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Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals [Mass Market Paperback]

Robert Pirsig
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 1992
The author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance examines life's essential issues as he recounts the journey down the Hudson River in a sailboat of his philosopher-narrator Phaedrus. Reprint.

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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 the Hardcover edition.

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 the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and insightful Feb. 28 2006
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It's not often that someone with a New York Times bestseller (Zen and the Art...) gets a million dollar offer to write a sequel but declines and instead waits 20 years when he has something to say.
Pirsig's second book "Lila" takes the question of 'Quality' posed in his first book "Zen.." and explores it further. The answers he comes up with are nothing short of genius. His static/dynamic interplay has all the hallmarks of the Tao's yin/yang balance of forces inherent within nature.
Though the story itself and the character development leave much to be desired, the ideas and philosophy presented in this book is bang on. Like in science and mathematics, the litmus test of a good philosophy is its simplicty and its wide applicability. Pirsig's philosophy can be applied to everything from music, art, morals, chess, biology, psychology, religion and sociology. I haven't seen any other philosophy with this range.
Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steely Dan and the Art of Writing May 23 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
There's something about reading Robert Pirsig's Lila that reminds me of listening to Steely Dan records. Everything seems to be mastered, the writing is tight and it allows Pirsig to zone off into what can either be described as self-indulgent tengents or brilliant essays on metaphysics - just like those extended solos and cryptic lyrics on albums like Aja. But like Steely Dan, there's also a cold, almost clinical atmosphere to Pirsig's character Phaedrus. If you're like me you can indulge Pirsig a bit just as much as you can put on a Steely Dan record.
There really isn't any other author I've encountered quite like Pirsig, and that's a good thing. On the surface this is the story of Phaedrus, a man who's written a novel - Zen and the Art, it seems - that has given him fame but also turned him into a recluse. He's traveling alone down a river in upstate New York when he ends up picking up a woman. That woman, Lila, becomes the focus of his wandering search for a more inclusive system of thinking. He calls this system the Metaphysics of Quality and it resembles a computer program in its design. The book then alternates between the story of Phaedrus and Lila (who increasingly is revealed to be mentally ill) and Phaedrus's (sometimes ingenious) musings.
Sleek, well-written, fascinating but also cold and indulgent, I'd recommend Lila to those who aren't bloody-well annoyed when a Steely Dan record comes on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars June 30 2014
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
loved it
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5.0 out of 5 stars First the home run and then this, the Grand Slam. July 16 2014
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Better, incredibly, than ZEN GUIDE TO MOTORCYLE MAINTENANCE - its prequel.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read if you are always wondering Why? April 14 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The great thing about Pirsig's writing is that he takes apart and analyzes many beliefs that we take for granted in our every day lives. Then he resassembles them into a logical mapping that literally provides an explanation for everything, from the behavior of cells, bacteria, animals, trees, humans, societies.
Granted, the structure of the 'story' makes it such that it is more of a doctrine on morals and values rather than a page-turning novel. But that is what makes it great. We don't have to put up with unnecessary story fluff if it were a true novel, and we also don't have to deal with dry philosophical incantations with equations and symbols etc.
This book will only really be enjoyed by those who liked the first book for its philosphical analysis, because he picks up the discussion and takes it many steps further. For those of us interested in understanding our lives and our behaviors, of why we do what we do, how we got to where we are today, and what it is each of us individually and collectively value, he offers some very amazing and compelling arguments. And he backs each of his theories up with quite rigorous logical explanations. This is one of the main reasons I enjoy his work; he doesn't just throw something esoteric idea out there and wait for someone to prove him wrong; he follows every argument up with logical analysis.
Bottom line, if you are into the philosophy of it, you will come out of each chapter of this book with a different outlook on your everyday life. You will see things in a different light, and that is what makes this book great for me. There are very few other books out there that successfully do this.
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2.0 out of 5 stars what exactly is his philosophy? Dec 29 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I ended up not caring for this book for several
1) Pirsig is not a very nice or likeable
person. Certainly it is not a requirement
to be likeable, but it helps you get through 400+ pages.
He knows this, but doesn't seem to mind enough to
2) Everyone and everything is a foil for his own ego.
He never learns any thing from anyone that doesn't
groove with what he already wants to think.
3) What is his philosophy? There are numerous interesting
observations on indians and victorians, but
his philosophy reminds me of utility theory.
If you are sufficiently clever you can argue for anything.
In these reviews people are saying how great is his
thinking, but if you had to tell someone what his
thinking is, what would you say?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Oh holy crap Sept. 30 2003
By Shane
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was a real novice to philosophy and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance confused me a lot the first time I read it. But I read it again and then got Lila. Wow.
Pirsig seems to have the ability to explain nearly EVERYTHING. I agree that sometimes his conclusions are a little hasty. However, Pirsig effortlessly explains away things that I had barely registered subconsciously. His view of reality seems to make a lot of sense.
Anyway, I don't know enough about philosophy to say, but I think this book is grossly under-rated. This book is very, very important indeed. Even if it is not true it is well worth reading. I found the story itself amazing.
As you might have guessed, I'm a fan! Awesome book.
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