Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $4.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values Mass Market Paperback – April 25, 2006
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
“An unforgettable trip.” (Time)
“The book is inspired, original. . . . The analogies with Moby-Dick are patent.” (The New Yorker)
“Profoundly important...full of insights into our most perplexing contemporary dilemmas.” (New York Times)
“It is filled with beauty. . .a finely made whole that seems to emanate from a very special grace.” (Baltimore Sun)
“A miracle . . . sparkles like an electric dream.” (The Village Voice)
About the Author
Robert M. Pirsig (1928-2017) studied chemistry and philosophy (B.A., 1950) and journalism (M.A., 1958) at the University of Minnesota and also attended Benares Hindu University in India, where he studied Oriental philosophy. He is also the author of this book's sequel, entitled Lila.
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $1.99 (Save 75%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
But the book itself is tedious. I am NOT saying that the philosophy within it can't be life-changing and enlightening, which is why many readers adore this book, but as a book itself it's as profoundly dull as it is profound. There are several crucial problems.
First, the "plot" device of a cross-country motorcycle trip is nearly disposable. You can barely call this a novel, or claim it has a plot at all. What we have instead is a father-son road trip, a topic which had me excited to read this book. What a wonderful context for meaningful storytelling! But no, instead we have a "plot" that nearly gets abandoned; it gets so distant that at times Pirsig merely throws in an obligatory comment about the road going uphill now, as a token gesture to what was supposed to be the book's whole premise. Consequently, the narrator actually becomes LESS likable, as the 12-year-old son is nearly shoved aside for the narrator's self-involved musings. The narrator rhapsodizes endlessly about HIS philosophical obsessions, while the emotions and experiences of the son are happenstance story litter. This is ironic for a book claiming to be an investigation of values and quality. Here's a thought: how about you stop musing about your own brilliance, and actually PRACTICE quality values with your son? Merely thinking while he sits in the background of your self-absorption is abominable.
Second, Pirsig accidentally mistook this for a novel. It's not. It's a series of essays with a few tacked-on details about road sights interspersed. Pirsig doesn't even pretend otherwise; the narrator actually begins many passages with phrases like, "What I'd like to talk about now is..." The narrator makes no effort to hide the fact that he's simply lecturing. If Pirsig wanted to do this, he should have just written essays instead. But to write such dry essays and disguise them as first-person musings is a dull thing to inflict on us. These "Chautauquas" go on and on..."Now let's compare Euclidian geometry with..." AARGH!
This is the Ekhart Tolle of bygone decades. I've seen reviews that call this "exhilarating," and I always wonder if people read the same book as I. Or perhaps they also regard collecting antique twine to be an "exhilarating" hobby, or spending hours ignoring your bored kid while you debate Aristotle to be "exhilarating."
Real Zen masters teach us that after enlightenment, go chop wood. In others words, enlightenment ought not to take you out of the everyday tasks that must be attended to. Perhaps that could include using a cross-country road trip to actually explore your child's mind, bonding with him in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, rather than tossing him crumbs of attention so you can get back to your deep, clever "Chautauquas"?
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.
Probably no book has ever been more successful in interesting people in philosophy in the first place. So why are people who are interested in the subject eager to send them away because it disagrees with something they read in some banal tome?
Bottom line, if you ran across this book at your local bookshop or had it recommended to you by a friend, you must read it. It is an awesomely thought inspiring book and asks questions you never thought to ask or at least didn't know how to put your finger on. It's both a good novel and a great introduction to philosophy for people who have an interest in greater questions but not all the time to pursue them. I don't think you should worry about the fact that someone with a Masters Degree in Philosophy, or an equivalent knowledge, is bothered by the book. Also, I wouldn't be thrown by the title. The book isn't trying to sell you a newsletter or convert you to any church (despite the use of the phrase "The Church of Reason") and is only using a bit of Zen philosophy as a grounding for its premise.
Pirsig's premise does have a tendency to never be overtly stated, but I believe that he does this because he doesn't want it overly simplified in the way I'm about to do it.
Pirsig's premise is that we live in a world of both the "Classical" and "Romantic" or, as I'll simplify it, "function" and "form", respectively. Pirsig sees the problems in our world as the result of an overemphasis on form, when function is more essential. However, pure "function" has problems of its own. For example, our bodily organs carry out the function of allowing us to live, but one doesn't really desire for our skin to be translucent so we can watch these functions. In fact, we would have a revulsion to such a thing. Therefore, we have a combination of both of "form" and "function"; our organs work very well without our having to see them. This is the desirable state. This desirable state is called "Quality". Good "function" seems to bring about its own desirable "form". May the decorative towel be damned. That's grossly oversimplified, but there it is.
Finally, one shouldn't be thrown off Pirsig's premise by the fact that, quite frankly, he tends to be an impatient father and not very easy to get along with. While reading the book, it becomes apparent that Pirsig is sharing this with us because he is oblivious to it himself. He makes it obvious that he doesn't understand why no one is pondering the philosophical implications of repairing a motorcycle or why his young son isn't arriving at all of the conclusions he is, despite the fact his son is eleven. He seems to be trapped in the context of his own view of the world.
So, if you want to wade your way through all of the pontificating, please take the time to read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". If you really, really like it, you'll have to read Pirsig's other book "Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals". Though "Lila" takes a narrative approach that's a bit less readable than "Zen and...", it gives a more comprehensive view of Pirsig's philosophy. Read both. Then you can debate with the philosophy majors.