I have been thinking about a quote from Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, “Truth won, the Good lost, and that is why today we have so little difficulty accepting the reality of truth and so much difficulty accepting the reality of Quality, even though there is no more agreement in one area than in the other.”
There are truths and there is quality. For example, Tom Brady threw 3 interceptions against the Saints is a fact. It is true. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in history. Is that statement true – or is that a good argument? Perhaps, an arete? It is a statement that belongs to the domain of quality – a scale.
I constantly hear that we live in a post-truth world. Truth is relative. We are inundated with “Fake News.” I hardly hear anyone talk about quality. Whether something is “of quality”. Whether a piece is well done.
Of relevance for the moment is the election in the United States. Trump declares that there is voter fraud. Biden says every vote counts. They are talking past each other. Of course there is voter fraud – but on what scale? Enough to swing the election, I doubt it. But instead of saying that. We get zero and one. Binaries. Truth or False. Voter fraud on a scale of 1 to 10 is probably .003. But it should be acknowledged, and when discovered, addressed and fixed. So if the discussion was framed in terms of quality – this discussion would be simple – it was a high quality election. Very high quality.
In carelessly mixing our truth and our quality statements – we can arrive at a world where truth seems questionable. And we start to make judgements based on unspecified criteria. Language is a clumsy tool and must be used carefully – lest we cause chaos.