Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In town, the narrator and Chris take care of errands. The narrator finds a welder to take care of the chain guard repair. The welder is very surly, but an immensely skilled craftsman who repairs the part seamlessly. He seems nonplussed when the narrator complements his work.
The interaction with the welder illustrates how impersonal culture has alienated people from their work, even when they execute their craft with Quality.
Themes
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The narrator observes that people on the American coasts are much more emotionally isolated than they are in middle America. He attributes this isolation to a problematic, dualistic view of technology, and thinks it can be overcome by attentiveness to Quality.
The narrator’s prescriptions for motorcycle maintenance are designed to help correct this American tendency towards dualistic thinking and isolation.
Themes
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Duality Theme Icon
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Phaedrus reads Aristotle fastidiously, so that his truculent Professor of Philosophy cannot dismiss him as a poor student. Phaedrus’s ideas are hostile to the Professor’s, and Phaedrus believes that the Professor will take any chance he can get to criticize him. As he studies, Phaedrus becomes enraged by Aristotle’s elaborate taxonomies of thought that devalue rhetoric. Phaedrus also objects to what he sees as a murky use of the term “dialectic” in Aristotle’s writings.
Phaedrus studies out of a sense of gamesmanship, not out of a pure thirst for knowledge—yet another sign that his quest will end in lack of fulfillment.
Themes
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Plato is the next thinker to be studied in Phaedrus’s class, and Phaedrus disagrees with the philosopher’s equation of rhetoric with “the Bad.” Phaedrus has lost track of time, and is dedicated only to studying and furthering his theses on Quality. In class, the Professor of Philosophy tries to engage Phaedrus in a dialectical discussion that, Phaedrus believes, will diminish rhetoric. Phaedrus strategizes obsessively, but this causes him to sit silently as the class waits for him to respond after the Professor asks him a question. Phaedrus takes too long to answer, and the class moves on.
As Phaedrus becomes more and more devoted to proving his thesis, his grip on reality weakens, and he soon starts behaving antisocially.
Themes
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Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
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The narrator gives some historical context for Plato’s rejection of the Sophistic rhetoricians. Plato so vehemently repudiated the Sophists, the narrator says, because they posed a threat to his idea of Truth. Phaedrus also remembers that the Sophists were teachers of virtue and excellence, and to clarify these concepts he performs an academic analysis of Hector of Troy. From here, Phaedrus has the epiphany that the excellence—“arête”—that motivated the Greek heroes is what he calls Quality. He again grasps the trans-historical unity of Quality.
Phaedrus’s recognition of arête recalls the experience of universality he had while reading the Tao Te Ching. Quality once again appears to be a timeless concept.
Themes
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Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
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Phaedrus then realizes that Plato has simply made arête into a fixed concept: the Good. This allows Aristotle to manipulate the idea later on and place it in a subordinate role—and explains western society’s inattention to Quality.
With this revelation, Phaedrus understands how the Ancient Greeks shaped western thought into the unsatisfying form it now appears.
Themes
Quality Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon