A railroad train came along the shore, on its way to Albany probably. There was a roar as it went by and then disappeared to the north. He hadn't even known that the track was there.
What else hadn't he noticed? He had a feeling there were a lot of things. 'Secrets,' Rigel had said. Forbidden things. This was the Atlantic Seaboard starting up now: a whole other culture.
Back from the shore stood another mansion like the one Phaedrus had noticed earlier. This one was of gray stone, so bleak and oppressive it looked like a setting for some great historic tragedy. Another old Eastern robber-baron, Phaedrus thought. Or his descendants .. . or maybe their creditors.
He studied the mansion for a while. It was set back above a huge lawn. Everything was in its place. All the leaves were raked and the grass was mowed. Even the trees were carefully spaced and carefully trimmed. It looked like the work of some obedient caretaker who had been at it, patiently, all his life.
Lila got up and said she needed to wash. She looked angry but Phaedrus didn't know exactly what to do about it. He told her how to pump the water to wash with, and she picked up the empty box of cheese crackers and her cup and stepped into the hatchway.
Halfway down the ladder she turned and said, 'Give me your cup, and I'll wash it.' No expression. He gave her his cup and then she disappeared.
He kept looking back again at the mansion rising back of the trees, as the boat moved away from it. It was huge and gray and shabby, and somewhat frightening. They sure knew how to dominate the spirit.
He picked up the binoculars for a closer look. Under one small grove of oak trees by the shore were empty white-painted chairs around a white table. From their curlicued shapes he guessed they were made of ornamental cast-iron. Something about them seemed to convey the mood of the whole place. Brittle, cold and uncomfortable. That was the Victorian spirit: a whole attitude toward life. 'Quality,' they called it. European quality. Full of status and protocol.
It had the same feeling as Rigel's sermon this morning. The social pattern that created that sermon on morality and the one that created these mansions were the same. It wasn't just Eastern; it was Victorian. Phaedrus hadn't thought about that factor so much, but these mansions, and lawns and ornamental iron furniture made it unmistakable.
He remembered his graduate school advisor, white-haired Professor Alice Tyler, at the beginning of her first lecture on the Victorians saying, 'This is the period of American history I just hate to teach.' When asked why, she said, 'It's so depressing.'
Victorians in America, she explained, were nouveaux riches who had no guidelines for what to do with all their sudden wealth and growth. What was depressing about them was their ugly gracelessness: the gracelessness of someone who has outgrown his own codes of self-regulation.
They didn't know how to relate to money. That was the problem. It was partly the new post-Civil War Industrial Revolution. Fortunes were being made in steel, lumber, cattle, machinery, railroads and land. Everywhere one looked new innovations were creating fortunes where there was nothing before. Cheap labor was pouring in from Europe. No income taxes and no social codes really forced a sharing of the wealth.
After scrambling for their lives to get it, they couldn't just give it away. And so the whole thing became involuted.
That's a good word, 'involuted.' Twisted in upon itself like the curves of their ornamental woodwork and the paisley patterns of their fabrics. Victorian men with beards. Victorian women with long involuted dresses. He could see them walking among the trees. Stiff, somber. It was all a pose.
He remembered elderly Victorians who had been nice to him as a child. It was a niceness that set him on edge. They were trying to improve him. It was expected that he would benefit from their attention. The Victorians always took themselves seriously, and the thing they took most seriously of all was their code of morality, or 'virtue,' as they liked to call it. The Victorian aristocrats knew what quality was and defined it very carefully for persons with a less fortunate upbringing than their own.
He got an image of them standing back of Rigel's shoulder at breakfast this morning endorsing every word Rigel said. They would have, too. That superiority Rigel asserted this morning was exactly the pose they would have affected.
You can duplicate it perfectly by pretending you're a king of some European country, preferably England or Germany. Your subjects are devoted and demanding of you. You must show respect to your own 'station in life.' It is not permitted that your inner personal feelings be publicly displayed. Your whole Victorian purpose in life is to capture and maintain that pose.
The tormented children of the Victorians often spoke of their morality as 'Puritanism' but this really slanders the Puritans. The Puritans were never the gaudy, fraudulent, ornamental peacocks the Victorians were. Puritan moral codes were as simple and unadorned as their houses and clothes. And they had a certain beauty because, in their early period at least, the Puritans really believed in them.
It wasn't from Puritans but from contemporary Europe that the Victorians got their moral inspiration. They thought they followed the highest English standards of morality, but the English morality they looked up to wasn't anything Shakespeare would have recognized. Like Victoria herself, it was more out of the German Romantic tradition than anything English.
Smug posing was the essence of their style. That's what these mansions were, poses - turrets and gingerbread and ornamental cast iron. They did it to their bodies with bustles and corsets. They did it to their whole social and psychic lives with impossible proprieties of table manners and speech and posture and sexual repression. Their paintings captured it perfectly - expressionless, mindless, cream-skinned ladies sitting around ancient Greek columns, draped in ancient Greek robes, in perfect form and posture, except for one breast hanging out, which no one noticed, presumably, because they were so elevated and so pure.
And they called it 'quality.'
For them the pose was quality. Quality was the social corset, the ornamental cast iron. It was a 'quality' of manners and egotism and suppression of human decency. When Victorians were being moral, kindness wasn't anywhere in sight. They approved whatever was socially fashionable and suppressed or ignored anything that was not.
The period ended when, after having defined for all time what 'Truth' and 'Virtue' and 'Quality' are, the Victorians and their Edwardian successors sent an entire generation of children into the trenches of the First World War on behalf of these ideals. And murdered them. For nothing. That war was the natural consequence of Victorian moral egotism. When it was over the children who survived never got tired of laughing at Charlie Chaplin comedies of those elderly people with the silk hats and too many clothes and noses up in the air. Young people of the twenties read Hemingway, Dos Passos and Fitzgerald, drank bootleg gin, danced tangos into the night, drove fast roadsters, made illicit love, called themselves a 'lost generation,' and never wanted anything to remind them of Victorian morality again.
Ornamental cast-iron. If you hit it with a sledgehammer it doesn't bend. It just shatters into ugly, coarse fragments. The intellectual social reforms of this century just shattered those Victorians. All that's left of them now is ugly fragments of their ornamental cast-iron way of life turning up at odd places, such as these mansions and in Rigel's talk this morning.
Instead of improving the world forever with their high-flown moral codes they did just the opposite: left the world a moral vacuum we're still living in. Rigel too. When Rigel starts all that breakfast oratory about morals he's just blowing hot air. He doesn't know what he's talking about. He's just trying to imitate a Victorian because he thinks it sounds good.
Phaedrus had told Rigel he couldn't answer Rigel's question because it was too difficult, but that didn't mean it couldn't be done. It could be done, but not with direct answers. Clever, hip-shot answers have to come out of the culture you're living in and the culture we're living in doesn't have any quick answer to Rigel. To answer him you have to go all the way back to fundamental meanings of what is meant by morality and in this culture there aren't any fundamental meanings of morality. There are only old traditional social and religious meanings and these don't have any real intellectual base. They're just traditions.
That's why Phaedrus got such a weary feeling from all this. All the way back to the beginning. That's where he had to go.
Because Quality is morality. Make no mistake about it. They're identical. And if Quality is the primary reality of the world then that means morality is also the primary reality of the world. The world is primarily a moral order. But it's a moral order that neither Rigel nor the posing Victorians had ever, in their wildest dreams, thought about or heard about.
The idea that the world is composed of nothing but moral value sounds impossible at first. Only objects are supposed to be real. 'Quality' is supposed to be just a vague fringe word that tells what we think about objects. The whole idea that Quality can create objects seems very wrong. But we see subjects and objects as reality for the same reason we see the world right-side up although the lenses of our eyes actually present it to our brains upside down. We get so used to certain patterns of interpretation we forget the patterns are there.
Phaedrus remembered reading about an experiment with special glasses that made users see everything upside down and backward. Soon their minds adjusted and they began to see the world 'normally' again. After a few weeks, when the glasses were removed, the subjects again saw everything upside down and had to relearn the vision they had taken for granted before.
The same is true of subjects and objects. The culture in which we live hands us a set of intellectual glasses to interpret experience with, and the concept of the primacy of subjects and objects is built right into these glasses. If someone sees things through a somewhat different set of glasses or, God help him, takes his glasses off, the natural tendency of those who still have their glasses on is to regard his statements as somewhat weird, if not actually crazy.
But he isn't. The idea that values create objects gets less and less weird as you get used to it. Modern physics on the other hand gets more and more weird as you get into it and indications are that this weirdness will increase. In either case, however, weirdness isn't the test of truth. As Einstein said, common sense — non-weirdness — is just a bundle of prejudices acquired before the age of eighteen. The tests of truth are logical consistency, agreement with experience, and economy of explanation. The Metaphysics of Quality satisfies these.
The Metaphysics of Quality subscribes to what is called empiricism. It claims that all legitimate human knowledge arises from the senses or by thinking about what the senses provide. Most empiricists deny the validity of any knowledge gained through imagination, authority, tradition, or purely theoretical reasoning. They regard fields such as art, morality, religion, and metaphysics as unverifiable. The Metaphysics of Quality varies from this by saying that the values of art and morality and even religious mysticism are verifiable, and that in the past they have been excluded for metaphysical reasons, not empirical reasons. They have been excluded because of the metaphysical assumption that all the universe is composed of subjects and objects and anything that can't be classified as a subject or an object isn't real. There is no empirical evidence for this assumption at all. It is just an assumption.
It is an assumption that flies outrageously in the face of common experience. The low value that can be derived from sitting on a hot stove is obviously an experience even though it is not an object and even though it is not subjective. The low value comes first, then the subjective thoughts that include such things as stove and heat and pain come second. The value is the reality that brings the thoughts to mind.
There's a principle in physics that if a thing can't be distinguished from anything else it doesn't exist. To this the Metaphysics of Quality adds a second principle: if a thing has no value it isn't distinguished from anything else. Then, putting the two together, a thing that has no value does not exist. The thing has not created the value. The value has created the thing. When it is seen that value is the front edge of experience, there is no problem for empiricists here. It simply restates the empiricists' belief that experience is the starting point of all reality. The only problem is for a subject-object metaphysics that calls itself empiricism.
This may sound as though a purpose of the Metaphysics of Quality is to trash all subject-object thought but that's not true. Unlike subject-object metaphysics the Metaphysics of Quality does not insist on a single exclusive truth. If subjects and objects are held to be the ultimate reality then we're permitted only one construction of things - that which corresponds to the 'objective' world - and all other constructions are unreal. But if Quality or excellence is seen as the ultimate reality then it becomes possible for more than one set of truths to exist. Then one doesn't seek the absolute Truth.' One seeks instead the highest quality intellectual explanation of things with the knowledge that if the past is any guide to the future this explanation must be taken provisionally; as useful until something better comes along. One can then examine intellectual realities the same way one examines paintings in an art gallery, not with an effort to find out which one is the 'real' painting, but simply to enjoy and keep those that are of value. There are many sets of intellectual reality in existence and we can perceive some to have more quality than others, but that we do so is, in part, the result of our history and current patterns of values.
Or, using another analogy, saying that a Metaphysics of Quality is false and a subject-object metaphysics is true is like saying that rectangular coordinates are true and polar coordinates are false. A map with the North Pole at the center is confusing at first, but it's every bit as correct as a Mercator map. In the Arctic it's the only map to have. Both are simply intellectual patterns for interpreting reality and one can only say that in some circumstances rectangular coordinates provide a better, simpler interpretation.
The Metaphysics of Quality provides a better set of coordinates with which to interpret the world than does subject-object metaphysics because it is more inclusive. It explains more of the world and it explains it better. The Metaphysics of Quality can explain subject-object relationships beautifully but, as Phaedrus had seen in anthropology, a subject-object metaphysics can't explain values worth a damn. It has always been a mess of unconvincing psychological gibberish when it tries to explain values.
For years we've read about how values are supposed to emanate from some location in the 'lower' centers of the brain. This location has never been clearly identified. The mechanism for holding these values is completely unknown. No one has ever been able to add to a person's values by inserting one at this location, or observed any changes at this location as a result of a change of values. No evidence has been presented that if this portion of the brain is anesthetized or even lobotomized the patient will make a better scientist as a result because all his decisions will then be 'value-free.' Yet we're told values must reside here, if they exist at all, because where else could they be?
Persons who know the history of science will recognize the sweet smell of phlogiston here and the warm glow of the luminiferous ether, two other scientific entities which were arrived at deductively and which never showed up under the microscope or anywhere else. When deduced entities are around for years and nobody finds them it is a sign that the deductions have been made from false premises; that the body of theory from which the deductions are made is wrong at some fundamental level. This is the real reason values have been avoided by empiricists in the past, not because values aren't experienced, but because when you try to fit them into this absurd brain location you get a sinking feeling that tells you that somewhere back down the line you have gone way off the track and you just want to drop the whole subject and think about something else that has more of a future to it.
This problem of trying to describe value in terms of substance has been the problem of a smaller container trying to contain a larger one. Value is not a subspecies of substance. Substance is a subspecies of value. When you reverse the containment process and define substance in terms of value the mystery disappears: substance is a 'stable pattern of inorganic values.' The problem then disappears. The world of objects and the world of values are unified.
This inability of conventional subject-object metaphysics to clarify values is an example of what Phaedrus called a 'platypus.' Early zoologists classified as mammals those that suckle their young and as reptiles those that lay eggs. Then a duck-billed platypus was discovered in Australia laying eggs like a perfect reptile and then, when they hatched, suckling the infant platypi like a perfect mammal.
The discovery created quite a sensation. What an enigma! it was exclaimed. What a mystery! What a marvel of nature! When the first stuffed specimens reached England from Australia around the end of the eighteenth century they were thought to be fakes made by sticking together bits of different animals. Even today you still see occasional articles in nature magazines asking, 'Why does this paradox of nature exist?'
The answer is: it doesn't. The platypus isn't doing anything paradoxical at all. It isn't having any problems. Platypi have been laying eggs and suckling their young for millions of years before there were any zoologists to come along and declare it illegal. The real mystery, the real enigma, is how mature, objective, trained scientific observers can blame their own goof on a poor innocent platypus.
Zoologists, to cover up their problem, had to invent a patch. They created a new order, monotremata, that includes the platypus, the spiny anteater, and that's it. This is like a nation consisting of two people.
In a subject-object classification of the world, Quality is in the same situation as that platypus. Because they can't classify it the experts have claimed there is something wrong with it. And Quality isn't the only such platypus. Subject-object metaphysics is characterized by herds of huge, dominating, monster platypi. The problems of free will versus determinism, of the relation of mind to matter, of the discontinuity of matter at the sub-atomic level, of the apparent purposelessness of the universe and the life within it are all monster platypi created by the subject-object metaphysics. Where it is centered around the subject-object metaphysics, Western philosophy can almost be dejined as 'platypus anatomy.' These creatures that seem like such a permanent part of the philosophical landscape magically disappear when a good Metaphysics of Quality is applied.
The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do. There are always some pieces like platypi that don't fit and we can either ignore these pieces or we can give them silly explanations or we can take the whole puzzle apart and try other ways of assembling it that will include more of them. When one takes the whole ill-shaped, misfitting structure of a subject-object explained universe apart and puts it back together in a value-centered metaphysics, all kinds of orphaned puzzle pieces fit beautifully that never fit before.
Almost as great as this 'value' platypus is another one handled by the Metaphysics of Quality: the 'scientific reality' platypus. This is a very large monster that has been disturbing a lot of people for a long time. It was identified a century ago by the mathematician and astronomer, Henri Poincare, who asked, 'Why is the reality most acceptable to science one that no small child can be expected to understand?'
Should reality be something that only a handful of the world's most advanced physicists understand? One
would expect at least a majority of people to understand it. Should reality be expressible only in symbols that require university-level mathematics to manipulate? Should it be something that changes from year to year as new scientific theories are formulated? Should it be something about which different schools of physics can quarrel for years with no firm resolution on either side? If this is so then how is it fair to imprison a person in a mental hospital for life with no trial and no jury and no parole for 'failing to understand reality'? By this criterion shouldn't all but a handful of the world's most advanced physicists be locked up for life? Who is crazy here and who is sane?
In a value-centered Metaphysics of Quality this 'scientific reality' platypus vanishes. Reality, which is value, is understood by every infant. It is a universal starting place of experience that everyone is confronted with all the time. Within a Metaphysics of Quality, science is a set of static intellectual patterns describing this reality, but the patterns are not the reality they describe.
A third major platypus handled by the Metaphysics of Quality is the 'causation' platypus. It has been said for centuries that, empirically speaking, there is no such thing as causation. You never see it, touch it, hear it or feel it. You never experience it in any way. This has not been a minor philosophic or scientific platypus. This has been a real show-stopper. The amount of paper consumed in dissertations on this one metaphysical problem must equal whole forests of pulpwood.
In the Metaphysics of Quality 'causation' is a metaphysical term that can be replaced by 'value.' To say that 'A causes B' or to say that 'B values precondition A' is to say the same thing. The difference is one of words only. Instead of saying 'A magnet causes iron filings to move toward it,' you can say 'Iron filings value movement toward a magnet.' Scientifically speaking neither statement is more true than the other. It may sound a little awkward, but that's a matter of linguistic custom, not science. The language used to describe the data is changed but the scientific data itself is unchanged. The same is true in every other scientific observation Phaedrus could think of. You can always substitute 'B values precondition A' for 'A causes B' without changing any facts of science at all. The term 'cause' can be struck out completely from a scientific description of the universe without any loss of accuracy or completeness.
The only difference between causation and value is that the word 'cause' implies absolute certainty whereas the implied meaning of 'value' is one of preference. In classical science it was supposed that the world always works in terms of absolute certainty and that 'cause' is the more appropriate word to describe it. But in modern quantum physics all that is changed. Particles 'prefer' to do what they do. An individual particle is not absolutely committed to one predictable behavior. What appears to be an absolute cause is just a very consistent pattern of preferences. Therefore when you strike 'cause' from the language and substitute 'value' you are not only replacing an empirically meaningless term with a meaningful one; you are using a term that is more appropriate to actual observation.