Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values is a work of philosophical fiction written by Robert M. Pirsig. It was published by William Morrow and Company in 1974. It is a Mythologized Mid-life Autobiography of Pirsig’s life up to approximately age 40.

The book draws on Pirsig’s life and intellectual development to showcase Pirsig’s philosophical system, which he called the Metaphysics of Quality and to present critiques of earlier philosophers and their ideas.

  1. Plot
  2. Writing & Publishing History
  3. Philosophical Stance
  4. Zensylvania Podcast
  5. See Also
  6. References & Notes
  7. External Links


The primary plot of the book follows a father-son motorcycle trip taken by Pirsig and his son, Chris.

Writing & Publishing History

Robert Pirsig claimed that it had taken four years to write the book. An insights section of the HarperPerennial Modern Classics edition states that an initial essay regarding motorcycle maintenance was drafted in 1967 while the full volume was completed between 1968 and 1973.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was first published in 1974 by William Morrow and Company (now a part of HarperCollins). Pirsig claimed that it was the best-selling philosophy book of all time.

Philosophical Stance

Via Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, Pirsig depicted a philosophical perspective which he termed the Metaphysics of Quality. Pirsig considered his metaphysics to be a breakthrough reconciliation between Eastern and Western philosophies.

At the time of publishing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig was reluctant to provide a precise definition of Quality within his system. He claimed that this retained the term’s ability to be an instrument of change. Later in his life, he had provided a variety of interpretations. When asked to differentiate Quality from John Dewey’s concept of Experience, he indicated that “Experience is dualistically desired. It presumes an eternal (possible) separation between source of experience and recipient of experience. A person who experiences something is separate and external to the situation he experiences, an observer. Quality is monistically derived. It presumes that the source and recipient of quality are not separate at all. Quality is neither apart from the world or from the self. Nor are the world and self apart when pure quality is recognized, as they are when experience is recognized. By following a discipline of quality one eventually comes to recognize that the world and the self are not separate.

Zensylvania Podcast

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance serves as a central touchstone or point of departure for the Zenyslvania podcast. Most episodes of the podcast have either been fully devoted to analysis of the book and its ideas or have included brief references when examining other matter.

This article is intended to serve as a summary of key facts regarding the book as a supplement to the the analysis and speculation contained in the Zensylvania episodes. Transcripts of the episodes are available to Eric Adriaans’ Patreon page.

See Also

References & Notes

  • Pirsig, Robert M. Lila: An Inquiry into Morals. Bantam Books. New York. 1991. ISBN 978-0-553-29961-8.
  • Pirsig, Robert M. On Quality: An Inquiry into Excellence. HarperCollins. New York 2022. ISBN 978-0-06-308464-3. Ed. Pirsig, Wenky K.
  • Pirsig, Robert M. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. HarperCollings. New York. 1974. ISBN 10: 0-06-083987-2.
  • Wikipedia Page on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

External Links

  1. Wikipedia Page on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

This page was last edited on 18 December 2022.

Zensylvania: It’s a state of mind. Become a Patron!

You Can Find and Follow the Zensylvania Podcast on Spotify.

Zensylvania Copyright © 2020-2023 by Eric Adriaans. All rights reserved.

By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the Zensylvania.com Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms of service in whole or in part, you must not use the website, podcast or other material.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: