Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Reconciliation of Western and Eastern Philosophy

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - The Reconciliation of Western and Eastern Philosophy

The differences in Western and Eastern philosophy are marked. Eastern thinking has slowly become “discovered” by the West; meanwhile, the development of Western thought and philosophy has come under close scrutiny by modern and postmodern philosophers and thinkers as being flawed at its core. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger came to the conclusion that “Western philosophy is a great error” (Barrett xi). The manner in which Western thought was founded, the course of its development, and its incursion into every facet of life in the Western world has been and is now being questioned on all fronts by leading critics and thinkers.

Robert Pirsig, in his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, describes in detail the development of the Western philosophical tradition, and how it has shaped Western society. In doing so, he offers a critique of certain aspects of Western thought that resulted from a momentous battle for the “mind of man” (Pirsig 381). What came about was a fragmenting of the mind from matter, of perception from experience. In addition to outlining the history and philosophy behind Western thinking, he offers a rediscovery of the very concept that got buried under the “rubble of declining Athens” and Rome, buried deeply under the new champions of Western man: Reason, Intellect, Knowledge (Pirsig 391). Pirsig cites Thoreau in writing, “You never gain something but that you lose something” (387). This applies with direct impact to Western development. In understanding the world through “dialectic truths” man lost the ability to understand how to be part of the world, and “not an enemy of it” (Pirsig 3...

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...not a divisive knife. It offers the ultimate solution to a fragmented mind, the dualistic world in which we live.

Works Cited

Barrett, William (ed.). Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D.T. Suzuki. New York: Doubleday, 1956.

Blatavasky, Madame. The Secret Doctrine. Vol. 1. Theosophy Publishing, 1888.

Capra, Fritjof. The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. Boston: Shambhala Press, 1991.

Kant, Emmanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. Norman Kemp Smith. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965.

Lao Tzu. Tao Te Ching. Trans. Mitchell, Stephen. New York: HarperCollins Press, 1988.

Pirsig, Robert. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. New York: HarperCollins Press, 1974.

Sprague, Rosamund Kent (ed.). The Older Sophists. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1972.

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