Lot 59
  • 59

Pirsig, Robert

10,000 - 15,000 GBP
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  • Pirsig, Robert
  • Archive of correspondence with Anthony McWatt and related papers
  • ink on paper
i) Robert Pirsig, 40 letters (including one by Wendy Pirsig), to Anthony McWatt, most signed (some letters being computer print-out replies to emails), discussing Pirsig's philosophical theories, especially the Metaphysics of Quality (MOQ), Zen Buddhism, his books Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila, McWatt's own reading, his interpretation and critique of Pirsig's work, with advice to McWatt on dealing with academia and developing both his thoughts and his career, 1993-2000, with original envelopes, many with enclosures including a copy of McWatt's MA thesis extensively annotated by Pirsig, photocopies of letters and papers, printed ephemera, CDs

ii) Five lever-arch folders labelled "Pirsig Correspondence Jan 1993 - [Dec 2002]", containing print-outs of email correspondence between Pirsig and McWatt (principally 2000-2002), photocopies of Pirsig's letters to McWatt, retained copies of McWatt's letters to Pirsig, correspondence (mostly photocopies) between McWatt and other researchers working on Pirsig's philosophy, and research papers

iii) Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. London, 1974, 8vo, dust-jacket, inscribed by the author to Anthony McWatt; another copy, New York, 1999, similarly inscribed; other material sent by Pirsig to McWatt including audio cassettes, CDs, and research material

iv) Anthony McWatt, research notes, theses, lecture notes, including a draft MA thesis, bound copy of doctoral thesis (A Critical Analysis of Robert Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality, Liverpool, 2004), notes for a series of lectures on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, photocopies, and copies of other correspondence relating to Pirsig, housed in two folders, one lever-arch file, and one bound volume


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Catalogue Note

AN ARCHIVE PROVIDING SUBSTANTIAL INSIGHT INTO PIRSIG'S PHILOSOPHY.  Robert Pirsig (1928-2017) was the author of the most popular work of philosophy published in recent decades, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), and an ambitious second novel Lila: an Inquiry into Morals (1991). In this rich and detailed series of letters, Pirsig writes about many aspects of his philosophy and especially his distinctive theory of reality, the Metaphysics of Quality. Anthony McWatt began to correspond with Pirsig in 1993 after sending him a copy of his MA thesis, which drew heavily on Pirsig's work, and receiving in return an encouraging letter together with his own thesis carefully annotated by Pirsig. McWatt's research thereafter developed into a doctoral thesis analysing Pirsig's metaphysics, and over the years that followed McWatt wrote regularly to Pirsig, asking him to clarify and explain many aspects of his thinking. It was undoubtedly a collaborative relationship, as McWatt's detailed and thoughtful questioning forced Pirsig to explain and justify his arguments more fully than he had done before (Pirsig admits in one letter that "you're reading Lila more carefully than I wrote it"). He readily acknowledged the importance of McWatt's development of the Metaphysics of Quality:

Anthony McWatt comes closer than anyone to being a dharma successor of my own work on the Metaphysics of Quality. By ‘dharma’ is meant a duty that transcends one’s own personal self. It was this sense of dharma that made me write Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance over a period of four years when no one, including myself, thought it would ever be published. I think it’s this same sense that has caused McWatt to study for so many years to produce this clarification and expansion. He has been so painstaking here because he’s not just trying to entertain you or instruct you with philosophic details. His purpose here is to permanently enlarge and improve understanding at the most general levels of philosophic comprehension. The Metaphysics of Quality is a radically different way of understanding the universe but, as McWatt makes it clear in this treatise, its conclusions are not necessarily untrue.

-Robert Pirsig, 2002