Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Design and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

For years I’ve advocated John Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” to any engineer who will listen. Pirsig’s philosophical rant has a lot to say about quality and craftsmanship that provides deep thinking to the mechanic and the programmer alike. Most recently some design discussions came up that reminded me of Prisig’s book.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig debates the philosophical differences between classical Western philosophy and Eastern thought (thus the “Zen”). He presents several examples to create hypothetical distinctions between Western and Eastern approaches to craftsmanship, design, and, of course, motorcycle maintenance.

In the conflict between Greek Classical philosophy and the Eastern philosophies Pirsig claims that, “Truth won and Good lost.” His argument says the Greeks put Western thought on a path in which our desire for truth blinds our ability to appreciate that which is truly good.

This video on design, Experience Is The Product is what made me remember Pirsig’s point. In Zen.., Pirsig points out the fundamental connection between a quality product, the end user and the product’s creator. He argues that an emotional tie exists between them that is deeply satisfying to all. And that this process is difficult if not impossible in the framework of classical reasoning (and indirectly, classical methods of engineering).

As the video points out there are current examples of good design that take the above experienced based approach. I think these efforts would please Pirsig.


Blogger brent said...

I'm not sure why, but this prompted me to blog about satisficing.

2:01 PM  

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