Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
Quality . . . you know what it is, yet you don’t know what it is. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. You cannot say what Quality is, apart from the things that have it. How do you know it really exists? If it does exist what are the grades based on that makes some things better than others.
Robert Pirsig records his thoughts during a motorcycle journey across USA from Minnesota to California, with his son Chris riding on the pillion. A large part of the book is a discussion of the meaning of quality, it is also a review of philosophy and an exploration of his life.
At the time of writing (in 1974) the word “Quality” was often used without any clear definition. A shoddy product could be advertised as having “Guaranteed Quality”. No one complained to the Advertising Standards Authority as the word could mean almost anything. In the book Pirsig explores the various meanings of quality, including as a measure of goodness, excellence or beauty, and to confirm authenticity.
Pirsig does not find any clear definition of Quality, but he does point out that it is something everyone can recognise.
Significant quotes from Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all.
Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristic of quality.
Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions.