First of all thanks for posting an interesting question. I thought all these threads were becoming things like “God Exists!” “No he doesn’t!” “Yes he does and your and asshole!!” so on ad nauseum.
I haven’t read z and the art of mm, so I may misunderstand your quote, but here are some tentative responses.
By Quality you seem to mean some real essence of the world that we may obscure because of our culturally biased ideas, which you(or Pirsig) term mythos. Is that right?
If so, it seems to me that culturally biased ideas are only one of the means by which are views of reality are distorted. I urge you to consult Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum in which he listed “the four idols” which prevent us from truly percieving Nature. I couldn’t find my Bacon just now, but I will search later and try to summarize them in a future post on this thread, if you are interested. If I recall, these “idols” included the preconcieved notions of our culture, which I believe Bacon calls the “Idols of the tribe”, but other things including prejudices from our own experience, and even the fundamental limitations of our sensory apparatus. Thus you can see that there is more than Pirsig’s mythos which would prevent us from seeing “Quality”
Furthermore it is doubtful to me if you could ever truly experience quality, if I understand the term correctly. Our knowledge is fundamentally derived from our experience, and it seems impossible to truly break out of our experience into some higher plane, despite what some mystics say. It seems all you can really do is become aware of your limitations, as Dirty Harry always said, and constantly question your assumptions.
Also it seems wrong to blame the Greek philosophers for any cultural cage we may be trapped in. First of all they were aware of the problem, and tried to deal with it. Plato suggested that his dialectical method would enable us to break free of this illusory world of appearance and percieve some sort of ultimate reality, the world of ideas, which I believe may correspond to your quality.
Furthermore, the Greeks did not leave us with one confining monolithic body of thought, but a lively argument containg diverse views on everything that was then known. One example is the contrast between the atomistic view of your namesake, Democritus, with the continoum based view of Aristotle.
Finally I would like to get a little snippy and point out that Pirsig is just a little to flip on the subject of insanity, a possible delusion he inherited from the mythos of the sixties. I have had experience with insanity in my family, and there is nothing profound and beautiful about it. When you’ve seen your Mom take an emergency flight home to deal with her Sister, because her sister was instructed by God to attempt suicide infront of her young children, it leaves you with a dim view of people who romanticize schizophrenia, like Pirsig and R.D. Laing.
There are people who can think outside the Box without being crazy. Two notable examples are James Joyce and Albert Einstein.
I am reminded of a story. When Joyce was discussing his Schizophrenic daughters problems with her doctor he supposedly said “In a way she and I do the same things with language.” The sympathetic Doctor replied “You’re swimming. She is drowning.” I cannot think of a better metaphor for the difference between madness and genius.
Again thank you for a thought provoking OP.
Having an open mind means you put out a welcome mat and answer the door politely. It does not mean leaving the door open with a sign saying nobody’s home