60 deconstruction: theory and practice craftily disguises its workings by imputing them always to the adversary camp. Truth is simply the honoriﬁc title assumed by an argument which has got the upper hand – and kept it – in this war of competing persuasions. If anything, the sophist comes closer to wisdom by implicitly acknowledging what Socrates has to deny: that thinking is always and inseparably bound to the rhetorical devices that support it.
DECONSTRUCTION ON TWO WHEELS Nietzsche’s transvaluation of philosophy therefore demanded a return to source and an eﬀort to deconstruct the ruling metaphors of reason itself. There is an odd but revealing parallel to this in Robert Pirsig’s novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), where the narrative interest has more to do with Greek philosophy than with Zen Buddhism, as many readers have no doubt been puzzled to ﬁnd. The central ﬁgure is a man on the verge of breakdown and despair who sets out on a coast-to-coast motorcycle trip across America in search of self-understanding. What emerges gradually in the course of this quest is a whole buried prehistory of psychic and intellectual conﬂict which – we come to realize – led up to the events of the novel. Through a sequence of dimly remembered episodes the narrator reconstructs a portrait of his own previous life, the last few months of which were spent as a student of philosophy at the University of Chicago. Under the pseudonym ‘Phaedrus’ – adopted for reasons which soon become clear – this doomed alter ego is shown in the process of challenging all the basic assumptions handed down by his teachers on pain of academic excommunication. When Phaedrus begins to read back into the sources, especially the texts of Plato and Aristotle, he ﬁnds their arguments not only unconvincing but deviously angled in such a way as everywhere to misrepresent their forgotten opponents. The sophists, in particular, are held up to philosophic ridicule by a method of argument which twists their case into a parody of its own just-visible outline. From Socrates down through Plato and Aristotle, the evidence points to a massive suppression and misinterpretation of everything that threatened the sovereign power of dialectical reason. Phaedrus himself is cast as a latter-day victim of this same
Published on Jan 18, 2013
Norris reads Pirsig's 'Zen' as a Nietzchean-styled deconstructive critique of the 'authority of Socratic reason'...