Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Study Guide

Robert Pirsig

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Course Hero. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide." Course Hero. 20 Sep. 2017. Web. 11 Dec. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/>.

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Course Hero. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide." September 20, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/.


Course Hero, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide," September 20, 2017, accessed December 11, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Part 3, Chapter 19 | Summary



In the morning the narrator wakes from a dream in which he was "standing in a white-painted room looking at a glass door." His family stands on the other side of the door. There are tears in his wife's eyes, and Chris looks terrified. A few minutes later, Chris says the narrator kept him awake by talking in his sleep about meeting at the top of the mountain.

As they resume their climb, the narrator returns to the day's Chautauqua. He remembers that as Phaedrus burrowed deeper and deeper into how to define Quality and began to lecture his fellow faculty members about the issue, they began to distance themselves from him. Robert DeWeese advises Phaedrus to accept that Quality is undefinable and let the whole discussion go. Phaedrus refuses, insisting universities are "places where things should be spelled out." The narrator suspects now this attitude must have involved Phaedrus's ego: he wanted to prove he could solve the knotty problem he had set himself.

But he is unable to solve it to his own satisfaction until he takes a path new to the "history of Western thought." Quality, he decides, is neither mind nor matter but "a third entity which is independent of the two." Phaedrus now sees the world as being composed of mind, matter, and Quality. Unfortunately, that isn't the end of his dilemma.


In the last chapter, the reader saw Chris and the narrator unable to communicate. The narrator was unwilling to address the things that happened in the past and so was alienated from his son. Now the narrator finds that his rambling talk that night about the mountain keeps Chris awake. The narrator has no memory of this event. The reader may recall Chris witnessed numerous events that were the result of his father's mental illness. There is no discussion between them about any of this. Simultaneous with the discussions of the current situation, the chapter also delves again into Phaedrus's past philosophical dilemma. The narrator compares the dilemma to two horns of "an angry and charging bull." The division inherent in the issue of Quality is that "Quality is objective or subjective." Phaedrus's solution, which may not seem terribly radical to readers, is to propose a third option: "Every dilemma affords not two but three classic refutations." His third option is to refuse to engage on the grounds that attempting to define Quality is invalid.

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