Quality through Thought 2017-12-07T21:44:52+00:00

Quality through Thought


Knowledge, Logic, Philosophy, Thought

Without thought much is missed. As you wash the dishes you have thoughts about making them clean, and why you are cleansing them, and how you avoid damaging them. As you listen to music you think, through hearing, of the messages being conveyed by the composer, by the performer, and by the context in which you are having that experience. As you write a computer program or love letter or shopping list you think of the messages you are trying to communicate and the ideas that you are preserving, for short or long time.

With lack of thought you have broken dishes and empty noise and incomprehensible scribble.

To produce Quality there has to be Thought; to understand with Quality there has to be Thought.
Quality through Thought.


Without knowledge of some kind, then there is nothing to think about. From the Cartesian “I think therefore I am“, if it is valid, you can draw perfectly valid conclusions – but conclusions about what? If you are René Descartes (I don’t know about you, but I am not!) then you may argue that therefore God exists, and He is just as He is described in such-and-such a religious tome. For practical use, though, knowledge has to be about real, external things: you have knowledge about cooking, you have knowledge about mixing paint, you have knowledge about political organisation, you have knowledge about mathematics, you have knowledge about selling vegetables, and so on.

You cannot, though, have knowledge about everything. Select your knowledge carefully, and know that you do not know. I know that I know nothing.


And there has to be Logic. Logic is the coherent use of thought – including the process of producing more knowledge as a consequence of knowledge already possessed.

Cats have four legs; dogs have four legs; therefore cats are dogs. When put like that, this is clearly invalid. But that very same form of argument is used – frequently – in political pontifications, in journalistic commentary, in ordinary in-the-street discussions. Detecting, and avoiding, fallacies like this is a necessary part of thought.

The study of logic and the use of logic are necessary for good argument.

We need to beware of assuming that classical logic is complete, and can go as far as it wishes in any one direction. Kurt Gödel showed that there are well-formed things you can say which can be neither proved nor disproved. Not “we don’t know how to do that yet” but “it is, under all circumstances, impossible to do” – there are limits to what logic can do.

And there are many different sorts of logic: there is the logic we use is Western mathematics, and there is the logic of poetry, and there is the logic of human relationships, and there is a logic in the abstract symbolic structures of the universe built upon religious revelation, and there is the logic of beauty. And no one of us can comprehend all of the forms of logic, nor even all of one form.  I know that I know nothing.


Philosophy is the love of wisdom. To understand that definition we have to understand both “love” and “wisdom”.

The English word “love” takes many different meanings, and some of those meanings are given their own different words in other languages. The existence of four words in ancient Greek for “love” is often discussed in churches and religious literature. In philosophical discussions we also have to determine whether the “love” for wisdom is agápe (αγάπη) or éros (έ̓ρως) or philia (φιλία) or storgē (στοργή) or Freude or Liebe or are we talking of amour or charité or … (long list here). We have to understand “love” – not easy.

And what is wisdom? A quick glance at shows that there is no agreement about that, either. Perhaps it is the appropriate use of knowledge, or perhaps it is the awareness of the eternal within which the temporal is manifest, or perhaps it is knowledge about not just one thing in particular but of how all of the various branches of knowledge interrelate.

So: philosophy is some (unspecified) kind of love of some (unspecified) use of knowledge. A subject difficult even to begin:  I know that I know nothing.


Some – just some – of the aspects of knowledge that attract me are Music, Science and Language. But for me, and for you too, there are many, many other aspects of knowledge that neither you nor I have touched.
I know that I know nothing.