualism is common in Western culture [yes, it comes through 'education'] because, as Einstein, Poincare and others have pointed out, one can only see it from the nondualist vantage point. In Einstein's analogy, it is like standing on top of a mountain (nondualism, non-euclidian space) and seeing the apex of a foothill far below (dualism, euclidian space) that you had previously thought was the top of the mountain. That is, being constrained to a foothill view is like water to fish, you are blind to the limitations of this view, ... you 'stand on your own shoulders' and get to see where you were at. Goedel's theorem expresses the impossibility for logic to get you there. as Poincare points out;
“It is by logic we prove, it is by intuition that we invent. … Logic, therefore, remains barren unless fertilised by intuition.”- Henri Poincaré
The classic 'Flatland' by Edwin Abbott (1884) is also on this topic and Ernst Mach speaks of the same effect in terms of multiple manifoldness of Riemannian (non-Euclidian) space;
"it is possible to move out of a finite straight line, without passing the extremities, through the second dimension ; out of a finite closed surface through the third ; and, analogously, out of a finite closed space, without passing through the enclosing boundaries, through the fourth dimension." -- Ernst Mach, ‘The Science of Mechanics; a Critical and Historical Account of its Development’
Likewise, if you are within a linear space, it is like water to fish [you don't realize that you are 'constrained' to two dimensions] until you move into a curved surface and can see a straight line as a 'special case'. Likewise, if you move into a spatial volume, you can then see a curved surface as a special case, and if you can move into a fourth dimensional space, you can see three dimensional volumes as a special case of fourth dimensional space. This is where Pirsig's 'Quality experience' comes in; i.e. it corresponds to being 'one dimension beyond' three dimensional space.
If the atmospheric flow 'had eyes', it could 'see' the storm-cells (3D volumetric objects) that were developing within it. This is Schroedinger's point about 'the world is given only once' without the subject-object split; i.e. our natural experience is within the inhabitant-habitat nonduality where 'Atman = Brahman'. Instead of thinking of ourselves as a 3D volumetric cell with 'our own inputs and outputs' as inhabitant-habitat dualism would have it, which comes from a double error of grammar, we are capable of understanding ourselves as a verb, an 'inputting-outputting' [with any 'being', but with a floating identity as is the physical reality of a storm-cell in the transforming relational flow-continuum]. This is the worldview of indigenous aboriginals which naturally supports anarchy.
Pirsig got to this view 'the long, hard way' passing through western rationality, taking it to the limit and then going beyond. This earned him a stint in a mental hospital and a diagnosis of 'paranoid schizophrenic' (like John Nash, A Beautiful Mind), but Pirsig recognized that the 'Quality experience' mode was his natural mode and that the 3D being mode was culturally mediated and abstractly/rationally constrained worldview that we are all have access to [one needed take to long trip through rationality and then 'breaking through the imagined bounding limits of rationality and into the fourth dimension. We are all born with the capability of going there directly and cultural/educational mediating 'dumbs us down'. As F. David Peat observes;
“To the infant’s developing mind, topology comes before geometry. In general, deeper and more fundamental logical operations are developed earlier than more specific rules and applications. The history of mathematics, which is generally taken as a process of moving towards deeper and more general levels of thought, could also be thought of as a process of excavation which attempts to uncover the earliest operations of thought in infancy. According to this argument, the very first operations exist at a pre-conscious level [i.e. ‘pre-intellectualizing’ level in the conscious and intuitive infant] so that the more fundamental a logical operation happens to be, the earlier it was developed by the infant and the deeper it has become buried in the mind.” – F. David Peat, ‘Mathematics and the Language of Nature’
So, it seems to me that where you are going with 'autodidact' is where Pirsig and Peat are going, to the excavating of our natural prelingual [pre-culturally mediated natural self experience] which we are born with which has been buried under a bunch of culturated-semantic bullshit, and thus return to our unencumbered, natural 'Quality experience', or 'resonance'/'nondualist' experience.