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Author Robert M. Pirsig died at his home today in South Berwick, Maine, he was 88 years old. Pirsig, best known for his philosophical work of non-fiction, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, An Inquiry Into Values, first published in 1974, spoke to a post-Vietnam/Watergate generation searching for truth and meaning during a tumultuous decade.
The book follows Pirsig and his son, Chris, on a motorcycle journey into a metaphysical landscape as the author pursues the meaning of, “Quality,” an elusive qualitative measure in an increasingly quantifiable world. Along the way he examines Plato, sophists, the pre-Socratics, and eastern philosophy, as well as the nature of condensers, mechanical points, and shims fabricated from discarded cans in his search for the good.
He humbly summarized his philosophical treatise-cum-motorcycle road trip in his author’s note, “What follows is based on actual occurrences. Although much has been changed for rhetorical purposes, it must be regarded in its essence as fact. However, 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.” He begins his tale by telling you what his book isn’t thus inviting the reader to take the journey with him and answer the question for themselves, “What is good?”
Pirsig endeavored to show us.