Sharing this passage and my take on it was inspired by a recent messaging exchange with @Jay313 and by exchanges with @RobA ad @EastwoodDC in or with regard to this earlier thread Atheists and Jesus Christ
I’m currently reading Robert M. Pirsig’s LILA and so I turn to it to help me sleep. Unfortunately it has hit another stimulating section where the ideas it illuminates don’t lead to sleep. What I want to share here is a passage which I think sheds light on what motivates liberalism and conservatism in a way which highlights how each is important to morals but not to the exclusion of what is important in what the other brings. It might help to talk about his metaphysics first, but skip the next paragraph if your prefer.
In this novel, Pirsig lays out his Metaphysics of Quality in which he suggests, instead of starting with subjects and objects, beginning instead with dividing all of reality into static quality and dynamic quality.* Dynamic quality is that which brings about greater degrees of freedom. Static quality is that which preserves the freedom gained. They are in tension because greater freedom can only come about by challenging what the forces of static quality seek to preserve. Politically, liberalism emphasizes the dynamic force while conservatism represents the static, preservationist force.
Apologies for any errors in transcription. The quote is from the hard bound edition of LILA, pp. 307-8:
“…what is meant by “human rights” is usually the moral code of intellect-vs-society, the moral right of intellect to be free of social control. Freedom of speech; freedom of assembly, of travel; trail by jury; habeas corpus; government by consent - these “human rights” are al intellect-vs-society issues. …these “human rights” have not just a sentimental basis, but a rational, metaphysical basis. They are essential to the evolution of a higher level of life from a lower level of life. They are for real.
…ths intellect-vs-society code of morals is not at all the same as the society-vs-biology codes of morals that go back to prehistoric times. They are completely separate levels of morals. They should never be confused.
The central term of confusion between these two levels of codes is “society.” Is society good or is society evil? The question is confused because the term “society” is common to both these levels, but in one level society is the higher evolutionary pattern and in the other it is the lower. Unless you separate these two levels of moral codes you get a paralyzing confusion as to whether society is moral or immoral. That paralyzing confusion is what dominates all thoughts about morality and society today.
The idea that, “man was born free but is everywhere in chains” was never true. There are no chains more vicious than the chains of biological necessity into which every child is born. Society exists primarily to free people from these biological chains. It has done that job so stunningly well intellectuals forget the fact and turn upon society with a shameful ingratitude for what society has done.
Today we are living in an intellectual and technological paradise and a moral and social nightmare because the intellectual level of evolution, in its struggle to become free of the social level, has ignored the social level’s role in keeping the biological level under control. Intellectuals have failed to understand the ocean of [poor] biological quality that is constantly being suppressed by social order.
*If you’re wondering how such an initial split in metaphysics can possibly account for all of reality I don’t blame you. But he seems to think four levels of movement toward greater freedom will catch everything in our experience. First is the movement from chaos to the cosmos of the inorganic. The second is toward all things biological. The third is toward society and culture. The final is toward matters of the mind, intellect and reason. I won’t blame you if you give him an incomplete for his failure to flesh out theological matters, but I suspect he would say that God is manifest in the urge toward Dynamic Quality, from top to bottom. Of course you can also see the church as providing much of the moral ratcheting to prevent intellect from going so far off the rails, @LM77.