Montana State University
Chautauqua - 2012 MSU Honors Robert Pirsig
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Speaker Bios and Presentation Abstracts

Michael Sexson

Michael Sexson

Master Of Ceremonies
Michael Sexson is a Professor of English at Montana State University where he has been teaching for more than 40 years.

Introduction to Pirsig Chautauqua 2012
Participant in "Spur of the Moment" with Anthony McWatt and David Buchanan.

Sara Waller

Sara Waller

Bio
Sara Waller is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Montana State University, where she teaches Other Animals and Origins of Life. She has published articles on philosophy of mind and cognitive neuroscience in journals such as Synthese, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience and Journal of Value Inquiry. Her research interests include human and animal minds and measures of intelligence across species.

Consciousness, Focus, And Not Knowing About Motorcycles

Abstract: Pirsig explores many different ways of being conscious in his books: framed consciousness, romantic and classical minds, feeling Zen, willfully not knowing, and more. Phaedrus finds his way through a detailed understanding of motorcycles. I suggest that willfully not knowing (as John and Sylvia practice) is an important conscious state that allows for self exploration, analysis, and holistic understanding of self and world. Once one has achieved these things, one can then be free to learn about such things as motorcycles.

Dustin Dallman

Dustin Dallman

Bio
Dustin Dallman is a writer and an undergraduate at MSU. His principal academic interests include contemporary rationalist and materialist philosophies, literary modernism, and the antihumanism of Plato.

Neither/Nor: Robert Pirsig And The American Sublime

Abstract: Observing the Wallace Stevens dictum that the conferral of an honorary award on a poet constitutes a poetic act in itself, this paper investigates the character of that act which would confer such an award on the writer Robert Pirsig. I argue that Pirsig is best understood neither as novelist nor as philosopher, but rather through the parallel traditions of antiphilosophy and the antinovel. More broadly, Pirsig is shown to promulgate a generalized American spirit of negativity (taken in the late Platonic sense) and its concomitant model of the sublime. The bestowal to Pirsig of an honorary degree is by this measure conceptualized as a peculiarly American act of negation.

David Buchanan

David Buchanan

Bio
David Buchanan met Robert Pirsig at the first Metaphysics of Quality conference in Liverpool, England. He entered graduate school the following year to study philosophy, wrote a thesis comparing Pirsig's work to the work of William James and graduated in September of 2011 with a Master of Humanities degree from the University of Colorado, Denver. In October of 2009, along with Anthony McWatt, he gave a talk at Oxford University's "MOQ Study Day" and he is featured in two of McWatt's documentary films, "Arrive Without Traveling" and "The MOQ at Oxford." He lives in Denver with his wife Sally and son Max.

About the Chautauqua
"One of things I find most thrilling about the upcoming Pirsig weekend and the honorary Doctorate from MSU is that it offers such sweet redemption for Pirsig both personally and philosophically. In terms of his own philosophical journey, as you well know, Bozeman is ground zero. His quest for Quality led him to Chicago and into madness and/or enlightenment. (Pirsig himself does not dispute either interpretation.) With millions of readers (literally), it's hard to imagine how his book could have been any more successful but, in terms of graduating from the University of Chicago, his story ends in failure. Now, fifty years later, Pirsig's work has been officially established within academic philosophy (thanks to Doctors McWatt and Granger) and he is finally getting his degree after all. It's like one of those happy endings written in Hollywood, almost too good to be true. It's a full circle, a fifty year cycle, that almost literally begins and ends in the same building, right in the center of campus. It's an awesome and beautiful thing all by itself and even more so because Pirsig is still around to see this happen. If a documentarian or a journalist were to ask me, I'd say the real story is about philosophical vindication and it's a real-life drama of personal redemption. Since this circle took fifty years, I'd even say it was an epic drama." - David Buchanan

"Pirsig's Central Metaphor"

Abstract: This talk will focus on the philosophical meaning of Pirsig's central metaphor; the art of motorcycle maintenance. I shall argue that Pirsig's book is not really about motorcycles in the same way that Moby Dick is not really about whales. The main contention is that Pirsig uses the artful mechanic to illustrate and explore philosophical themes and issues. "A motorcycle functions entirely in accordance with the laws of reason," Pirsig wrote, "and a study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself." Pirsig's intention, I'll argue, was to reshape the way we think by grappling with the biggest guns in Western philosophy.

Dr. Anthony McWatt

Anthony McWatt

Bio
Anthony McWatt is based in Liverpool, England and was the first person in the world to receive a Ph.D. in Robert Pirsig's "Metaphysics of Quality" (MOQ). More recently, McWatt helped organise a successful study day on Pirsig's work at Oxford University and has created a series of four documentaries about the MOQ, the ZMM route and the people and places associated with the latter. One of these films, "On The Road with Robert Pirsig," won a best documentary award in the UK in 2009. McWatt is also the site administrator for robertpirsig.org which he established in 2005. This website includes a number of papers written by 'Pirsigian' academics including David Buchanan and Henry Gurr.

Bricks, Zen And The Art Of Celebrity

Abstract: This presentation will first focus on what the Metaphysics of Quality adds to traditional ways of looking at the Art pieces and the “Art” pieces that are found in the typical metropolitan gallery. This will then be developed to consider wider philosophical issues (such as the impact of celebrity in modern life).

Lee Glover

Lee Glover

Bio
Lee Glover had three careers in high tech doing project management, marketing and software development for Hewlett Packard Company. Leaving the corporate world in 2007 to try something completely different led to a documentary film project as a way to learn video technology. The film MERIDIAN is the result of what turned into a five year odyssey. Glover is married with three children and two grandchildren and currently resides in Boise, Idaho. When not working on the film, Glover enjoys hiking, bicycling and Boise State University football. Glover graduated in 1979 from DeVry Institute of Technology in Phoenix, Arizona.

MERIDIAN

Abstract: MERIDIAN is best described as a visual essay to answer the question "What is Quality in thought and statement?" The story reveals the discoveries of a five year odyssey across the west to understand the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" beginning with retracing the route in 2008, forty years after Robert and Chris Pirsig made the journey. The title is inspired by the city in Idaho where the book was purchased at a yard sale in 2005.

Dr. Henry Gurr

Henry Gurr

Bio
Henry Gurr was for 12 years a Research Physicist PhD, Savannah River Plant, Aiken, SC - Neutrino Physics Research, and for 22 years a Physics Professor, University SC Aiken. His current research is into the works of Robert Pirsig, specifically, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." History, Oral History, and Physical & Historic Sites along the Pirsig ZMM Route are documented in Gurr's ZMMQ WebSite and Photo Galleries, and make up the equivalent of 5 large books. As Site Master for 12 years, Gurr has been coach, editor, advisor and cheer leader for countless ZMM enthusiasts, most noteworthy in assistance to Anthony McWatt with work on his PhD Thesis, and to Mark Richardson with his book, "Zen and Now."

Travel Descriptions as Fact and Metaphor in the Works of Robert Pirsig or How Author Robert Pirsig Incorporates "Great Factual Accuracy" & "Metaphoric-Bridge-Connections" into his Travel Descriptions in his book,“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

Abstract: “Welcome To Pirsig Pilgrims" - This talk will present examples of "Great Factual Accuracy" that may be found in Robert Pirsig’s "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." I will also discuss how names of towns and other features such as weather, physical surroundings, birds & flowers are used to metaphorically support the current lecture Chautauqua. We will review several rather nice "Metaphoric-Bridge-Connection", between the Narrator's Chautauqua and the Travel Description, this being Mr. Pirsig's "stock-in-trade" in both ZMM and Lila.