Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Qualities and Quantities

Quality must come before quantity. If we have a number of items, we have a specific quantity. What distinguishes them as a quantity, however? There must be certain qualitative factors that are present already that define them as individual items. These qualities are inherent in each separate item within a quantity of items, and each item is categorized as one unit as long as it contains those defining qualifiers. Each item, of course, may have other unique qualities about it that the other items don’t have, but within the qualifying categories, they can all still be considered as ‘similar/separate’ quantities.

For there to be something, anything at all, there must be a distinction between what it is and what it is not. This distinction is initially a purely qualitative one, rather than a quantitative one, and only gains quantitative form when it becomes measurable within a predetermined rule of order. To measure something we must have something to measure it against, in order to find the similarities and differences that distinguish it from anything else. The more qualities we can look for and differentiate between in something, the more defined it becomes. When certain combinations of qualitative definitions are repeatedly found, we come to conceive of them as similar units, and this allows quantitative understanding to arise. This understanding encourages us to perceive much of reality in objective form, as absolutes that we all accept and understand in specific terms. In this way, the world that arises around us is perceived to consist of physical structure that meets our shared sense of order, drawn out of subjective, qualitative concepts that have been firmly established at a deep level of consciousness from where it can manifest into those objective forms.

Consider for a moment how matter arises to our senses. At a fundamental level, matter is described as nothing more than atomic particles, and these particles are nothing more than quantities of energy (quanta) moving at such a high rate of vibration or oscillation that they seem to have solid, particulate form. Each individual vibration or oscillation of that energy has the same qualitative factors as any other of its vibrations or oscillations. In this way, each vibrational movement can itself be described as a separate quantitative unit that, through many repetitions that have the same qualities, becomes discernable, or at least describable, as a quantity – it becomes a particle. This objective quantity that is the particle, however, arises only because we have an already established qualitative order with which to understand it in quantitative terms. The smallest allowable unit of energy is defined by certain parameters, and these parameters are nothing more than qualities that scientists have discerned in them and rely on to distinguish them as separate units. But a minimal unit of energy, a quantum, has no real quantitative substance except for these qualitative distinctions. The energy is nothing in itself without the qualifying parameters, and these qualifiers are nothing more than qualities.

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