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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance [Kindle Edition]

Robert M. Pirsig
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (936 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $7.99
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. This 25th Anniversary Quill Edition features a new introduction by the author; important typographical changes; and a Reader's Guide that includes discussion topics, an interview with the author, and letters and documents detailing how this extraordinary book came to be. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. The narrator's relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning; the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In his now classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig brings us a literary chautauqua, a novel that is meant to both entertain and edify. It scores high on both counts.

Phaedrus, our narrator, takes a present-tense cross-country motorcycle trip with his son during which the maintenance of the motorcycle becomes an illustration of how we can unify the cold, rational realm of technology with the warm, imaginative realm of artistry. As in Zen, the trick is to become one with the activity, to engage in it fully, to see and appreciate all details--be it hiking in the woods, penning an essay, or tightening the chain on a motorcycle.

In his autobiographical first novel, Pirsig wrestles both with the ghost of his past and with the most important philosophical questions of the 20th century--why has technology alienated us from our world? what are the limits of rational analysis? if we can't define the good, how can we live it? Unfortunately, while exploring the defects of our philosophical heritage from Socrates and the Sophists to Hume and Kant, Pirsig inexplicably stops at the middle of the 19th century. With the exception of Poincaré, he ignores the more recent philosophers who have tackled his most urgent questions, thinkers such as Peirce, Nietzsche (to whom Phaedrus bears a passing resemblance), Heidegger, Whitehead, Dewey, Sartre, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn. In the end, the narrator's claims to originality turn out to be overstated, his reasoning questionable, and his understanding of the history of Western thought sketchy. His solution to a synthesis of the rational and creative by elevating Quality to a metaphysical level simply repeats the mistakes of the premodern philosophers. But in contrast to most other philosophers, Pirsig writes a compelling story. And he is a true innovator in his attempt to popularize a reconciliation of Eastern mindfulness and nonrationalism with Western subject/object dualism. The magic of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance turns out to lie not in the answers it gives, but in the questions it raises and the way it raises them. Like a cross between The Razor's Edge and Sophie's World, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance takes us into "the high country of the mind" and opens our eyes to vistas of possibility. --Brian Bruya

Review

“The book is inspired, original. . . . The analogies with Moby-Dick are patent.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 701 KB
  • Print Length: 442 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0688002307
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (April 21, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0026772N8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,314 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
663 of 689 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why I'm Writing Review Number 473 of a 30 year old book November 2, 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'm compelled to write this review after browsing the others, because something has to be said about book that isn't being pointed out for someone who is interested in the book for the first time.

At this point, this book can be found on the front table in your local bookstore. Other philosophy books can be found in the philosophy section either collecting dust, or being perused by someone intensely interested in philosophy who is well versed in debates that have gone on for centuries.

I have listened to the author, Robert Pirsig, being interviewed, and it seems that he did, in fact, intend for this book and its premise of "Quality" to be the great, all encompassing philosophy, presented in a straightforward, readable manner. However, despite Pirsig's intention, that is not quite why this book has become so famous.

This book is famous because it fills a perfect niche in that it introduces some very complicated philosophical questions in a form that the common reader will find interesting. Pirsig is attempting to create a practical philosophy and sets the book against the background of actual experience to make the questions he ponders real for the reader.

With that in mind, if you are not clamoring for a debate with someone else who is knowledgable on the ins and outs of Kierkegaard and Spinoza and are simply looking for a readable book that makes a real attempt of answering the big questions in life, this book is for you.

What I find interesting, and somewhat disturbing, is that many choose to deride this book because it doesn't agree with their notions of philosopy, but fail to grasp that the people who are most likely to read this book won't even be at the table to understand their objections to it unless they read it.
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375 of 420 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Over 2000 Years of Wisdom in 373 Pages May 2, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In my (1/e)*100 years on this planet, during which I devoured at least ten times as many books, I have read only two more than once - "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is one of them. In this monumental 1974 work, Robert Pirsig has achieved what few others have managed before him and, to the best of my knowledge, nobody else has accomplished since: a perfect unification of philosophy, adventure and mystery. His "Chautauqua," or traveling tale, takes the reader on a profound tour of ancient Greek philosophy, the steppes of Montana, and even a little bit of Zen Buddhism, with endless surprises and much original if not truly inspired thought along the way. Through his self-portrayal by means of the unforgettable and eerily enigmatic character Phaedrus, Mr. Pirsig shares his far-reaching search for the meaning of life, and himself. His fundamental concern is with the following seemingly simple but in effect infinitely complex question: "How can one distinguish "good" from "bad?" The question is posed and addressed in many different forms throughout the book, and in the process the concepts of truth, value and quality are dissected, reassembled, and again dissected and reassembled many times. Mr. Pirsig has an uncanny sense of timing, and he never allows the heavier passages to labor on too long. This is avoided by craftily interspersing his philosophical discourse amongst very down-to-earth and charming observations made during a motorcycle trip that takes the narrator and his seemingly troubled son Chris from the American Prairies to the Pacific, and forms the prevalent background for the entire "Chautauqua." "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is a totally unique creation. Read more ›
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110 of 122 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, thought-provoking, and courageous. December 18, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Part road novel, part philosophy, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ("ZMM") met with huge critical and commercial success when first published in 1974. Narrator and son ride from Minneapolis to San Francisco; meanwhile, both are haunted by the narrator's past insanity, brought about by his "chasing the ghost of rationality". A series of philosophical monologues addresses questions both mundane - how to fix a motorcycle - and metaphysical.
Today ZMM retains a sizeable following, although criticism of it is very polarised: Pirsig's fervent self-assurance when dealing with philosophical questions converts some readers into "followers" and tends to exasperate everyone else. Mostly structured as a "solution" rather than an "inquiry", as the title claims, ZMM's philosophy is too often accepted without question, and it is frequently and regrettably true that the more positive the review, the more philosophically naïve the reviewer. Nonetheless, this should not disallow ZMM from being considered on its own merits.
ZMM is not an introductory philosophy text, more a "once-in-a-lifetime" philosophical statement; the comparison has already been made with Hofstadter's "Gödel, Escher, Bach", and Hofstadter's description - "a statement of my religion" - could well describe ZMM, too. When one considers the motivation required to sustain Pirsig's long and solitary struggle in writing and publishing ZMM, the rhetorical fervour of his arguments becomes more understandable. Those who attack Pirsig as pompous or narcissistic fail to appreciate the degree of self-belief needed to complete such a highly individualistic work. So, we can certainly admire him for trying - but is ZMM any good?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic.
This book really involves your mind as the author shifts between various levels of consciousness and refers back to the motorcycle for a reality base. Read more
Published 3 days ago by William J. Ussery
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent read
It was a very interesting read, one of my favorites books that makes you think. A philosophy student recommended it to me, and I would recommend it to anyone who's got enough... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Joel Bacon
5.0 out of 5 stars Mostly seamless and thought provoking,
I read this book for an upper-level engineering ethics class on "technology and values" and, as the book conveys much more than just "quality", the emphasis on... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Aaron
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique
I've heard about this book for most of my adult life, but only recently experienced it. Much of it was hard to follow philosophical soliloquy. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Steven
4.0 out of 5 stars starts slow, but overall good book
it took me awhile to get into this book. The back and forth of the styles was difficult for me to enjoy. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Daniel S. Mayer
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it again!
I read this book for the first time when I was 19 or 20 and now read it a second time at almost three times that age. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Paul W Swanson
1.0 out of 5 stars really
I really couldn't get into this book. I've tried and tried and tried again. To each their own I suppose.
Published 9 days ago by M. Romney
1.0 out of 5 stars I rarely don't finish books
I made an exception for this book, I just couldn't stand it. I thought it was something that I just had to read given its status but it just didn't do it for me. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Shtukka
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough read but worth the effort
I've never been a student of philosophy so I guess this is why it took me so many years to finally finish this book. Read more
Published 12 days ago by G. Cates
3.0 out of 5 stars What is Zen?
I remember when this book first came out. I did not read it then. My book club picked it, so I was forced to read it.

The premise is excellent. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Thelma A. Norton
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More About the Author

Robert M. Pirsig was born in 1928 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He holds degrees in chemistry, philosophy, and journalism and also studied Oriental philosophy at Benares Hindu University in India. He is the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila.

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Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Life Changing?
Just finished it today, the story is incredible. The Metaphysics of Quality are a fascinating notion. But more than anything, I see so many parallels with my own life and way of thinking. Being a father, I was deeply moved by the ending. (Oh heck, I'll admit it, I was in tears!)
Jan 9, 2007 by A. Covarrubias |  See all 5 posts
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