I finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair by Robert Pirsig on the way to work this morning. I had a long email discussion with Johnny B. about this book and the the sophists. He was reading what he could find of Heraclitus and we were discussing the Socratic philosophers and the break between Plato and Aristotle. I look at this historically because I took several courses in Medieval philosophy and science in my short ill-fated stay at Hunter College in the early 70s.
I viewed the first three quarters of the book as a rehash of the stuff that I enjoyed back then. I saw Aristotelian thought as the scientific realist approach and the enemy was the neoplatonism that had been developed during the middle ages. The trial of Galileo is the culmination of this, and although Galileo lost and recanted his science, the trial is the point where Aristotelian thought predominates and science is able to start building the modern world.
Unfortunately, religion has never given up its Platonist origins and seeks for the absolute in great abstract structures. Persig seems to go off in another direction in a silly kind of new age wifty discussion of quality. It seems all sort of pointless and and abstraction of abstractions. The end of the book is sad and disappointing. I was enjoying all the discussion until the last chapter. Persig makes it worse by giving us a follow up about his tragic life. The book wound up on such a down note that I am sorry I spent the time on it.
If no one wants to listen to it, I will put it out in eBay this weekend.