AT THE SMITHSONIAN

Why robert pirsig’s ‘zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’ still resonates today.

The author’s meditation on technology treads a whole new path in the modern, digital world

Matthew B. Crawford

Pirsig’s 1966 Honda Super Hawk motorcycle

Reading Robert Pirsig's description of a road trip today, one feels bereft. In his 1974 autobiographical novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance , he describes an unhurried pace over two-lane roads and through thunderstorms that take the narrator and his companions by surprise as they ride through the North Dakota plains. They register the miles in subtly varying marsh odors and in blackbirds spotted, rather than in coordinates ticked off. Most shocking, there is a child on the back of one of the motorcycles. When was the last time you saw that ? The travelers’ exposure—to bodily hazard, to all the unknowns of the road—is arresting to present-day readers, especially if they don’t ride motorcycles. And this exposure is somehow existential in its significance: Pirsig conveys the experience of being fully in the world, without the mediation of devices that filter reality, smoothing its rough edges for our psychic comfort.

If such experiences feel less available to us now, Pirsig would not be surprised. Already, in 1974, he offered this story as a meditation on a particular way of moving through the world, one that felt marked for extinction. The book, which uses the narrator’s road trip with his son and two friends as a journey of inquiry into values, became a massive best seller, and in the decades since its publication has inspired millions to seek their own accommodation with modern life, governed by neither a reflexive aversion to technology, nor a naive faith in it. At the heart of the story is the motorcycle itself, a 1966 Honda Super Hawk . Hondas began to sell widely in America in the 1960s, inaugurating an abiding fascination with Japanese design among American motorists, and the company’s founder, Soichiro Honda, raised the idea of “quality” to a quasi-mystical status, coinciding with Pirsig’s own efforts in Zen to articulate a “metaphysics of quality.” Pirsig’s writing conveys his loyalty to this machine, a relationship of care extending over many years. I got to work on several Hondas of this vintage when I ran a motorcycle repair shop in Richmond, Virginia. Compared to British bikes of the same era, the Hondas seemed more refined. (My writing career grew out of these experiences—an effort to articulate the human element in mechanical work.)

In the first chapter, a disagreement develops between the narrator and his riding companions, John and Sylvia, over the question of motorcycle maintenance. Robert performs his own maintenance, while John and Sylvia insist on having a professional do it. This posture of non-involvement, we soon learn, is a crucial element of their countercultural sensibility. They seek escape from “the whole organized bit” or “the system,” as the couple puts it; technology is a death force, and the point of hitting the road is to leave it behind. The solution, or rather evasion, that John and Sylvia hit on for managing their revulsion at technology is to “Have it somewhere else. Don’t have it here.” The irony is they still find themselves entangled with The Machine—the one they sit on.

Preview thumbnail for 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. The narrator's relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning; the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism

Today, we often use “technology” to refer to systems whose inner workings are assiduously kept out of view, magical devices that offer no apparent friction between the self and the world, no need to master the grubby details of their operation. The manufacture of our smartphones, the algorithms that guide our digital experiences from the cloud—it all takes place “somewhere else,” just as John and Sylvia wished.

Yet lately we have begun to realize that this very opacity has opened new avenues of surveillance and manipulation. Big Tech now orders everyday life more deeply than John and Sylvia imagined in their techno-dystopian nightmare. Today, a road trip to “get away from it all” would depend on GPS, and would prompt digital ads tailored to our destination. The whole excursion would be mined for behavioral data and used to nudge us into profitable channels, likely without our even knowing it.

ghosts zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

We don’t know what Pirsig, who died in 2017, thought of these developments, as he refrained from most interviews after publishing a second novel, Lila , in 1991. But his narrator has left us a way out that can be reclaimed by anyone venturesome enough to try it: He patiently attends to his own motorcycle, submits to its quirky mechanical needs and learns to understand it. His way of living with machines doesn’t rely on the seductions of effortless convenience; it requires us to get our hands dirty, to be self-reliant. In Zen , we see a man maintaining direct engagement with the world of material objects, and with it some measure of independence—both from the purveyors of magic and from cultural despair.

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  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Summary

by Robert Pirsig

These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. We are thankful for their contributions and encourage you to make your own.

Written by Polly Barbour

As if it wasn't complicated enough to follow one philosophical plot in the book, there are actually two separate plots cleverly interwoven throughout. The first is the story of the actual motorcycle journey that the narrator and his son are taking across several continents; the second tells of the life and the thoughts of a man named Phaedrus. Phaedrus is a solitary man, an intellectual who is consumed by the philosophical notion of Quality.

The narrator and Chris leave Minneapolis on a motorcycle trip with their friends, Sylvia and John Sutherland . The narrator then brings up the first of his Chautauquas, which are philosophical discourses. John and Sylvia do not like technology at all, and the narrator attributes this to their romantic view of life, valueing the superficial over the rational. The narrator, on the other hand, is a more analytical kind of person. As they travel he experiences several deja vu moments which make him feel he has been on this journey before. He calls these the ghosts in his thoughts. He extrapolates from these thoughts the feeling that Phaedrus is the past version of himself and that these ghost memories are actually recollections from his own incarnation as Phaedrus.

The group ride on through Montana and it is during this part of the journey that we learn about Phaedrus' life. He was a prodigious child, excelling at science, but lost faith in science and reason and felt that it could not explain the primary questions in the world. He dropped out of school as a result. He eventually took a job as an English professor at Montana State University, in Bozeman, Montana, coincidentally the destination of the four motorcycle riders. They stay with Robert and Gennie De Weese, who were Phaedrus' friends.

Chris and the narrator leave the group to hike a mountain, and the narrator continues to explain Phaedrus' quest to isolate the principles of Quality, the intangible "thing" that makes something good. Is Quality a subjective or an objective thing? Phaedrus cannot decide but realizes some time later that it is neither. Quality precedes subjectivity and objectivity but is in fact the "thing" that makes both subjectivity and objectivity possible. The two hikers camp out overnight and the narrator has a terrible nightmare in which a glass door separates him from his family. He can still see them but he cannot get to them. He is worried that the dream is in some way a warning and does not want to continue to hike to the summit, cutting the hike short and heading back to Bozeman.

After they leave Bozeman the group travel west, and the narrator begins to talk about the way in Quality can be seen in the art of motorcycle maintenance. He introduces several ideas; "gumption traps" prevent a person from developing an awareness of Quality. Gumption is the fuel that sustains the act of striving for Quality. Thinking inside the box is the main obstacle that stands between someone who doesn't understand Quality and that person beginning to fully understand it.

The narrator has the glass door dream again, which he now realizes is not a foreboding or warning dream at all, but rather is a symbol of his dual identities of himself and Phaedrus. He recalls spending time with his son whilst assuming the persona of Phaedrus and realizes that this complex mental state will need to be carefully explained to his son. He describes Phaedrus' continuing educational studies; he studies Ancient Greek and Philosophy at the University of Chicago and has a stand-up confrontation with the Chariman of the board of studies whom he considers to be unacceptably Aristotelian, the very opposite of himself and in direct opposition to his beliefs about Quality. The confrontation is the climax of Phaedrus' mental breakdown and he is hospitalized where he receives electroshock therapy.

Father and son continue to travel, riding ever closer to San Francisco, but their relationship is becoming increasingly strained. The narrator plans to send Chris home, and also plans to check himself into a hospital, confessing to his son that he suffers from mental illness, and also suggesting that this might be hereditary. He also tells Chris about his glass door dream, which distresses his son far more than the news of his father's declining mental state. Chris wants to know why his father did not just open the glass door that separated them. The narrator explains he was not allowed to. At the same time both Chris and his father realize that Phaedrus was not insane at all, and the narrator begins to reconcile both facets of his split identity. This joint realization and probing together actually brings father and son closer together; they ride towards San Francisco with a new respect for each other and a renewed air of friendship. Their mood has changed completely and they are now both in extremely high spirits.

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

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Study Guide for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance study guide contains a biography of Robert Pirsig, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

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Zen Buddhism

Revisiting Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The author of the iconic book died last month

Revisiting Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert Pirsig died on Monday, April 24, 2017, at his home in Maine. He was 88 and had been in poor health for some time.

In 1974, he published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance , an autobiographical account of the road trip he took with his 11-year-old son Chris from Minneapolis to San Francisco in the summer of 1968. It became an unexpected and almost immediate success, selling a million copies within a year and many more millions since.

The book also describes his experience, years earlier, of going clinically insane while trying to discover the meaning of life, eventually leaving him confined to a psychiatric hospital to receive electroconvulsive therapy. Yet a third strand of the novel develops the philosophy he explored during those difficult years—a metaphysics of what he calls “Quality”—in a series of informal narrative essays that form the bulk of most chapters.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not about traditional Zen, although Pirsig was clearly inspired by Zen Buddhism. His philosophical investigations began through teaching English composition to college students and asking himself the simple question of what made writing good. He started with this practical quandary:

Quality—you know what it is, yet you don’t know what it is. But that’s self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There’s nothing to talk about. But if you can’t say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn’t exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist. What else are the grades based on? Why else would people pay fortunes for some things and throw others in the trash pile? Obviously some things are better than others—but what’s the “betterness”? So round and round you go, spinning mental wheels and nowhere finding anyplace to get traction. What the hell is Quality? What is it?”

Pirsig describes a sort of enlightenment experience around this ineffable Quality koan of his, and he comes to equate his notion of Quality with the Buddha quite literally: “Quality is the Buddha,” he declares near the end. His writing on this point evokes a distinctly Zen flavor:

“To discover a metaphysical relationship of Quality and the Buddha at some mountaintop of personal experience is very spectacular. And very unimportant . . . What’s important is the relevance of such a discovery to all the valleys of this world, and all the dull, dreary jobs and monotonous years that await all of us in them.”

Pirsig adapted his famous—and now frequently imitated—title from Zen in the Art of Archery , a slim volume published by a German philosophy professor in the late 1940s that became one of the first works on Japanese Zen available in English. Although Pirsig’s own book makes few direct references to orthodox Zen practice, there are hints within that Pirsig knew much more than he let on. He makes a fleeting reference to “beginner’s mind,” that favorite phrase of San Francisco Zen Center’s founder Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. In fact, Pirsig studied extensively with Suzuki’s friend Dainin Katagiri Roshi, helping him start the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, which still thrives in Minneapolis.

Pirsig developed a deeper and far more tragic connection to the San Francisco Zen Center in 1979, when his son Chris was killed on the street just outside that building a week before his 23rd birthday. Chris had also suffered bouts of mental illness, but had moved to San Francisco and was living at the Center at the time, pursuing the formal practice of Zen that his father’s book largely avoided. Katagiri Roshi gave the address at Chris’s funeral. With the elder Pirsig’s passing last month, both passengers on that legendary motorcycle have now left us.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance likely remains the world’s best-selling book with the word “Zen” in the title. Pirsig himself offered a simple explanation for his work’s enduring appeal: “To reject that part of the Buddha that attends to the analysis of motorcycles is to miss the Buddha entirely,” he wrote early in his book. For certain newcomers to Zen and even some experienced practitioners, Pirsig’s long digressions on tightening bolts and changing spark plugs might just be the inspiration they need to understand life’s great mysteries.

Over 40 years after its initial publication, the book now also serves as something of a primary source for anyone studying the history of Buddhism in America, having been the first exposure to Zen for so many outside the Asian American community. And it remains equally fascinating for its purely autobiographical content, the account of one man’s deep spiritual struggle and eventual glimpse of enlightenment. If Pirsig could confront his considerable demons and find some semblance of inner peace, perhaps there is hope for us all.

“It’s going to get better now,” he concludes in the book’s final lines. After 500 dense pages of thoughtful and often intricate prose, we are inclined to believe him. “You can sort of tell these things.”

ghosts zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

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I read this book in three days while I was a college student on break in the mid-80s. I immersed myself so thoroughly in it that I began to hallucinate (without drugs!), overhearing non-existent conversations in the room below me at night and stumbling around in a confused philosophical haze during the day. At one point, I honestly thought I might be going insane, too. My experience of the book was far more intuitive than rational and it changed my life in ways I still don’t fully understand. For this, I am ever-grateful to Robert Pirsig. That said, knowing only disconnected fragments of his life subsequent to writing the book, it seems to me that the “eventual glimpse of enlightenment” his ideas might have brought him was absent any formal and dedicated contemplative practice. Thus, his later ideas and second book, Lila, appear more like an attempt to grab onto an existential lifeline following his son’s tragic death than any kind of evolution of his Zen & the Art philosophy. But perhaps Quality isn’t about the teacher fully realizing his own teachings anyway. Thank you, Robert, for your wisdom, and my thanks to you, Dan, for bringing it back to light!

I read this book at a very important time in my life, when I was finishing a degree that I would and will never use and was trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. His thoughts on quality and what it is and how to achieve it and care for it were very important to me. I enjoyed “Lila” as well. I celebrated this man’s life and was terribly distressed to see that he had passed. Each time a person of Quality passes, the world seems a little darker and more distressing to try to navigate.

To be honest, I found “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” to be a tedious read. But I found his foreward to Marian Mountain’s “The Zen Environment” good advice. That advice was to rreread Mountain’s book.

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert pirsig, everything you need for every book you read..

Quality Theme Icon

Throughout the book, Pirsig’s narrator juxtaposes rational, objective thought with more mystical, subjective ways of thinking. This contrast is evident in the difference between John’s and the narrator’s views on motorcycle maintenance. The narrator calls his own methodical, almost scientific approach the “classical” mindset, while the idealistic, repair-averse outlook John and Silvia share is the “romantic” mindset. The romantic view is a reaction to the classical view’s inability to encompass some aspects of human experience. However, as the book illustrates, neither approach suffices on its own.

The inadequacy of classical reason stymies Phaedrus’s pursuit of knowledge. Phaedrus reasons that there is not yet an explanation for the phenomenon that allows the infinitude of equally rational hypotheses and facts to be sorted and evaluated in terms of their merit. This rational process forces him to abandon the traditional rationality of the scientific method and embark on a new series of philosophical investigations, which culminate in the discovery of Quality. Instead of supplanting reason, however, Quality simply expands it: the narrator writes that Phaedrus “showed a way by which reason may be expanded to include elements that have previously been unassimilable and thus have been considered irrational.”

As the book progresses, calcified forms of academic, scientific, and institutionalized reasoning frequently stand in opposition to Phaedrus’s philosophical goals. Quality is meant to bolster reason by remedying the persistent disharmony between objective “classical” and subjective “romantic” perspectives. However, this disharmony is so entrenched that Phaedrus’s frameshift comes across as irrational. In this way, Pirsig illustrates the tenuous division between the rational and the irrational, and emphasizes the status of “reason” as an arbitrary apparatus that remains in a state of flux.

Rationality and Irrationality ThemeTracker

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance PDF

Rationality and Irrationality Quotes in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua...that’s the only name I can think of for it...like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, this America, the one that we are now in, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep.

Quality Theme Icon

Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn’t a human invention. The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination. It’s all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost, the whole blessed world we live in.…Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past.

ghosts zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

What we have here is a conflict of visions of reality. The world as you see it right here, right now, is reality, regardless of what the scientists say it might be. That’s the way John sees it. But the world as revealed by its scientific discoveries is also reality, regardless of how it may appear, and people in John’s dimension are going to have to do more than just ignore it if they want to hang on to their vision of reality. … What you’ve got here, really, are two realities, one of immediate artistic appearance and one of underlying scientific explanation, and they don’t match and they don’t fit and they don’t really have much of anything to do with one another. That’s quite a situation. You might say there’s a little problem here.

Duality Theme Icon

But he saw a sick and ailing thing happening and he started cutting deep, deeper and deeper to get at the root of it. He was after something. That is important. He was after something and he used the knife because that was the only tool he had. But he took on so much and went so far in the end his real victim was himself.

Identity Theme Icon

What has become an urgent necessity is a way of looking at the world that does violence to neither of these two kinds of understanding and unites them into one. Such an understanding will not reject sand-sorting or contemplation of unsorted sand for its own sake. Such an understanding will instead seek to direct attention to the endless landscape from which the sand is taken. That is what Phædrus, the poor surgeon, was trying to do.

The number of rational hypotheses that can explain any given phenomenon is infinite.

This divorce of art from technology is completely unnatural. It’s just that it’s gone on so long you have to be an archeologist to find out where the two separated. Rotisserie assembly is actually a long-lost branch of sculpture, so divorced from its roots by centuries of intellectual wrong turns that just to associate the two sounds ludicrous.

Quality—you know what it is, yet you don’t know what it is. But that’s self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There’s nothing to talk about. But if you can’t say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn’t exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist.

Phaedrus’ refusal to define Quality, in terms of this analogy, was an attempt to break the grip of the classical sandsifting mode of understanding and find a point of common understanding between the classic and romantic worlds. Quality, the cleavage term between hip and square, seemed to be it. Both worlds used the term. Both knew what it was. It was just that the romantic left it alone and appreciated it for what it was and the classic tried to turn it into a set of intellectual building blocks for other purposes. Now, with the definition blocked, the classic mind was forced to view Quality as the romantic did, undistorted by thought structures.

Any philosophic explanation of Quality is going to be both false and true precisely because it is a philosophic explanation. The process of philosophic explanation is an analytic process, a process of breaking something down into subjects and predicates. What I mean (and everybody else means) by the word quality cannot be broken down into subjects and predicates. This is not because Quality is so mysterious but because Quality is so simple, immediate and direct.

No, he did nothing for Quality or the Tao. What benefited was reason. He showed a way by which reason may be expanded to include elements that have previously been unassimilable and thus have been considered irrational. I think it’s the overwhelming presence of these irrational elements crying for assimilation that creates the present bad quality, the chaotic, disconnected spirit of the twentieth century.

Stuckness shouldn’t be avoided. It’s the psychic predecessor of all real understanding. An egoless acceptance of stuckness is a key to an understanding of all Quality, in mechanical work as in other endeavors. It’s this understanding of Quality as revealed by stuckness which so often makes self-taught mechanics so superior to institute-trained men who have learned how to handle everything except a new situation.

The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology. That’s impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is ... not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both. When this transcendence occurs in such events as the first airplane flight across the ocean or the first footstep on the moon, a kind of public recognition of the transcendent nature of technology occurs. But this transcendence should also occur at the individual level, on a personal basis, in one’s own life, in a less dramatic way.

A very strong case can be made for the statement that science grows by its mu answers more than by its yes or no answer. Yes or no confirms or denies a hypothesis. Mu says the answer is beyond the hypothesis. Mu is the "phenomenon" that inspires scientific enquiry in the first place! There’s nothing mysterious or esoteric about it. It’s just that our culture has warped us to make a low value judgment of it.

Quality! Virtue! Dharma! That is what the Sophists were teaching! Not ethical relativism. Not pristine "virtue." But areté. Excellence. Dharma! Before the Church of Reason. Before substance. Before form. Before mind and matter. Before dialectic itself. Quality had been absolute. Those first teachers of the Western world were teaching Quality, and the medium they had chosen was that of rhetoric. He has been doing it right all along.

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The Rabbit Hole

Robert Pirsig

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.

  • Post author By Blas
  • Post date November 17, 2015

On his journey from Minnesota to Northern California, the narrator discusses quality and several other philosophical questions through examples and chautauquas. “To truly experience quality, one must both embrace and apply it as best fits the requirements of the situation.”

ghosts zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

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  • You always temporarily suppress anger towards something you deeply despise
  • Discusses “ghosts” and how they only exist in the mind. But then he argues that gravity, dead people, science, abstract numbers and more exist only in the mind and therefore ghosts should not be considered a bad thing
  • Some people are interested in what things mean and others only what they are – romantic vs. classical
  • Some things you don’t see because they’re so tiny or unimportant you simply overlook them. Other things you miss because they’re so huge
  • You discuss things in terms of their immediate appearance or their underlying forms. Classical understanding sees the world as its underlying form and romantic as its immediate appearance. Science and facts versus art and feelings
  • Classical deals with sorting things into piles, classifying them and dividing. A process which never stops. Phaedrus made the attempt of dividing the world into classifications
  • The ghost which Phaedrus got to was rationality itself.
  • Billions of dollars are spent to extend life. Only the madman asks why. We live longer so that we can live longer
  • The narrator and Phaedrus are the same person – split personality which the narrator slowly brings to life and describes his thinking
  • No system can be changed unless the true cause and not the effects are attached
  • Within these two systems there are two sets of logic. Inductive and deductive. Inductive inferences begin with actions and then makes conclusions. Deductive inferences starts with general knowledge and makes predictions
  • David Hume  – If all knowledge comes through the senses, does substance exist? Probably not
  • Kant  – some things come from outside experience, are a priori – such as time
  • If asked what is metal? You would reply it is hard, reflective, cold, etc. but all these things are sensed, are perceptions. There is no substance
  • Whenever someone is fanatical about something it is because it is in doubt. Nobody goes wild about the sun rising because it is quite sure to happen
  • When working on anything you must be calm and serene or else you will work your negative feelings into your work
  • Today’s divorce of art and technology is completely unnatural. They are one and the same
  • If you look back at the path you’ve taken, a pattern might emerge. You can try to project that pattern forward to see where it might lead you
  • The narrator gets caught up in trying to define what quality is and when he was a professor he asked his class for help. Nobody had any luck and they determined that quality cannot be defined. However, he argues that something cannot exist if it cannot be defined
  • Anything whose goal is self-glorification is bound to lead to disaster
  • By saying that quality cannot be defined he takes it out of the realm of the rational. No more people trying to define what makes art “good”
  • A thing exists if the world can’t function normally without it. With this, arts, sports and most jobs but would disappear but logic would remain largely unchanged. By this definition quality exists
  • By holding quality undefined he splits world between Romantic and Classic, artistic and technological
  • Does quality exist in objects or is it subjective?
  • Determined that quality is neither mind nor matter. It is its own third group. Quality “gave birth” to mind and matter and is therefore not a trinity but a monism
  • Quality takes you out of yourself and makes you less subjective. It is at the point of where subject and object meet. Quality is not a thing, it is an event
  • People see quality differently because they have different sets of analogs – different experiences, memories, filters, etc. If people shared all these things exactly they would see quality the same every time
  • No pure truths as they cannot possibly apply to every person in every situation. Need to look through life in a broader way – Quality and Truth are in fact one. The ancient Greeks divorced Quality and Truth and this was an artificial divorce which causes a lot of frustration
  • Believes that quality can tie together religion, art and science like nothing else before it
  • An egoless mental “stuckness” is a precursor to discovering quality
  • At the moment of pure quality, subject and object are one in the same
  • Do not separate yourself from your work, your craft. Instead, become one with it and weave quality into it. This deep caring helps you reach peace of mind
  • There are three types of quietness – physical, mental and values (no desires) with values being the most difficult to achieve
  • One of his  chautauquas  is around gumption and gumption traps. Gumption is enthusiasm and good spirits and a trap is anything which diminishes your enthusiasm or frustrates you somehow. There are both external and internal traps. Internal – value and ego. Value rigidity occurs when you can’t revalue something because of your commitment to precious values.
  • Values create the objects of the world
  • Mu questions  are extremely important – no definite answer, indeterminate state, not applicable, unasking the question,
  • Looking at things dualistically is what causes evil – all is one
  • Aim to make as many quality decisions as this will have a ripple effect and influence others to also make quality decisions
  • Reason should be subordinate to quality. Should never pursue the reasonable if it is no good
  • One of the few books I decided to reread and thought it was equally as amazing the second time around. The insights on quality and how it is uncovered is endlessly fascinating
  • An interesting summary of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance MAG

    Z en and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance combines thedepth and influence of a philosophy textbook with the personality of a novel. Thenarrator treads through an ocean of events, making the insignificant significantand the mysterious obvious in his wake. The book is also an intriguing tale of aonce-great philosopher's struggle to come to terms with his past life. Throughout the novel, Pirsig slowly reveals the truth about his characters. Thenarrator seems to understand nearly everything; he contemplates other characters'words and movements, and is able to explain their personalities with strikingdetail. Even when he seems to have backed himself into a logical corner, he useshis mastery of language to justify his ideas. The entire book is like aroller coaster, often making the reader feel as though the book is about to fallthrough a logical loophole. It always stays on course, though, racing around afixed path which gives the reader glimpses into many ideas beyond. Although Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is well-written and exciting,its real value lies in its impact on the reader. This book delves deeply intophilosophy, raising questions ranging from why some people don't care for theirmotorcycles to the scientific feasibility of ghosts. I highly recommend it forthe priceless lessons it teaches about life.

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ghosts zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

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  4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Robert Pirsig First Edition

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COMMENTS

  1. Why Robert Pirsig's 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' Still

    In his 1974 autobiographical novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, he describes an unhurried pace over two-lane roads and through thunderstorms that take the narrator and his...

  2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values is a book by Robert M. Pirsig first published in 1974. It is a work of fictionalized autobiography and the first of Pirsig's texts in which he explores his concept of Quality. [2] The title is an apparent play on the title of the 1948 book Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel.

  3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Chapter 4 Themes and Colors Key Summary Analysis The travelers move through the prairie, and a storm hits. They take refuge in a town, and the narrator surprises his companions with an uncanny knowledge of where to find the best motel in town. At the motel, Chris asks to hear ghost stories.

  4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Quotes

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Quotes Showing 1-30 of 675 "When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion." ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values tags: atheism , god , religion 993 likes Like

  5. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry I…

    227,679 ratings10,454 reviews. Robert M. Pirsig's Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is an examination of how we live, a meditation on how to live better set around the narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America's Northwest, undertaken by a father & his young son. Genres Philosophy Fiction Classics Spirituality Travel Psychology ...

  6. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis Next Chapter 11 Themes and Colors Key Summary Analysis The narrator begins to elaborate on Phaedrus 's quest for the "ghost of rationality."

  7. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance [50th Anniversary Edition

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance [50th Anniversary Edition]: An Inquiry into Values: Pirsig, Robert M: 9780063342330: Amazon.com: Books Books › Reference › Writing, Research & Publishing Guides Kindle $15.99 Available instantly Hardcover $15.09 - $26.30 Paperback $21.99 Spiral-bound $27.95 Other Used, New, Collectible from $1.67 Buy new:

  8. PDF Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Early in Robert Pirsig's best seller Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Main- tenance: An Inquiry into Values , 1 we are confronted with many such dis- turbing, if not confusing, passages. In fact, the entire book created quite a critical stir. Although they called Pirsig's first work inspired, extraordi-

  9. Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the story of a motorcycle journey across America, a meditation on values and the concept of Quality, and an allegorical tale of a man coming to terms with his past and with his young son. The narrator takes a cross-country motorcycle trip from Minnesota to California with his son Chris during which ...

  10. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Harper Collins, Apr 25, 2006 - Psychology - 560 pages. One of the most important and influential books written in the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerful, moving, and penetrating examination of how we live . . . and a breathtaking meditation on how to live better.

  11. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Summary

    The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Community Note includes chapter-by-chapter summary and analysis, character list, theme list, historical context, author biography and quizzes written by community members like you. ... He calls these the ghosts in his thoughts. He extrapolates from these thoughts the feeling that Phaedrus is the ...

  12. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    The literal traveling in the book is the motorcycle journey of his son Chris from Minnesota, to the mountains of Montana, sea-level of California. At the very beginning of the trip, Pirsig. plans for this trip as a sort of guest, an indeterminate search perceived, but nonetheless urgent, goal: "Plans are deliberately.

  13. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide

    Summary Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides. Zen and the Art of...: Introduction

  14. Revisiting Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Robert Pirsig died on Monday, April 24, 2017, at his home in Maine. He was 88 and had been in poor health for some time. In 1974, he published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, an autobiographical account of the road trip he took with his 11-year-old son Chris from Minneapolis to San Francisco in the summer of 1968.

  15. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance quotes below are all either spoken by Phaedrus or refer to Phaedrus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: ). Chapter 3 Quotes

  16. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    "The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called 'yourself.'" One of the most important and influential books of the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerful, moving, and penetrating examination of how we live and a meditation on how to live better. The narrative of a father on a summer motorcycle trip across America's Northwest with his ...

  17. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is one such book. This modern epic of a man's search for meaning became an instant bestseller on publication in 1974, acclaimed as one of the most...

  18. A quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    I don't get upset when scientists say that ghosts exist in the mind. it's that only that gets me. science is only in your mind too, it's just that that doesn't make it bad. or ghosts either." Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Law of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts."

  19. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    The novel, published in 1974, uses a long motorcycle trip to frame a prolonged exploration of the world of ideas, about life and how best to live it. It references perspectives from Western and Eastern Civilizations as it explores the central question of the how to pursue technology so that human life is enriched rather than degraded. Narrated in the first person, it incorporates a parallel ...

  20. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Give good old Wikipedia a great new look. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values is a book by Robert M. Pirsig first published in 1974. It is a work of fictionalized autobiography and the first of Pirsig's texts in which he explores his concept of Quality.

  21. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig Save Guides New Save any guide for easy access later! Got It Upgrade to A + Intro Plot Summary & Analysis Themes Quotes Characters Symbols Theme Viz Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Zen and the Art of... makes teaching easy. Everything you need for every book you read.

  22. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Robert Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Summary On his journey from Minnesota to Northern California, the narrator discusses quality and several other philosophical questions through examples and chautauquas. "To truly experience quality, one must both embrace and apply it as best fits the requirements of the situation."

  23. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Z en and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance combines thedepth and influence of a philosophy textbook with the personality of a novel. Thenarrator treads through an ocean of events, making the ...

  24. Explorer on two wheels on Instagram: ""It's the sides of the mountain

    Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and..." Explorer on two wheels on Instagram: ""It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top." Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"