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Quantonic Questions & Answers

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(See new text added on date, marked .)

 May 1999

What differences distinguish Cultural Relativism and Pirsig's MoQ?

We want to use two acronyms in our answer:

CR: Cultural Relativism
MoQ: Metaphysics of Quality

There are many differences. But all differences between CR and MoQ derive from one encompassing difference, a difference which subsumes all others:

CR is a product of classical philosophy and science,
MoQ is a philosophical dual of quantum science.

You might counter, "But Doug CR denies objective truth!" and I would agree. CR still sees things (as classical stuff ) which exist and constitute global reality. Let's take a look at a two-part definition of CR:

  1. Relativism asserts all things are relative to some particular view.
  2. Relativism denies any unique privilege of one view over all others.

In part one of our definition, we see CR's classical monistic presumption of one actuality, and absence of presumption of any nonactuality, in its use of things. We also perceive CR's classical monistic tacit assumption of one global/universal context for all relative things and relative views of those things. Philosophically these are enormous flaws, once assumed, from which no candidate ontology can recover.

We also see an absence of any stability in CR's rate of change of views. CR's equilibrium appears wholly chaotic, or absent.

Part two, shows CR's major disagreement with MoQ. CR tells its adherents, "Nothing is absolute! Everything, not just truth, is relative." By comparison MoQ makes two critical statements which offer profound philosophical and cultural consequences unavailable in any other ontology that we know:

  • Truth is uncertain (usually we say "relative," but "uncertain" is better, more quantum)
    (We must be careful here. We focus on truth here to retain a 1-1 comparison of CR and MoQ. In MoQ truth is just one of many patterns in actuality. To generalize our statement, we normally would say, "Actuality is uncertain.")
  • Change is absolute

MoQ says change is not relative, change is absolute. Further, MoQ tells us truth's relativity changes both with context and with scope of context. MoQ assumes an infinity of contexts for assessment of truth, and MoQ assumes truth may be omnivalent among all contexts. But MoQ also allows us to choose a well-defined local context. In local, constrained, and limited contexts local truth may be very consistent, which for most practical purposes makes truth appear locally absolute. By definition, local truth is incomplete (and therefore not absolute), but may be highly consistent. Still, in any unlimited context, truths which appear locally absolute are globally relative. Such reasoning supports CR's more general statement, "Truth is relative."

MoQ's absolute change retains privilege over all actuality (and all nonactuality too). Truth is only one conventional facet of actuality, and thus mutable by MoQ's absolute change (potential to impose change on local truth, thus making it uncertain). Over time, even locally consistent truths change, but a local context may change too. Sometimes consistency may be retained by a particular local context's adherents (This is exactly how modern science works at Millennium II's end; however, we think science's method may fail early in Millennium III due to its classical foundation.).

Pirsig calls truths' temporary stasis "latching." Latching gives local truth (and all patterns in actuality) temporary privilege over change. We can see change evolving truth incrementally. Better truth gains a foothold until succeeded by even better truth (which absolute change mandates). MoQ tells its adherents this never-ending cycle of improvement is moral, it is Quality, it is Real!

Truth's temporary privilege combined with inevitable absolute change offers balance — harmony twixt both stasis and dynamis. Harmony is notably absent in CR! Harmony is intrinsically better in MoQ! MoQ is better is harmony!

One problem with MoQ's latching process is it deludes some naïve observers into concluding truth is absolute. Practitioners of CR saw absolute truth's many flaws like: induction, cause and effect, etc. Unfortunately they retained classical reality's one global context and declared everything relative within it.

MoQ's quantum science dual tells us instead of truth being either relative or absolute, truth is an interrelationship between both relativeness and absoluteness — depending! A context-dependent uncertainty relationship exists between both relative and absolute truth.

  1. CR says:
    - truth is relative and change is relative,
    - there are no absolutes, and
    - there is no privilege.
  2. MoQ says:
    - truth (actuality) is uncertain and change is absolute,
    - change has absolute privilege, and
    - truth (actual patterns) may invoke temporary privilege.

We need to ask another question: How does CR differ from William James' and C.S. Peirce's revered pragmatism. Pragmatism is nearly identical to CR except it says each cycle of change must, in a Darwinian fashion, justify its results by survival. But pragmatism is, like CR, a product of classical philosophy and science and, unlike MoQ, shows little duality with quantum science.

Till now, in this QQA, we have not compared MoQ and CR to SOM. James' pragmatism is an extension of SOM, and though based upon 'action' (i.e., pragma), adheres much SOM legacy. In Chapter II of William James' Some Problems of Philosophy, which we review nearby, we distilled comparisons of MoQ, CR, and SOM to this:

  1. SOM - truth is absolute (absolute certainty) (actually, James did say in his Pragmatism, "Truth is made..." allowing for quantum implications of uncertain quantal evolution...)
  2. CR - relativity is absolute (absolute uncertainty) Compare to CR Says: above.
  3. MoQ - change is absolute (quantum uncertainty) Note that quantum action/pragma is Planck rate quantal.

See Chapter IV of our review for comments which uncloak pragmatism's deep SOM legacy. See our page 60 comments there. We think you may find them valuable. Doug.

One might imagine Pirsig further extended pragmatism with quantum concepts to arrive at and refine his own MoQ.

Thanks for reading,


   Pirsig balance quote:

Pirsig gives a more quantum, extended view of a balance between stasis and dynamis:

"That's the whole thing: to obtain static and Dynamic Quality simultaneously. If you don't have...static build upon you're back [in a] cave... But if you don't have...freedom to change those patterns you're blocked from any further growth."

Page 210, Lila, Bantam hardbound, 1991 (first edition). Return

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To contact Quantonics write to or call:

Doug Renselle
Quantonics, Inc.
Suite 18 #368 1950 East Greyhound Pass
Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730

©Quantonics, Inc., 1999-2011 Rev. 8Jan2009  PDR — Created 15Jun1999  PDR
(28Jul2000 rev - Add MoQ/SOM/CR comparisons re: James' pragmatism.)
(18Dec2000 rev - Add link to Absoluteness as a Quantum Uncertainty Interrelationship.)
(8Mar2001 rev - Add link to our new MoQ, CR, & SOM comparison table.)
(15Jan2002 rev - Add top of page frame-breaker. Reformat top of page title.)
(7Feb2004 rev - Add cell padding.)
(8Jan2009 rev - Add Doug's QELR of 'omnivalent,' 'quanta,' 'reasoning,' 'truth,' and 'uncertain' links. Make page current.)