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On Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 10:57 PM, David F wrote:

Hey people, been doing some thinking…and here are the results (a shout out to Lynn for the movie night idea which prompted me writing this):

Quality. You thought the word was dead. I would like to however temporarily revive it in light of recent events in the world and recent events that have affected my life. When we say a thing has quality, namely it is well-made, we always have a reference point. That reference point can be something as simple as a mathematics formula that has been proven or something more abstract like belief in oneself or inspiration. For example, we have all have had that college professor or that mentor that gave us the reliable blocks from which we can build a theory of reality in its many aspects. Without a theory, we can have no perspective because the mind needs something to take hold of or fasten onto initially. It is an illusion, perhaps even a far-reaching one that for example to say a man or women of genius could come up with a discovery or a theory out of nothing. One can not one day start writing mathematical formulas without ever having seen one. That in my view is a fiction.

That is where quality comes in. The “cutting edge of reality” as Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, has termed it. Does it matter or even make sense to say that a certain thing has more quality than another thing? We have all seen things that have been done shoddily and things where “form meets function” beautifully. Or what about a pop song that is catchy but derivative to a fault. I would argue that it is in comparing where we first develop a frame or a point of reference. Is it merely snobbery to say something has quality? Without pulling out Pirsig’s intellectual scalpel, we can say that there is a certain criterion which creates the experience of quality. You can create a modern building with Greek style columns but make it out of cheap materials and you’ll rob it completely out of its quality. This is undeniable. Without a mentor of mine defining an asshole as someone who thinks their own lines (of speech) are gold and is fooling no one but themselves, I probably wouldn’t ever have thought about what it means when we call or insult someone in that fashion. Does it have any quality as a definition? I would argue that because it had quality, we did need it and furthermore we need it before we can create our own.



  1. REPLY
    Gretchen Specht says

    Hi Dave,

    A fantastic piece of thought! Thank you for sharing!! My question to you is: How is quality defined? Can this be determined by the self? Society? Of a subset of society, for example, a group?
    Meaning: is there an ultimate definition of quality, many think so, but I am not so sure.

    You bring up the idea of mathematical formulas, although interesting, in and of themselves, incomplete. Instead, they are only a visual representation of a given idea. e=mc2 I tend to think of formulas like pictures. (Refer to image links below)

    Each a house, which painting do you like better? Why? Is there aspects of one painting you like better? Or, do you like them both for different reasons?

    I think quality is an extremely important concept. Further, it can run into problems for me when I try to rank similar items. For example, when comparing art or music or even cars.

    Comparing a BMW 760 li to a Chevy Chevette, one could easy say the BMW is of higher quality, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. But when you cast quality through a utilitarian perspective I start to ask questions like, “What is necessary?” What do I need to get be back in forth in my daily activities? What does it cost to own, purchase, maintain, insure? What are the “opportunity costs” of owning a BMW vs. a Chevy? After all, a car, no matter the make or model is a depreciating asset.

    (Please notice both are “Sporting Red.”)

    Opportunity cost, is the ability to do something different, in this case, through the use of money. Perhaps, I could own a second home with the money spent on a BMW 760 series, or gone on a vacation around the world. Perhaps, I could have bought Google shares early on and be a mega millionaire doing great acts of charity today.

    We tend to think of things like quality in isolation, as if it’s a destination, an island onto itself. I would argue instead, the concept of quality is made up of confounding variables including opportunity costs which make it a very difficult concept to pin down in absolute fashion. Instead, I heard an English business man once say something has value when it is “fit for purpose.” Hence, instead of the concept of quality, I tend to appreciate more, the concept of “fit for purpose.”

    Sometimes cheap is expensive, and sometime expensive just costs too much!

    Take care, Gretchen

    • REPLY
      David F says

      I still think however there is some benefit in comparing. You can definitely make the Argument that a Ford Fusion is made better than A Focus. In that aspect you can say it has more Quality. Also you point out that a mathematical Formula is a representation of a thought, which Is true, and it can be beautiful, but only Has quality if it also represents a truth. Otherwise it Is just jibberish. But thinking About things further I don’t think anyone would Argue that a Ford pinto looks nicer than a Lamborghini. It is a rocky road when we talk about these Matters which is why Pirsig said that when We begin to define quality we begin to make A wall around it. The only definition I’ll stick to Is that quality is a feel and underlying well-put- Togetherness. Again you know it when you see It. Especially if you are aware enough and have At least a little knowledge Of what you are dealing with. I don’t think you can have the Classical without the romantic or vice versa. Quality is where they come together. A lot hinges On the experience because a lot of what Pirsig is Talking about is metaphorical which sounds like A cop out but its not.

      –Dave Sent from my iPhone

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