Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Chapter 28 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The chapter opens with a flashback: Phaedrus and a six-year-old Chris drive in a car through a desolate cityscape. Neither of them knows where they are, but Chris says they are looking for “bunk-bedders.” The pair wanders for hours, and return home empty-handed. At home, Chris’s mother is infuriated by the time the two wasted. This flashback seems to inspire the narrator to seek hospitalization once he and Chris reach San Francisco.
The narrator is becoming more and more aware of his former mental state, and this awareness is making him very concerned.
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The narrator decides to recount the conclusion of Phaedrus’s story. Phaedrus asks his colleague Sarah where he could find more lessons on the nature of Quality, and she recommends the Ancient Greek philosophers. From there, Phaedrus decides to apply to an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago, which he thinks may synthesize the currents of thought that will help him elucidate Quality.
By engaging with the Ancient Greeks, who greatly influenced the western intellectual tradition, Phaedrus hopes to better understand how Quality has been marginalized in the present day.
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Chris asks the narrator what the purpose of their traveling is. The narrator tells his son that their goal is simply to see the country, but this response leaves both of them feeling unsatisfied. The narrator realizes that he will need to explain his past to his son before they part ways.
The narrator’s unwillingness to come to grips with his identity is disgruntling both him and his son.
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Phaedrus is admitted to the program by its interim acting chairman based on his résumé. When the program’s Chairman returns, Phaedrus interviews with him for a scholarship, but the Chairman distinguishes between substance and methodology in a way that contradicts Phaedrus’s principles. Phaedrus returns to the mountains, flustered and disappointed that the committee’s approach to substance and methodology might undermine the whole of his theses about Quality. Phaedrus researches the committee’s principles and the writings of its Chairman, and finds them all to be obscure—perhaps deliberately so.
Phaedrus’s antagonistic interaction with the Chairman sets a bad precedent for the rest of his studies in the program.
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The narrator and Chris arrive at Crater Lake and the narrator is perturbed by how disingenuously pristine the area seems. Chris complains that he is having a bad time, but cannot explain his discontentment when the narrator questions him. The two then leave the park.
Chris’s irritation may not be rationally explicable, but that does not make it any less pressing or legitimate an issue.
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The narrator recollects a fragmented memory of Phaedrus commenting to the Assistant Chairman that he hadn’t noticed Aristotle in the committee’s curriculum. The Assistant Chairman was aghast that Phaedrus did not know that the University of Chicago program is at the center of a controversy surrounding the role Aristotle’s thought should play in higher education. The Chairman is one of the last eminent Aristotelians, and is known for demanding his students to subscribe to Aristotelian ideas as well. Phaedrus writes the Chairman a letter that explains that his theses on Quality refute a dualistic division between substance and methodology, and thus likely reach an anti-Aristotelian conclusion. This, Phaedrus says, makes the University of Chicago a good place for him to present his ideas, because they contribute to a dialogue about Aristotelian philosophy.
The University of Chicago program will be a crucial stage for Phaedrus to test his conclusions about Quality, as they aim to refute the dualistic pattern of thought that grounds the entire curriculum.
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Phaedrus’s letter to the Chairman comes across as deluded and megalomaniacal. The interdisciplinary committee suggests that he study with the Philosophy department instead, but out of a sense of competition, Phaedrus sticks with the interdisciplinary program because he has already been admitted.
Phaedrus’s motivations for continuing his study begin to seem more and more egotistical, which is an ominous sign.
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Phaedrus’s family relocates to Chicago, and since Phaedrus has no scholarship to study at the program, he must support himself by teaching rhetoric full-time at the University of Illinois’s Navy Pier campus. Phaedrus studies the Ancient Greeks obsessively, and becomes convinced that the unconscious internalization of their thought has caused damage to western society. Through his studies, Phaedrus begins to understand that to reject the subject-object division that is the Greeks’ legacy, he will have to reject the Greek notion of “mythos”—one’s cultural surroundings—in favor of a pre-mythos Quality. This, Phaedrus realizes, will make him seem insane, even though he believes that the real insanity lies in the “mythos” that Aristotle has made people believe by default.
Phaedrus realizes that the Ancient Greek thinkers—particularly Aristotle—are responsible for the problematic dualist thought that he perceives in contemporary society.
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The narrator and Chris reach a town called Grant’s Pass, where they stay in a motel. On the way to the town, the motorcycle’s chain guard has been damaged, and will need to be repaired. The narrator laments having to repair the cycle when he plans to sell it shortly afterwards.
Though the narrator earlier asserted that he would never sell his motorcycle, worsening circumstances seem to have moved him to reconsider.
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