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John Dewey, Robert Pirsig, and the Art of Living: Revisioning Aesthetic Education

Short Summary of Pirsig's Life

Pirsig was a precocious child, with an IQ of 170 at age 9, and promoted several grades, which, along with a stammer, made for a difficult childhood school experience. Pirsig began his studies at the University of Minnesota in 1943, and after flunking out, and serving with US military in Korea. He returned to receive his B.A. in 1950. He then attended Benares Hindu University in India to further explore Eastern philosophy. In 1954 he married Nancy Ann James, and the couple had a son, Chris, in 1956, and a second son, Theodore in 1958.

Supporting himself by taking freelance jobs and teaching freshman English, Pirsig spent 1960–1963 in and out of mental institutions following a mental breakdown. He was treated with shock therapy that erased his personality “Phaedros”. After taking a cross-country motorcycle trip with his son Chris and two friends, he writes his first book between 1968 and 1972 that is published in 1974. Already in 1975 Pirsig starts writing on his second book that is published in 1991.

Pirsig divorced Nancy in 1978, going on to marry Wendy Kimball later in the year. The couple had a daughter, Nell, in 1980. In 1979, Pirsig's first son Chris, who had played an important role in his first book, was stabbed to death during a mugging in San Francisco.

Pirsig has published little other than his two major works and avoids the public eye, frequently traveling around the Atlantic by boat, having lived in various places around the United States as well as Sweden and England.

A detailed timeline of Pirisig's life is available.

last updated August 29, 2006, by Christoph Bartneck