Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Robert Pirsig

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Mu Symbol Icon
Mu is a Japanese word that the narrator explains as meaning “no thing.” It is used when a question cannot be adequately answered with a yes/no response. Mu represents a refusal to conceptualize issues in terms of dualistic logic, and thus offers a glimpse into the world of Quality that the narrator describes. The narrator emphasizes that mu responses can be much more useful than yes/no responses, because they force an individual to step back and broaden his preconceived systems of logic to accommodate different interpretations of reality.

Mu Quotes in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance quotes below all refer to the symbol of Mu. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Quality Theme Icon
Chapter 26 Quotes

A very strong case can be made for the statement that science grows by its mu answers more than by its yes or no answer. Yes or no confirms or denies a hypothesis. Mu says the answer is beyond the hypothesis. Mu is the "phenomenon" that inspires scientific enquiry in the first place! There’s nothing mysterious or esoteric about it. It’s just that our culture has warped us to make a low value judgment of it.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Mu
Page Number: 413
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mu Symbol Timeline in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The timeline below shows where the symbol Mu appears in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 26
Quality Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
Zen Theme Icon
...for some scenarios, the proper answer is neither yes nor no but the Japanese term “mu,” which means “no thing.” The nature of the Buddha, for example, cannot be encompassed by... (full context)