Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Wikipedia, the …

Posted: July 17, 2015 at 11:43 am


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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (ZAMM), first published in 1974, is a work of philosophical fiction, the first of Robert M. Pirsig's texts in which he explores his Metaphysics of Quality.

The book sold 5 million copies worldwide. It was originally rejected by 121 publishers, more than any other bestselling book, according to the Guinness Book of Records.[1]

The title is an apparent play on the title of the book Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. In its introduction, Pirsig explains that, despite its title, "it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles, either."

The book is generally regarded as an American cultural icon in literature.[citation needed]

The book describes, in first person, a 17-day journey on his motorcycle from Minnesota to Northern California by the author (though he is not identified in the book) and his son Chris. They are joined for the first nine days of the trip by close friends John and Sylvia Sutherland, with whom they part ways in Montana. The trip is punctuated by numerous philosophical discussions, referred to as Chautauquas by the author, on topics including epistemology, ethical emotivism and the philosophy of science.

Many of these discussions are tied together by the story of the narrator's own past self, who is referred to in the third person as Phaedrus (after Plato's dialogue). Phaedrus, a teacher of creative and technical writing at a small college, became engrossed in the question of what defines good writing, and what in general defines good, or "Quality". His philosophical investigations eventually drove him insane, and he was subjected to electroconvulsive therapy which permanently changed his personality.

Towards the end of the book, Phaedrus's personality begins to re-emerge and the narrator is reconciled with his past.

In a 1974 interview with National Public Radio, Pirsig stated that the book took him four years to write. During two of these years, Pirsig continued working at his job of writing computer manuals. This caused him to fall into an unorthodox schedule, waking up very early and writing Zen from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m., then eating and going to his day job. He would sleep during his lunch break and then go to bed around 6 in the evening. Pirsig joked that his co-workers noticed that he was "a lot less perky" than everyone else.[2]

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig explores the meaning and concept of quality, a term he deems to be undefinable. Pirsig's thesis is that to truly experience quality one must both embrace and apply it as best fits the requirements of the situation. According to Pirsig, such an approach would avoid a great deal of frustration and dissatisfaction common to modern life.

In the book, the Narrator describes the "Romantic" approach to life of his friend, John Sutherland, who chooses not to learn how to maintain his expensive new motorcycle. John simply hopes for the best with his bike, and when problems do occur he often becomes frustrated, and is forced to rely on professional mechanics to repair it. In contrast, the "classical" Narrator has an older motorcycle which he is usually able to diagnose and repair himself through the use of rational problem solving skills.

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July 17th, 2015 at 11:43 am

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