Paul VanderKlay Revisits the JBP/SH Debates – With Quality

I want to talk about Paul VanderKlay readressing the JBP Sam Harris debates. So he’s looking at this after 2 years of thinking about it, and theres some really great stuff in this video. Naturally, I’m going to associate it with Pirsig, because he’s what I’ve been thinking about for 2 years or so


Common project

Jordan and Sam  start with the common project which Sam articulates:

SH – we are both concerned how to live lives worth living, know how to live, how can we make life worth leaving (or meaningful lives).

Now, I’m also going to argue that’s the same project of this corner of the internet. Very broad, but it’s the real question ultimately. And our philosophy is going to inform how we see the world. And in this corner, I think what’s happening is the development of a coherent new philsophy, or an ecology of philosophies lets say

SH – “wellbeing” – rational agents are a guide and can determine this

JP – meaningful life

Harris – we can pull everything out as propositional truths then rationally work on it (rationally manipulating actions and behaviors and then changing them) and that this will, as did the enlightenment, foster well-being (which is a rational concept – you can measure wellbeing with instruments like the quality of life test. Impulse control is behind this entire salvific narrative of rationality – waiting and testing my intuitions and using data. rationality is objective like with language – you can learn it rationally. Theory.

Peterson – Life is essentially difficult, and we have to prepare to accept this – this is in fact where therapy is useful. And by embracing this, we can weather the responsibility and sacrifice that makes life worth living. Also, and my favorite Petersonian concept, that aligning with truth as it presents itself to your consciousness is the way to create a solid foundation that also makes life worth living. Very much like manifesting Quality. So for Peterson, Knowledge is essentially subjective. To learn a language, you have to learn it by being immersed in it, by actually speaking it. Practice

So, if we’re talking about the philosophy that is in the midst of developing, it’s obviously much more along the JBP line. And these dialogs are in fact pretty much the beginning of the desire to articulate a philosophy for the present and future. A game B if you will that has been associated with the word sensemaking. To make sense of combinatorily explosive information that the internet has manifested and demonstrated as objects of information, you need to sense and underlying pattern to it. Weighing facts in a rational way is no longer that useful. We don’t have the time. We need to detect a way of sensemaking that transcends that. This would be a metaphysical structure to our thinking that is pragmatic, that is based on relevance realization rather than thruth, or the Quality as reality.

The common thread is that it is a theory that’s a meaning-based reality that is the metaphysical structure of game b. Not subjects and objects. This is Pirsig’s Quality project. A shift from SOM to MOQ where Quality is the true reality, not subjects and objects.

Metaphorical Truth

A belief that is one acts as though it’s true, they will outperform someone who acts as though it’s false, so that’s Bret so it’s evolutionary. the sense that

But let’s look at the example given:

Plate tectonics and ocean geography vs the spirit in water. In a particular case, the belief in the spirits of the water helped native residents better weather a tsunami.

Now one of my favorite sections from chapter 3 of Zamm where Robert says that the law of gravity is a ghost and demonstrates this by it’s non-existence, and that a ghost is a ghost:

“If that law of gravity existed,” I say, “I honestly don’t know what a thing has to do to be nonexistent. It seems to me that law of gravity has passed every test of nonexistence there is. You cannot think of a single attribute of nonexistence that that law of gravity didn’t have. Or a single scientific attribute of existence it did have. And yet it is still ‘common sense’ to believe that it existed.”

John says, “I guess I’d have to think about it.”

“Well, I predict that if you think about it long enough you will find yourself going round and round and round and round until you finally reach only one possible, rational, intelligent conclusion. The law of gravity and gravity itself did not exist before Isaac Newton. No other conclusion makes sense.

“And what that means,” I say before he can interrupt, “and what that means is that that law of gravity exists nowhere except in people’s heads! It’s a ghost! We are all of us very arrogant and conceited about running down other people’s ghosts but just as ignorant and barbaric and superstitious about our own.”

So until Newton, gravity is another inorganic force that can be defined by any descriptor that emerges from the mythos. So like PVK just said, all our truths are metaphorical including the law of gravity. Why are plate tectonics any worse than describing that particular force than are the water spirits?

Encoded information

I want to bring up the evolutionary structure of the MOQ. What Paul addresses here in terms of MOQ is the interaction between the biological and social level, and some intellectual.

Pauls shows a clip of Bret Weinsten in which he says: human beings are on 2 tracks of inherited information. We inherit more information than we are consciously aware of (therapy explores this). So much is encoded and action and behaviors and are processed by intuition and feeling.

(we are filled with ghosts, biological, social and intellectual)

Humans are not strictly the product of evolution. There is inherited (dna) and cultural information (mythos). There’s a back and forth between our hardware and our software – hardware is biology and software is social, cultural, experiential. Even Robert Sapolsky’s Behave notices this…in fact, in reading this book that is what really stands out is how dynamic the interaction between biology and the natural and cultural environments truly are. 

Now, here’s Pirsig’s description of how we offload information from that same mythos/logos section, which is in chapter 28 of Zamm

The mythos-over-logos argument points to the fact that each child is born as ignorant as any caveman. What keeps the world from reverting to the Neanderthal with each generation is the continuing, ongoing mythos, transformed into logos but still mythos, the huge body of common knowledge that unites our minds as cells are united in the body of man. To feel that one is not so united, that one can accept or discard this mythos as one pleases, is not to understand what the mythos is.

Culture is stored in history, and it’s stored in us. Most of this isn’t conscious. Most of it will never be. The threads of the levels are woven into us. That biology is influenced by the social levels and vice versa.

It also internalizes as the other 3 Ps (besides propositional) of John Vervaeke’s ways of knowing: procedural, participatory, and perspectival.  You react and you don’t know why. You can never ever propositionally know your unconscious. So much is encoded into us. Also, you can’t differentiate between how biology and or culture is manifest.

Because you have so much unconscious material, Multiple values compete , and this is true because according to the MOQ, each level has its values. Remember in Lila biology and intellect cards.

How do we deal with multiple values? MOQ will let us know as we go through Lila. 

Great compression schemes

Great compression schemes that take world and boil it down to stories and systems that we can actually work on. World too big, compressed (religion is the jpeg of a too large world)

God is the compression we need in order to live well in the universe

God is the arena who writes himself into the story – can Frodo find Tolkein in middle earth?

So then Paul mentions something we talked about in our conversation. Which is that I have found that people who are really stuck, who can’t get ahold of something transcendent, they will have a difficult time overcoming that stuckness, because they are going to be trying to solve the problem on the same level it was created. And very typically, that will mean that they can’t really see a way out unless the world lines up in the way they think they want it to, or that they can force themselves not to care, which is of course that rational impulse control that SH thinks is possible. That’s so funny. Either way doesn’t work, because the actual transformation occurs by getting in touch with the noetic dimension, or what PVK calls the theological dimension, or the great compression

People can’t change until they get to the theological level. The theological is the level at which the compression schemes get so tight and boiled down. The data sets are small enough that we can work on them and they are tied all the way out.

PVK Philosophy is similar. So that’s where MOQ comes in, in the sense that it’s metaphysical, meaning it’s what I think is the philosophical parallel of the theological in the sense that it’s at the bottom, it is the most compressed. So whether it’s God, or Quality, or Vervaeke’s real world, I think we are all in agreement that true transformation can’t occur until you can really see the big picture. And the big picture has to be compressed because it’s combinatorily explosive.

And this compression is my favorite aspect of Paul’s revisiting these dialogs.


In terms of God and Quality, I think they are so intermingled. Because the universe is oriented towards the Good, toward evolution, towards improvement, toward what’s better, that orientation towards the Good can be conceptualized in something that God has bestowed upon the universe and the manifestation of God in everything. Any pattern that becomes stable and becomes static is a pattern in which it is valuable enough to stick around. So value, or the good, is inherent within it and it’s created by value.


values have been colonizing facts for a long time, yes, because they create facts. The logos is embedded in the mythos

The term logos, the root word of “logic,” refers to the sum total of our rational understanding of the world. Mythos is the sum total of the early historic and prehistoric myths which preceded the logos.

The mythos includes not only the Greek myths but the Old Testament, the Vedic Hymns and the early legends of all cultures which have contributed to our present world understanding. The mythos-over-logos argument states that our rationality is shaped by these legends, that our knowledge today is in relation to these legends as a tree is in relation to the little shrub it once was. One can gain great insights into the complex overall structure of the tree by studying the much simpler shape of the shrub. There’s no difference in kind or even difference in identity, only a difference in size.

A couple more points –

Stalking the Good vs assuming the Good

Why is Love at the top of the hierarchy – Because Jesus put it there. The agapic love that we were finally able to afford. We no longer needed the punitive God of the old testament. Our mythos had offloaded enough to ensure our survival. So we received a message of the loving God of the new testament. Our technology and our consciousness had evolved to the point where we could afford to embrace this message. And now that is the highest Quality aspect of being human.

So Is it natural to know what the good is?

And this is a very good question. Pirisg would say it is, as demonstrated by his experiment with the essays. Students always agreed on the highest Quality essays. But you have to remove the barriers or traps to detecting that Quality. Thus, that chapter 26 I keep referring to (the Gumption Chautauqua). And Christianity gives us some excellent static patterns of value, shortcuts if you will to the Good. Is it better to go deeper and be able to detect Quality independently of any religion? Of course, but the Christian project is to make you that kind of person who can do that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: