Monday, May 28, 2007

Quality

“There’s so much nonsense about human inconstancy and the transience of all emotions,” said Wynand. “I’ve always thought that a feeling which changes never existed in the first place. There are books I liked at the age of sixteen. I still like them.” (The Fountainhead)

I don’t remember examining this “human inconstancy” anything beyond the usual life goes on…people change bromide*. We ascribe the change in our feelings (toward something static) to the notion that life itself is dynamic by virtue of transient circumstances, situations, settings, moods encompassed within it. Every song, movie, book, play, poem—any work of art, anything that is not subject to intrinsic change once it has been brought to fruition—is evaluated by the subject in a state of mind. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. So, if the beholder’s perception of an object wavers with time, then it translates into a situation wherein the aspects of beauty that are perceived have changed. Thus, the judgments we pass on works of art are not merely subjective (with respect to the subject), they also change temporally, i.e., with time, even when the subject is held constant.

However, there’s a more fundamental character to our judgments. While it is explicit that we perceive different things differently, what is implied in the context introduced above is that we also perceive the same thing differently at different instances. There are books I had liked when I was younger that, now, I wonder how I possibly could have (What did I see in them then? What don’t I like in them now? Are they the same things?). More pertinently, sometimes, this chasm in one’s opinion may widen with age or fluctuate in phases.

When we look for one essential trait in any object, our perception of the object cannot change solely because the object is immutable. The crux that questions every judgment is whether or not the object has integrity. Does it have a purpose, a meaning, a central function? This quality is exclusive of the subject/observer and intrinsic of the object. This meaning holds, regardless of any criterion that the human mind may impose to evaluate. What an object stands for, to the greatest degree, is not transient. Those who understand this, and look for that one shining trait, are unlikely to change their opinions of things.

I’ve a feeling this is one of the things that Robert Pirsig tried to put across when he tried so hard to define Quality in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He essentially imparted an absolute nature to his Quality and removed any duality in the process. And that is how he could ascertain whether or not a motorbike or a restaurant had that Quality, regardless of who drove the bike or who dined in the restaurant.

Coming back, I wouldn’t have been able to understand the reasoning behind such a view as Wynand’s had I not read Rand.

*Bromide is an interesting word. Also check sulphite if you’re amused.

11 comments:

Candid Confessions said...

For one thing - the post was beyond me! Probably all that I could really comprehend me was - "The judgement of Art is subjective" , and I completely agree.. mebbe il do another reading!

Ergo said...

Satyajit,

Objectivism rejects notions of intrinsicism--values intrinsic to an object itself. I doubt that the intransigent quality referred to by Wynand is the same as the quality being described by Pirsig; in fact, I am sure it is not the same thing.

satyajit said...

candid confessions: wait, i rephrased that line becaus eit gave the wrong impression..what i wanted to say was quite the opposite..that judgment of art can be, in fact, objective and generally, its a cliche that it is subjective

anyway, check up bromide and sulphite..they sound so chemical, but they are much more :-)

ergo: pirsig removed the dichotomy between subjects and objects..he spoke abt the inherent, invariable quality..thats why i did not categorically state that his Quality is equivalent to objectivism..i've much to learn abt objectivism in the first place..what i stated was a hunch..its not basd on sound analysis for sure :-)

Ergo said...

Satyajit, I'm glad you made the change in your statement about art. I was bothered when I read it, but decided to ignore it as just another popular bromide. :)

satyajit said...

ergo: ya, totally.. initially i was a bit horified at what i had written :-) it was quite the opposite to what i had in mind..

Charmaz said...

we had an experiment on Potassium bromide ;)
wassup

Ravi Heda said...

Bromide and sulphite... beautiful i say :)
Wish u a very Happy Birthday!! (29.05)

Tikna said...

Hey Sulphite!
When we talk about interpretation of artwork by an outsider and how it changes with time/circumstances/stimuli[couldn't agree more... we all get this feeling so often], we should also think about how the creator's perception of his own creation would mutate...

Budday bums!!!

satyajit said...

heda and tikna: thanks both of you

tikna: I had not thought about it until you mentioned. When i read what i've written, sometimes, the feeling with which i had written doesn't come across. However, i have a problem with the manner of representation rather than its content. I feel that i can express essentially the same things better. The central idea that I wish to convey remains quite the same. That is to say, the defining purpose remains intect but the manner of expression mutates.

Ergo said...

Oh, is it your birthday today?? If it is, then I hope you've had a fun day, and hope you have a great year ahead.

satyajit said...

ergo: yes, it is..and thank you