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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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Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals + Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
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Product Description

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
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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, thought inspiring book. March 14 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
After ZAMM Lila is a different flavour, but just as interesting and inspiring. For me Pirsig fights for the under dog, and sometimes in this world, thats all you need to do. Put your hand up and say, "wait wait that's not right". There's a few reviewers vehemently ripping into Pirsig, it's great, he love's it I'm sure. Pirsig says that his MOQ deals with things better than the standard dualistic metaphysics, he draws a few conclusions that are quesionable, but all conclusions on ethics and morals are questionable, it's doesn't stop the fact that his MOQ is fundamentally more useful than western dualism in some situations. Try explaining a city to a child in terms of Subjects and Objects, and then try with Patterns of Value. The MOQ doesn't create the conclusions its another useful tool available to the open minded, Pirsig's not forcing anyone to use it.
I guess people are reading this like a text book, one reviewer even complained that there's no foot notes, the book is not a textbook. Pirsig has to shoot down his opponents to make his point, it's unfair maybe but it's life. If you make a point and then say, "of course this could all be rubbish, it's just an idea", people won't have confidence in what you're saying and won't publish your book. The one star mob and the academics wanted Pirsig to right a text book so they could burn it. He didn't he wrote a book about one mans ideas and most people including myself think it's another brilliant book.
Wright or wrong Pirsig is dynamic, he's trying to push philosophy either upward toward further evolution or accidentally into degeneracy, but without people like Pirsig life would be very boring. The one star mob should concentrate on their own books.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Bad, bad, bad Sept. 16 2002
By Ripper
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If you liked Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance don't read this, it'll put you off Pirsig forever. A disasterous attempt to prove that his first attempt at writing wasn't a fluke, which ironically proves the precise opposite.
Most of this is just barmy - worthy of a self-published no-hoper. There's a hapless attempt at building a philosophy, pretentiously titled the Metaphysics of Quality, which makes no sense from beginning to end. Other than that he spends most of his time trying to prove that what he says is what everybody already thinks anyway - his metaphysics is consistent with free will, evolution, the American constitution etc - so it MUST be right.
The story part of the book falls flat, the characters never come alive and are too obviously put in to illustrate aspects of his oh-so-precious theory. He borrows from ancient religions under the pretext that he is the first person to dig up these ideas and the only person who has ever really understood them. (Gosh aren't we lucky he was born!) In fact he seems not to even understand what he is writing, because he contradicts himself all over the place. It's as if he just copied bits and pieces from other texts that he fancied without really knowing what they meant. There are no footnotes, no references, nothing, we're supposed to believe that this all came from him. Basically it's all about proving that he's the greatest genius who ever lived and if you don't believe him well that's because you're just too blind to see it.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars First the home run and then this, the Grand Slam.
Better, incredibly, than ZEN GUIDE TO MOTORCYLE MAINTENANCE - its prequel.
Published 2 months ago by Scissorpaws
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
loved it
Published 2 months ago by vicki carrothers
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't quite get there!
This is another case of a great first novel author not stopping while he's ahead. You know, the Joseph Heller syndrome. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2007 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read if you are always wondering Why?
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. Read more
Published on April 14 2004 by Emile Baizel
2.0 out of 5 stars what exactly is his philosophy?
I ended up not caring for this book for several
1) Pirsig is not a very nice or likeable
person. Read more
Published on Dec 29 2003 by Todd Hoff & Linda Coleman
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh holy crap
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. Read more
Published on Sept. 30 2003 by Shane
4.0 out of 5 stars does this book have quality?
Well, this is certainly not as easy a read as Zen. While the first book cleverly drew the reader into philosophical debate, gently revealing the background and views of the author... Read more
Published on July 28 2002 by Magick Temple
5.0 out of 5 stars A good dog...
Much expectation approaching this book. Took me several years to read it as I was afraid to be disappointed. Read more
Published on June 6 2002 by A. Ort
4.0 out of 5 stars Sex, Drugs, and Metaphysics
Phaedrus is back. Not satisfied with naming the unameable, he now must subdivide that which cannot be subdivided. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2002 by D. Austin
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