Quality (philosophy)

Quality (philosophy)

Overview
A quality is an attribute or a property. Attributes are ascribable, by a subject, whereas properties are possessible. In contemporary philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, the idea of qualities and especially how to distinguish certain kinds of qualities from one another remains controversial.

Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 analyzed qualities in his logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

al work, the Categories
Categories (Aristotle)
The Categories is a text from Aristotle's Organon that enumerates all the possible kinds of thing that can be the subject or the predicate of a proposition...

. To him, qualities are hylomorphically–formal attributes, such as "white" or "grammatical".
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Quotations

Admiration for a quality or an art can be so strong that it deters us from striving to possess it.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Mixed Opinions and Maxims, aphorism 370, “The Danger in Admiration,” (1879).

It is the quality of the moment, not the number of days, or events, or of actors, that imports.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Speech, January 1842, at the Masonic Temple in Boston, repr. in The Dial (1843) and Nature, Addresses, and Lectures (1849).

It’s the quality of the ordinary, the straight, the square, that accounts for the great stability and success of our nation. It’s a quality to be proud of. But it’s a quality that many people seem to have neglected.

Gerald Ford, Time Magazine|Time (January 28, 1974)

Much of what passes for quality on British television is no more than a reflection of the narrow elite which controls it and has always thought that its tastes were synonymous with quality.

Rupert Murdoch, Address, 1989, to the Edinburgh Television Festival. quoted in Guardian (London, Jan. 1, 1990).

One cannot develop taste from what is of average quality but only from the very best.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (February 26, 1824).

One shining quality lends a lustre to another, or hides some glaring defect.

William Hazlitt, Complete Works, vol. 9, ed. P.P. Howe (1932). Characteristics, no. 162 (first published anonymously in 1823).

People of quality know everything without ever having learned anything.

Molière, Les Précieuses Ridicules, sc. 9 (1659).

So cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.

William S. Burroughs, The Western Lands, ch. 2 (1987).

Social improvement is attained more readily by a concern with the quality of results than with the purity of motives.

Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, aph. 25 (1973).

The measure of your quality as a public person, as a citizen, is the gap between what you do and what you say.

Ramsey Clark, International Herald Tribune (Paris, June 18, 1991).
Encyclopedia
A quality is an attribute or a property. Attributes are ascribable, by a subject, whereas properties are possessible. In contemporary philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, the idea of qualities and especially how to distinguish certain kinds of qualities from one another remains controversial.

Background


Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 analyzed qualities in his logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

al work, the Categories
Categories (Aristotle)
The Categories is a text from Aristotle's Organon that enumerates all the possible kinds of thing that can be the subject or the predicate of a proposition...

. To him, qualities are hylomorphically–formal attributes, such as "white" or "grammatical". Categories of state, such as "shod" and "armed" are also non–essential qualities (katà symbebekós). Aristotle observed: "one and the selfsame substance, while retaining its identity, is yet capable of admitting contrary qualities. The same individual person is at one time white, at another black, at one time warm, at another cold, at one time good, at another bad. This capacity is found nowhere else... it is the peculiar mark of substance that it should be capable of admitting contrary qualities; for it is by itself changing that it does so". Aristotle described four types of qualitative opposites: correlatives, contraries, privatives and positives.

John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 presented a distinction between primary and secondary qualities in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
First appearing in 1690 with the printed title An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke concerns the foundation of human knowledge and understanding. He describes the mind at birth as a blank slate filled later through experience...

. For Locke, a quality is an idea
Idea
In the most narrow sense, an idea is just whatever is before the mind when one thinks. Very often, ideas are construed as representational images; i.e. images of some object. In other contexts, ideas are taken to be concepts, although abstract concepts do not necessarily appear as images...

 of a sensation or a perception
Perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

. Locke further asserts that qualities can be divided in two kinds: primary and secondary qualities. Primary qualities are intrinsic to an object—a thing or a person—whereas secondary qualities are dependent on the interpretation of the subjective mode and the context of appearance. For example, a shadow
Shadow
A shadow is an area where direct light from a light source cannot reach due to obstruction by an object. It occupies all of the space behind an opaque object with light in front of it. The cross section of a shadow is a two-dimensional silhouette, or reverse projection of the object blocking the...

 is a secondary quality. It requires a certain light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

ing to be applied to an object. For another example, consider the mass
Mass
Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

 of an object. Weight
Weight
In science and engineering, the weight of an object is the force on the object due to gravity. Its magnitude , often denoted by an italic letter W, is the product of the mass m of the object and the magnitude of the local gravitational acceleration g; thus:...

 is a secondary quality since, as a measurement
Measurement
Measurement is the process or the result of determining the ratio of a physical quantity, such as a length, time, temperature etc., to a unit of measurement, such as the metre, second or degree Celsius...

 of gravitational force
Force
In physics, a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a change in speed, a change in direction, or a change in shape. In other words, a force is that which can cause an object with mass to change its velocity , i.e., to accelerate, or which can cause a flexible object to deform...

, it varies depending on the distance
Distance
Distance is a numerical description of how far apart objects are. In physics or everyday discussion, distance may refer to a physical length, or an estimation based on other criteria . In mathematics, a distance function or metric is a generalization of the concept of physical distance...

 to, and mass of, very massive objects like the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

, as described by Newton's law
Newton's law of universal gravitation
Newton's law of universal gravitation states that every point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them...

. It could be thought that mass is intrinsic to an object, and thus a primary quality. In the context of relativity
Theory of relativity
The theory of relativity, or simply relativity, encompasses two theories of Albert Einstein: special relativity and general relativity. However, the word relativity is sometimes used in reference to Galilean invariance....

, the idea of mass quantifying an amount of matter requires caution. The relativistic mass varies for variously traveling observers; then there is the idea of rest mass or invariant mass
Invariant mass
The invariant mass, rest mass, intrinsic mass, proper mass or just mass is a characteristic of the total energy and momentum of an object or a system of objects that is the same in all frames of reference related by Lorentz transformations...

 (the magnitude of the energy-momentum 4-vector
Four-momentum
In special relativity, four-momentum is the generalization of the classical three-dimensional momentum to four-dimensional spacetime. Momentum is a vector in three dimensions; similarly four-momentum is a four-vector in spacetime...

), basically a system's relativistic mass in its own rest frame
Rest frame
In special relativity the rest frame of a particle is the coordinate system in which the particle is at rest.The rest frame of compound objects is taken to be the frame of reference in which the average momentum of the particles which make up the substance is zero In special relativity the rest...

 of reference. (Note, however, that Aristotle drew a distinction between qualification and quantification; a thing's quality can vary in degree). Only an isolated system
Isolated system
In the natural sciences an isolated system, as contrasted with an open system, is a physical system without any external exchange. If it has any surroundings, it does not interact with them. It obeys in particular the first of the conservation laws: its total energy - mass stays constant...

's invariant mass in relativity
Mass in General Relativity
The concept of mass in general relativity is more complex than the concept of mass in special relativity. In fact, general relativity does not offer a single definition for the term mass, but offers several different definitions which are applicable under different circumstances...

 is the same as observed in variously traveling observers' rest frames, and conserved
Conserved quantity
In mathematics, a conserved quantity of a dynamical system is a function H of the dependent variables that is a constant along each trajectory of the system. A conserved quantity can be a useful tool for qualitative analysis...

 in reactions; moreover, a system's heat, including the energy of its massless particles such as photons, contributes to the system's invariant mass (indeed, otherwise even an isolated system's invariant mass would not be conserved in reactions); even a cloud of photons traveling in different directions has, as a whole, a rest frame and a rest energy equivalent to invariant mass. Thus, to treat rest mass (and by that stroke, rest energy) as an intrinsic quality distinctive of physical matter raises the question of what is to count as physical matter. Little of the invariant mass of a hadron
Hadron
In particle physics, a hadron is a composite particle made of quarks held together by the strong force...

 (for example a proton
Proton
The proton is a subatomic particle with the symbol or and a positive electric charge of 1 elementary charge. One or more protons are present in the nucleus of each atom, along with neutrons. The number of protons in each atom is its atomic number....

 or a neutron
Neutron
The neutron is a subatomic hadron particle which has the symbol or , no net electric charge and a mass slightly larger than that of a proton. With the exception of hydrogen, nuclei of atoms consist of protons and neutrons, which are therefore collectively referred to as nucleons. The number of...

) consists in the invariant masses of its component quark
Quark
A quark is an elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter. Quarks combine to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable of which are protons and neutrons, the components of atomic nuclei. Due to a phenomenon known as color confinement, quarks are never directly...

s (in a proton, around 1%) apart from their gluon
Gluon
Gluons are elementary particles which act as the exchange particles for the color force between quarks, analogous to the exchange of photons in the electromagnetic force between two charged particles....

 particle field
Quantum field theory
Quantum field theory provides a theoretical framework for constructing quantum mechanical models of systems classically parametrized by an infinite number of dynamical degrees of freedom, that is, fields and many-body systems. It is the natural and quantitative language of particle physics and...

s; most of it consists in the quantum chromodynamics binding energy of the (massless) gluons (see Quark#Mass).

Conceptions of quality



Philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 and common sense
Common sense
Common sense is defined by Merriam-Webster as, "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." Thus, "common sense" equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have...

 tend to see qualities as relate
Relate
Relate is a charity providing relationship support throughout the United Kingdom. Services include counselling for couples, families, young people and individuals, sex therapy, mediation and training courses....

d either to subjective
Subjectivity
Subjectivity refers to the subject and his or her perspective, feelings, beliefs, and desires. In philosophy, the term is usually contrasted with objectivity.-Qualia:...

 feeling
Feeling
Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences, other than the physical sensation of touch, such as "a feeling of...

s or to objective
Objectivity (philosophy)
Objectivity is a central philosophical concept which has been variously defined by sources. A proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are met and are "mind-independent"—that is, not met by the judgment of a conscious entity or subject.- Objectivism...

 fact
Fact
A fact is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability, that is whether it can be shown to correspond to experience. Standard reference works are often used to check facts...

s. The qualities of something depend
Depend
Depend is a brand of unisex adult underwear for those experiencing urinary or fecal incontinence by Kimberly-Clark. They were first introduced in 1984....

s on the criteria being applied to and, from a neutral point of view
Neutrality (philosophy)
Neutrality is the absence of declared bias. In an argument, a neutral person will not choose a side.A Neutral country maintains political neutrality, a related but distinct concept.-What neutrality is not:...

, do not determine its value (the philosophical value as well as economic value). Subjectively, something might be good because it is useful
Utility
In economics, utility is a measure of customer satisfaction, referring to the total satisfaction received by a consumer from consuming a good or service....

, because it is beautiful
Beauty
Beauty is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning, or satisfaction. Beauty is studied as part of aesthetics, sociology, social psychology, and culture...

, or simply because it exists
Existence
In common usage, existence is the world we are aware of through our senses, and that persists independently without them. In academic philosophy the word has a more specialized meaning, being contrasted with essence, which specifies different forms of existence as well as different identity...

. Determining or finding qualities therefore involves understanding
Understanding
Understanding is a psychological process related to an abstract or physical object, such as a person, situation, or message whereby one is able to think about it and use concepts to deal adequately with that object....

 what is useful, what is beautiful and what exists. Commonly, quality can mean degree of excellence
Excellence
Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also an aimed for standard of performance.-History:...

, as in, "a quality product" or "work of average quality". It can also refer to a property of something such as "the addictive quality of nicotine
Nicotine
Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants that constitutes approximately 0.6–3.0% of the dry weight of tobacco, with biosynthesis taking place in the roots and accumulation occurring in the leaves...

". In his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values is a 1974 philosophical novel, the first of Robert M. Pirsig's texts in which he explores his Metaphysics of Quality.The book sold 5 million copies worldwide...

, Robert M. Pirsig
Robert M. Pirsig
Robert Maynard Pirsig is an American writer and philosopher, and author of the philosophical novels Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals .-Background:...

 examines concepts of quality in classical
Classicism
Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for classical antiquity, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained: of the Discobolus Sir Kenneth Clark observed, "if we object to his restraint...

 and romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

, seeking a Metaphysics of Quality and a reconciliation of those views in terms of non-dualistic holism
Holism
Holism is the idea that all the properties of a given system cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone...

.

Quality is, like beauty
Beauty
Beauty is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning, or satisfaction. Beauty is studied as part of aesthetics, sociology, social psychology, and culture...

, held in the eye of the beholder, the subject
Subject (philosophy)
In philosophy, a subject is a being that has subjective experiences, subjective consciousness or a relationship with another entity . A subject is an observer and an object is a thing observed...

. Quality is a subjective
Subjectivity
Subjectivity refers to the subject and his or her perspective, feelings, beliefs, and desires. In philosophy, the term is usually contrasted with objectivity.-Qualia:...

 phenomenon that is the emergent emotion resulting from the combination of perception
Perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

 and expectation. The feeling of high quality occurs when perception exceeds expectation; the feeling of low quality occurs when perception does not meet expectation. When perception and expectation match the sensation is satisfaction which represents neutral quality.

Kano Analysis.