Monday, 23 June 2008

Have we lowered our quality criteria too much?

Last night I was browsing an interesting book. It is a small pamphlet by the philosopher Harry Frankfurt called "On Bullshit". It is pretty well known and has also made it into Wikipedia - both English and German.

The passage I was reading was about the philosopher Wittgenstein and some thoughts around craftsmanship. The essence was that in former times craftsmen did a better job than today and did not dare to create anything that was of low quality because the gods where everywhere around. In other words: someone who would have - as we call it today - optimised his product, e.g. by taking some lower cost material for parts that were invisible from the front of a piece of furniture, would have been at risk of being watched and being punished by the gods.

In our days such kind of believe has gone. And it is good that we have achieved the freedom of action we've got - without concerns that some higher instance is watching us constantly and will punish us at judgement day or some such occasion. On the other hand we are all constantly confronted with some kind of bullshit - bad material, low quality etc. Furniture is an excellent example. Blessed are those who inherited some solid pieces of furniture from their great-grandparents. Too much of the stuff you can buy today is mere plastic glued together.

Yet, many of us enjoy replacing their furniture once in a while. The average sofa lasts 5 years or so. No idea about the average kitchen - but given the many ads you get with your daily newspaper about new kitchens I suspect the 5 months will be realistic here, as well.

Have we accommodated too much such lower standards of quality which, in a way, are a natural result of our wish to "modernise" once in a while? I am not sure. Happy to discuss a bit. I will give the topic some thinking and come back to it.

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