63 Tiger Cub Motorcycle

FRS 106, Michael Littman – Spring 2011


Quotations and Excerpts of Note

The surgeon’s judgement is simultaneously technical and deliberative, and that mix is a source of power.  This could be said of any manual skill that is diagnostic, including motorcycle repair.” SCAS p. 25

A washing machine, for example, surely exists to serve our needs, but in contending with one that is broken, you have to as what it needs.” SCAS p.16

“The truth, of course, is that creativity is a by-product of mastery of the sort that is cultivated through long practice.” SCAS p.51

“Old bikes don’t flatter you, they educate you” SCAS p.59

“The consumer is disburdened not only of the fabrication, but of a basic evaluativeactivity. (For example, in customizing a car or motorcycle from scratch, the builder must harmonize aesthetic concerns with functional ones, and make compromises so the result isn’t prone to, say, catching on fire.) The consumer is left with a mere decision.  Since the decision takes place in a play-ground safe field of options, the only concern it elicits is personal preference.” SCAS p.70

START OF EXCERPT FROM ZAMM (about the “classic” approach in contrast to the “romantic” approach) p.76 and beyond ….

“His way of looking at things produces a kind of description that can be called “analytic”.  That is another name of the classic platform from which one discusses things in terms of their underlying form.  He was a totally classic person.  And to give a fuller description of what this is, I want to turn this analytic approach back on itself — to analyze analysis itself.  I want to do this first of all by giving an extensive example of it and then by dissecting what it is.  The motorcycle is a perfect subject for it since the motorcycle was invented by classic minds.”

“So listen: A motorcycle may be divided  for purposes of classical rational analysis by means of its component assemblies and by means of its functions.  If divided by means of its component assemblies, its most basic division is into a power assembly and a running assembly. …. To know what the components are for, a division according to functions is necessary: A motorcycle may be divided into normal running functions and special, operator-controlled functions. Normal running functions may be divided into functions during the intake … compression … power … exhaust cycles. And so on.”

“… This description would cover the “what” of the motorcycle in terms of components, and the “how” of the engine in terms of functions.  … It would badly need a “where” analysis … and a “why” analysis …”

…. “There are no real subjects in this description. only objects that exist that are independent of any observer. …. Dull, awkward, and ugly.  Few romantics get beyond that point.


“… pistons and wheels and gears all moving at once, massive and coordinated” ZAMM p.87

“The overall name of these interrelated structures, the genus of which the hierarchy of containment and structure of causation are just species, is system. The motorcycle is a system. A real system.” ZAMM p.101

“But a person who does machining or foundry work or forge work or welding sees “steel” as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not.” ZAMM p.103


“About this Einstein has said, ‘Evolution has shown that, at any given moment, out of all conceivable constructions, a single one has always proved itself absolutely superior to the rest,’ and let it go at that. But to Phaedrus (a mythical character in ZAMM that is the alter ego of the narrator) that was an incredibly weak answer.  The phrase ‘at any given moment’ really shook him.  Did Einstein really mean to state that the truth was a function of time?  To state that would annihilate the most basic presumption of all science!

But there it was, the whole history of science, a clear story of continuously new and changing explanations of old facts.  ….  Some scientific truths seemed to last for centuries, others for less than a year.  Scientific truth was not dogma, good for eternity, but a temporal quantitative entity that could be studied like anything else.”


“(B)ut conversation is very sticky because the (metal) sculptor is extremely serious and suspicious, evidently because I am not an artist.  He acts like I am a detective trying to get something on him, and it isn’t until he discovers that I do a lot of welding that I become okay.  Motorcycle maintenance opens strange doors.  He says that he welds for the same reasons I do.  After you pick up skill, welding gives you a tremendous feeling of power and control over metal.  You can do anything.” ZAMM p.162

“I’ve a set of intructions at home which open up great realms for the improvement of technical writing.  They begin ‘Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind’ … (T)here’s a lot of wisdom in that statement.”   ZAMM p.164

“‘But they’re (the assembly instructions) are from the factory.’ John says. ‘I’m from the factory, too’ I say ‘and I know how instructions like this are put together.  You go out to the assembly line with a tape recorder and the foreman sends you to talk to the guy he needs least, the biggest goof-off that he’s got, and whatever he tells you – that’s the instructions.'” ZAMM p.165

“He singled out aspects of Quality [of writing – some items also apply to motorcycle maintenance and design] such as unity, vividness, authority, economy, sensitivity, clarity, emphasis, flow, suspense, brilliance, precision, proportion, depth, and so on; kept each of these as poorly defined as Quality itself, but demonstrated by the same class reading techniques. [That is, students know Quality when they read it or hear it, without it being defined.]  He showed how the aspect of Quality called unity, the hanging-togetherness of a story, could be improved with a technique called an outline.  The authority of an argument could be jacked up with a technique called footnotes, which give authoritative reference.  Outlines and footnotes are standard things taught in all freshman composition classes, but now as devices for improving Quality, they had a purpose.”  ZAMM p.209

“….motive recognized by Aristotle: ‘All human beings by nature desire to know.'” SCAS p.147

“How is being part of a crew different than being part of a team?” SCAS p.155

“The master has no need for a psychology of persuasion that will make the apprentice compliant to whatever purposes the master might dream up;  those purposes are given and determinate.  He does the same work as the apprentice, only better.  He is able to explain what he does to the apprentice, because there are rational principles that govern it.  Or he may explain little, then the learning proceeds by example and imitation.  For the apprentice there is a progressive revelation of the reasonableness of the master’s actions.  He may not not know why things have to be done in a certain way at first, and have to take it on faith, but the rationale becomes apparent as he gains experience.  Teamwork doesn’t have this progressive character.  It depends on group dynamics, which are inherently unstable and subject to manipulation”  SCAS p.159

“The current educational regime is based on a certain view about what kind of knowledge is important: ‘knowing that’ as opposed to ‘knowing how’.  This corresponds roughly to universal knowledge versus the kind that comes from individual experience. … Occupations based on universal, prepositional knowledge are more prestigious, but they are the kind that face competition from the whole world as book learning becomes more widely disseminated in the global economy.  Practical know-how, on the other hand, is always tied to the experience of a particular person.  It can’t be downloaded, it can only be lived.”  SCAS p.161