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Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 1992

4.2 out of 5 stars 154 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Seventeen years after the publication of his still-popular road story/philosophical meditation, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance , Pirsig offers another lengthy and absorbing investigation of how we can live well and rightly. Phaedrus, the one-named narrator "who had written a whole book on values," is sailing down the Hudson River when he meets Lila Blewitt, an unapologetically sexual, psychologically unstable woman whom a mutual friend warns him against. But Phaedrus is drawn to her physically and interested in her intellectually, finding her "a culture of one" in whom he discerns an unexpected "Quality." Sailing with him to Manhattan, where her mental state deteriorates further, Lila prompts Phaedrus to explore conflicts of values like those between Native Americans and Europeans or between the insane and the normal. Finally, after years of struggling, he formulates his "Metaphysics of Quality" which offers a system of understanding--and evaluating--actions according to a hierarchy of four evolutionary realms (natural, biological, social and intellectual). Though Lila's fate is left unresolved, Pirsig's wide-ranging philosophical explorations will provoke and engage readers.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Pirsig's newest work continues in the same philosophical vein as his earlier books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ( LJ 10/15/74) and Guide book to "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" ( LJ 10/15/90). Lila is a novel-cum-philosophical tome that wrestles with the issues and problems of life in the Nineties. Phaedrus, the principle character, is a writer grappling with his latest treatise, the "metaphysics of Quality." Lila, his aging and desperate wharf-bar pickup, provides the right amount of antagonism and criticism to hone his ruminations of life and civilization to something understandable and real. Pirsig has some fairly interesting ideas, but his evasiveness in defining his version of "quality" early on may lose some readers. His transition from the novel format to the philosophy lesson is uneven and distracting at times. However, his observations lead to some surprising revelations. Readers familiar with his earlier work will want this. Recommended.
- Kevin M. Roddy, Oakland P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (December 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553299611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553299618
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is a sequel to Pirsig's famous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, first published in 1974. Both books are technically novels; but in fact the thin story-line - the account of a journey - is the thread on which is strung a strenuous metaphysical investigation of ultimate reality. This investigation is couched in a ruminative, discursive and colloquial style which, given the difficulty of the subject matter, is easier to follow than would be a dry and austere academic presentation of the conclusions which Pirsig has reached. In Zen Pirsig managed to make this search by his central character, Phaedrus, read like a tense and rather desperate detective story, with no less than the sanity of the investigator being at stake - and Phaedrus does succumb for a while and has to spend a period in a mental hospital.

Lila again has Phaedrus as the central character, though this time he speaks in the third and not the first person singular, and he is presented as the author of the earlier book. This time he is travelling on a sailing boat instead of on a motor-cycle - and although at one point the sailing boat is used to underline the fact that he is a loner, it is not otherwise used as a trigger for an investigation into the nature of things as the motor-cycle had been used in the previous book. The tension and suspense of the first book is missing, and from that point of view Lila is less gripping than Zen was. The reason for this is not that Pirsig's narrative skills have deserted him, but that, whereas Zen had ended with Phaedrus' solution to the problem of what was the ultimate nature of reality, Lila merely works out some implications of this solution.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Phaedrus is back. Not satisfied with naming the unameable, he now must subdivide that which cannot be subdivided. The thrust of this book is a devlopment of a 'metaphysics of Quality." Quality is that nameless indirectly percievable reality Pirsig went to great lengths to show us in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM)." Without ZAMM under your belt, "Lila" will be meaningless babble to you. So if you have not read ZAMM, stop reading this review, and go directly to ZAMM page. It also is a good read; you will not be disappointed.
I am not the intellectual giant that Pirsig is. Before reading Lila, I didn't even know what a metaphysics was; so don't let that stop you. Like ZAMM, "Lila" is a full blown book on philosophy intertwined with a novella, the plot of which serves to drive the orations of the author, and provide case study-like material for the reader.
Phaedrus, having abandoned his motorcycle for a sailboat, is sailing for Mexico and pondering his next book which will be a "metaphysics of Quality" or maybe about Indians. At any rate, at a port bar he picks up a woman that you and I would not consider exactly a "high class" individual. Between Lila and her acquantances, Pirsig offers us an illustration of the different types of Quality. Dynamic versus Static patterns, social versus biological versus intellectual. He weaves a metaphysics that if not true, at least throws everything from quantum mechanics and artificial intelligence to social reform and madness into a strange new light. A light which on the surface seems to illuminate things very clearly. The downside is that the path to this illumination is a bit harder to follow than in his previous book. Consequently, I had to "just accept" some points as opposed to "really digging" them.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Robert M. Pirsig's "Lila" is one of the finest and most challenging books in print today. For those of you who have read his, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," (ZMM) and enjoyed the philosophical and mystical challenges there, "Lila" offers even more.

I have read "Lila" multiple times. I only recently discovered that lila in Hindu mythology means the never-ending dance of the Divine in an ongoing alternation between the World and the Divine and back again. It is like sacrifice of the Divine to create the World and then sacrifice of the World to create the Divine. Lila is this continual dance. I found the dance a strong metaphor of the main female character in "Lila" and her relationship to Phaedrus. I am unsure Pirsig intended this metaphor, but I suspect he did.

In both ZMM and Lila, Pirsig's prime pursuit is the definition and philosophy of quality. He conjoins the epic struggle of mankind to intuit and rationalize the mind-body, subject-object dichotomies. Note that Pirsig would emphasize intuition here and de-emphasize rational thought.

In "Lila" he accomplishes three major feats:
1) a non-dichotomous and holistic view of subject-object,
2) a moral value framework for sentient beings, and
3) rules for static and dynamic balance.

Holistically, he shows that reality is composed of three things: subject (mind), object (matter), and Quality. He says that objects precede subjects, subjects emerge from objects, and quality occurs where and when subjects become aware of objects.
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