Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Robert Pirsig

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

The party makes its way through the Yellowstone Valley. The narrator begins a Chautauqua that explains the two types of logic: inductive and deductive. Inductive logic extends particular observations to form general truths, and deductive logic does the reverse by using general laws to make conclusions about particular cases. Some problems are so complicated that solving them requires a disciplined interweaving of induction and deduction called the scientific method.
The narrator uses this Chautauqua to explain the capstone of rational inquiry: the scientific method. This method will inform the narrator’s discourses on motorcycle maintenance, as well as his chronicle of Phaedrus’s rational inquiries.
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The narrator enumerates the steps of the scientific method and explains that its primary role is to eliminate any mistaken preconceptions that evaded notice before. The most important—and least visible—part of the scientific method is devising hypotheses that can be suitably tested to explain a phenomenon. For this reason, mechanics’ most important work is not physical labor, but rather the analysis of the underlying forms of a motorcycle.
The narrator seeks to dismantle misconceptions about the scientific method as something mindless or robotic. Rather, scientific inquiry requires the ingenuity of devising hypotheses that can be tested experimentally.
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On the road, a car with a trailer can’t get out of the passing lane and nearly collides head-on with the motorcyclists. Shaken, the narrator and his companions rest at a bar.
This brush with death illustrates the way that real-life emergencies can intrude upon and affect philosophical meditations.
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