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Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  5,718 ratings  ·  328 reviews
In this best-selling new book, his first in seventeen years, Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, takes us on a poignant and passionate journey as mysterious and compelling as his first life-changing work.

Instead of a motorcycle, a sailboat carries his philosopher-narrator Phaedrus down the Hudson River as winter closes in. Along the way
Paperback, 480 pages
Published November 1st 1992 by Bantam (first published 1991)
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3.78  · 
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 ·  5,718 ratings  ·  328 reviews

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Aug 28, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
It took me a long time to read this book, and I'm not sure how much these disparate readings affected my overall impression of the book. Pirsig doesn't have a narrative structure, he wanders. And these wanderings tend to circle back around and all tie in to a greater point or idea he's trying to get to the root of. Leaving the book for days or weeks at a time makes it hard to follow that strand and keep a sense of how the ideas you're reading about tie into the overall purpose of the book.

Zen i
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
It’s been 21 years since I read this book, and much longer since I read its predecessor, ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE (1974), Persig’s only two books. I kept seeing LILA on my bookshelf and decided it might be worth rereading, both for its sake and to put ZEN in perspective. It was, on both counts. I think LILA is every bit as interesting as ZEN and may be clearer in expressing its central concerns about what makes life good or worthwhile.

LILA has some obvious similarities with ZEN
Sep 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
1) The story is compelling. Post post midlife crisis man meets younger voluptuous woman. They travel down the river together. The convention is quite cheap. But he never saves her or she him and neither victimizes the other either. That's good. It's not really sensual (except for one scene). And the (self) portrait of the narrator is absolutely unsparing as is his portrait of the girl. She's not a waif or a femme fatale, but a complicated damaged person and him too. 2) The philosophy is narrativ ...more
Jan 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Robert Pirsig's previous book ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE is a profoundly influential book in my own life. I have probably given copies of it as gifts to more people than any other book except my own. It is a powerful examination of the meaning of life in a pseudo-novelistic framework that makes the philosophical explorations both more palatable and more understandable. Pirsig's sequel, LILA, is an attempt to follow up and expand on the discoveries of the first book. While it is no ...more
Jeff Offutt
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What is quality? Is it a noun or a verb? Why is quality so important?

These are deep questions that affect everyone. Pirsig follows up his Zen book with a smoother, more sophisticated, and clearer book that may not be as mystifying and haunting, but is certainly more mature. This book made me rethink myself, my relationships with everyone I know, my professional behavior, and much about my research. By my limited understanding of Lila, I am a more effective father, friend, son, brother, teacher,
In societies that criminalize rather than attempt to understand mental illness, artists and philosophers may be the first to have the guts to discuss the topic 'publicly' or sympathetically. Such societies may first approach understanding mental illness through art rather than through education, medicine or philanthropy, let alone helpful 'treatment'.

For women w/mental illness, societal support toward a true understanding of mental health may be even slower coming than for men, if a male perspe
Eugene Pustoshkin
I bought this book in Amsterdam, accidentally, for €0.5. It was lying on an old-book shelf that stood right in the street. I was walking past the book shelf after a meditation session and saw the word “lila” on the cover. I was in the right mood, so purchased this book as a part of inspiration. I haven’t read Pirsig’s first book, but had heard good opinions of it before.

It was quite interesting to read Lila for most part of the book. It is more a philosophical reflection rather than a novel per
Hshafter Shafter
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are some really interesting ideas in this book. Here are my favorites (in my own words-mostly):

-Darwin's Theory of Evolution fails to account for improvement; the author posits that it's not about survival, it's about striving towards Quality

-There are 2 kinds of Quality: Static and Dynamic. Dynamic Quality allows for change that creates improvement. Static Quality prevents backsliding. Too much Static Quality leads to stagnation. Too much Dynamic Quality leads to chaos.

-Cells are only int
Nov 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: philosophy
This was a fantastic read. There were two "mind-blowing" branches in this book. The first centers around evolution and morality among the three basic forces: biology, society, and intellectualism. The second talks about morality and ties into quality in terms of metaphysics and having "quality" be a scientific metric to judge things. This was a great book - more accessible than its predecessor (to me) and caused me to think quite a bit.
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing

This is the way it is. Pirsig isn't the first to discuss this, nor is he alone in his understanding of the world/experience. Pirsig puts it down as a personal, real, actual exploration towards what is commonly and rather ambiguously referred to as 'The Truth'. He takes a very real experience of his as he is in reality, Pirsig, and sees Phaedrus 'think through many every day experiences to slowly arrive at divisions of Quality, ' finally cracking that nut which he left untouchable but no less rea
Ken Doggett
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lila : An Inquiry into Morals I'm not smart enough to review this book. Robert Pirsig is a certified genius; his I.Q. at age 9 was 170. I read his first book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," back in the 1970s when it was released, and found that, much to my surprise, I enjoyed the philosophy presented in it as much as I enjoyed the story. I'd like to read it again. His second book, "Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals," is a much more difficult read.I didn't know about this book until arou ...more
Erik Torenberg
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Quality can’t be defined.

This is what Robert Pirsig concludes in his first book, Zen And the Art of Motorcycle maintenance.

Quality can’t be defined because definitions are products of “rigid, formal thinking” and Quality is recognized by a “non thinking process”.

In other words, Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions.

In other, other words, Quality can’t be defined because it precedes definition.

Pirsig got fired from his job, lost his wife, and went cl
Bob Nichols
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lila is Zen’s sequel.* In Zen, a heavy philosophical work, Pirsig was frustrated with a Western philosophical paradigm that didn’t match up with the way that Pirsig saw reality. In Lila, Pirsig relays that his time in a mental institution was due to his struggle to see the world in his particular way. His insanity was philosophical deviance, not social. He, Phaedrus, was the sophist trying to see reality straight up, within a Western perspective that either engaged in mystery (Plato) or emphasiz ...more
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
The basic question is "Does Lila (the book) have quality?"

Overall, the narrative of Phaedrus and Lila is far less engaging than the one between Phaedrus and his son in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM). I did enjoy some of the passages on sailing and the scene where Phaedrus is confronted by a critic of ZAMM but the book lacked a cohesive framework. The scene with Robert Redford was disappointing and the final conclusion in Manhattan is anti-climatic and bland.

I found that Pirsig'
Nick Baker
May 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Pirsig used this book as a vehicle to carry his own personal philosophy. This vehicle is in serious need of repair. This vehicle is a rusted 1982 Honda Civic that needs new brake pads..The narrative in which the philosophy is suppose to be realized is hardly a narrative. The minute the narrative starts to gain depth or breadth or meaning, the narrator divulges twenty pages of metaphysics (although very interesting metaphysics), meanwhile the reader is left hanging. The author clumsily navigates ...more
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scavenged
While I admire anyone who attempts to create an entirely new metaphysics, the narcicism and sexism of this book was unbearable.
Apr 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Re-read 3/11/13:

I got a strange urge to re-read this book as I've been delving into some interesting social criticism of late (Chomsky's Necessary Illusions being the most mind-blowing). In picking it up again, I realize just how much of my present-day outlook was shaped by Pirsig's ideas. Granted, I was very impressionable toward the close of my college career, but it's alternately shocking, worrying and reassuring to remember just how much I assimilated his fascinating Metaphysics of Quality a
Emily C
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
For a book in which the author/narrator refers to himself only as "Phaedrus," this is a surprisingly enjoyable read -- at least for the first half.

Pirsig's sequel to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values covers many of the same core topics as his other work, including writing, wandering, "value," and his "metaphysics of Quality." Lila further explores these concepts, providing additional clarity and addressing some apparent criticism Pirsig received in the years since
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I just re-read this book as I have also read Pirsig's first book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" multiple times. Pirsig writes on multiple levels. He writes of his own personal odyssey into himself and his attempt to come to grips with his mind's unique way of viewing the world which has put him in the position of being viewed as not quite sane. He attempts to help someone else (Lila) come to grips with her condition as part of this novel.

At the same time, he delves into the philos
Keely Hyslop
Oct 30, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone questioning morality, convention, or society
Shelves: philosophy
This book started out quite promisingly. It had some really amazing, mind-blowing parts. But near the middle of the book there is a light drizzle and then a torrent of classism and a touch of veiled racism. The ending is also rather disappointing. The book hovers between epiphany and wrongheadedness. It was to be fair, a very ambitious topic, constructing an entirely new metaphysics based on the value as an intuitive undefinable concept. The sort of project where it is easy to lose your way.

Unni Krishnan
After a brilliant 'Zen and art of motorcycle maintenance', this sequel was just a good one. This time the setting is a boat journey with a mysterious girl in it. Apparently Chris has died and Phradous is all alone now.
The brilliant insight into the nature of Quality that he explained in 'Zen...' is explored further in this book. He further divides the quality concepts into static/dynamic and explores these further to form a comprehensive hierarchy. The ideas and the hierarchy is solid enough an
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Had higher expectations coming from zen and the art ...
That book provided an ongoing textbook narrative of the authors "metaphysics" and review of philosophy. But it explored real and tangible struggles esp relationship between father and son. This book blathered on about philosophy to the point of exhaustion.

The book had little plot and really wasn't about Lila. You never really go to know Lila at all. The author wrote in the disembodied Phaedrus persona and seemed more robotic than anything e
Harish Venkatesan
May 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
You have to muddle through the first few chapters as Pirsig sets up his assumptions and recounts his key findings from Zen and the Art.., but what follows is a compelling read about a highly evolved metaphysical system- one that bridges the gap between Eastern mysticism and Western empiricism (or romanticism and classicism), and solves numerous problems inherent in the subject-object metaphysic while sketching out an important framework for a new moral code.
In addition, the book contains a lot
David Guy
Jan 08, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was a disappointment for me. Pirsig somehow is interested in the world of ideas in a way that I am not, and spent most of Lila further developing the stystematic philosophy that he had begun in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I was actually interested in Lila herself, the woman who forms a kind of backdrop for all these ideas, but she never really came into focus, and I didn't think the author ever took her that seriously. I'm interested in people, not ideas, but Pirsig seem ...more
I found ZMM to be far superior to Lila, which was rather a letdown to me after waiting so many years for his next book. I think he must have been one of those writers who had one great book inside him. I mean his conclusion here, that all people have worth, is presented as some astonishing revelation, and of course it is. It's just that it's a revelation that quite a few others have had before him.
Aug 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I haven't read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but from what I understand, Pirsig spends the entire book arriving at the notion of Quality. In Lila, he expands this into a metaphysical framework, which has since come to be called the Metaphysics of Quality ([]). It's more of a philosophical treatise than a novel, and the MoQ is an interesting and appealing framework.

I may actually not get around to reading ZMM, but Lila stands well on its own.
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
While reading this, I agreed with the average rating of 3.76. I thought perhaps it dragged on a bit, became too bogged down in abstraction and lacked passion.
After some reflection though, I came to the conclusion that I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent reading Lila.
Edmund Wilson said: "No two persons ever read the same book", everyone will gain something different from this.
Michael Finocchiaro
While not as good as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Lila explores more philosophy as Pirsig the real person starts to descend into insanity. I found it an interesting read - substituting a sail boat for a motorcycle. I would definitely recommend reading Zen first and foremost but Lila was also a nice and thought provoking read.
Barb Williams
Jun 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Philosophers/Psychologist
Like Zen and the Art of MM, he investigates/explores the giant philosophic questions - life's questions - within a perfectly written tale of human curiosity, isolation and connection and mostly, insanity - all the stuff I LOVE!
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Has somebody else of you have read this great book ? 11 98 May 25, 2013 07:17AM  

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Robert Maynard Pirsig was an American writer and philosopher, mainly known as the author of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, (1974), which has sold millions of copies around the world.

“To define something is to subordinate it to a tangle of intellectual relationships. And when you do that you destroy real understanding.” 4 likes
“The idea that “all men are created equal” is a gift to the world from the American Indian.” 4 likes
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