Navigation: This page 'quantitative.html' --> aspects ---> Main Page. HELP. Contact. Admin.

The Quantitative Aspect

Briefly ...

We experience the quantitative aspect most intuitively and directly as one, several and many, and comparisons of less and more. Concepts like approximate, average, minimum, maximum, quantity, amount, number, fraction, ratio, prime number, are meaningful in the quantitative aspect; each can be derived by quantitative laws alone. Concepts like pi are not, but require spatial meaning to be imported. Addition, incrementation, division, and so on are functions that are meaningful in the quantitative aspect. Statistical analysis is a human activity very much of the quantitative aspect (though also of the analytical). Dooyeweerd's discussion of the quantitative aspect see [1955,II, 79-93].

Four fingers on a hand and four points on the compass: from the analytic aspect there are two 4s here, because it differentiates between fingers and compass, but from the quantitative aspect there is only one 4. It is not so much number that exists in the quantitative aspect, as 'numberbess', e.g. 4-ness. Functioning in the quantitative (hand 'has' four fingers) aspect feels, not like the dynamic agency found in most aspects, but more like possessing an attribute or property, or 'being' of a certain amount; dynamism enters with the kinematic aspect.

The fundamental 'good' possibility that the quantitative aspect introduces is reliable amount and order. Quantitative amount is reliable because each amount, other than infinity, always and in all situations retains the same quantitative meaning, different from all others. Order is reliable; for example 4-ness is always after 3.9-ness and before 4.1-ness. This is so fundamental that we usually take it for granted, yet functioning in all other aspects relies on this.

Defining the Aspect x

Kernel: x

rather than:

Some central themes x

Note that probably this aspect covers integral and rational (ratio) numbers but not reals (continuous).

On The One and the Many; On Unity and Multiplicity

The difference between one and many is quantitative, and Dooyeweerd makes much of this. So does Strauss [2009] and many other Reformational thinkers. They also make much of "unity and multiplicity."

But unity-and-multiplicity seems different. I searched throughout Dooyeweerd's New Critique, all four volumes for "multiplicity" and discovered that it is often used in the context of analytical counting rather than of quantity as such.

The study: I divided the 144 occurrences of "multiplicity" in NC,I-IV into those that accompanied "unity" (69) from those that did not (75). In the former, "logical" was found 65 times. In the latter, "logical" was found only 20 times. In the occurrences without "unity", "multiplicity of" was mostly merely saying "many" of some kind of thing, e.g. of historical forms. Ergo, it seems that "unity-multiplicity" is about analytical, not pure quantitative.

Common Misconceptions x

The Aspect Itself

Non-Absoluteness x

Absoluteness has to do with reliability. We can rely on that which is absolute. One 'good' that this aspect introduces into created reality is reliability. For example, sevenness is always sevenness, never sixness, and this can be relied upon in all places and throughout all time. The sum of sevenness and sixness will always be thirteenness, never fifteenness. So the quantitative aspect seems absolutely reliable. For example, all physical functioning relies on this, whether quantum or macroscopic. But there seem to be at least two types of non-absoluteness [someone more knowledgeable than I needs to check them].

Special Science x

Institutions x

Shalom x

Harm x

Deifying This Quantitative Aspect

Dooyeweerd suggests [NC, II, 337-8] that Descartes and Leibniz deified the mathematical. That is a kind of reduction to the quantitative.

Contributions from the Field x

Pieter de Wet emailed (12 April 2012) the following:
"Number theory is the elaboration of the properties of all structures of the order type of the numbers. The number words to not have single referents." Paul Benacerraff in What Numbers Could Not Be. (Philosophical Review, 74, 1965:47-73)

Benacerraf argues so elegantly--from a PCI viewpoint about the breakdown of linguistic and logical concepts posing as the numerical. The relationship between truth, identity and reference are in such tension in analytical texts. Just something I thought to share for whatever it is worth.

The Aspect Among Others

Law-dependencies x

None - this is the earliest aspect, so its laws do not depend on those of any other aspect. However, as with all reality, they depend on the Living God, who upholds and sustains all creation.

In the other direction, all laws have some dependency on those of this aspect. Indeed, that seems to be what we find.

Fibonacci Series

Sunflower seeds are arranged as a Fibonacci series. So are many other biological things. This is evidence for Dooyeweerd's concept that e.g. biotic laws depend on mathematical as an earlier aspect. We can see at least one reason for this (explained to me by an eminent mathematician whose name I cannot remember): it provides the best packing arrangement, with least waste of space. (Note the hint of a link with economic aspect.)

Analogies x

We practise many analogies to the quantitative modality. Whenever we use a metric we are transducing to number, and thus making use of the in-built potential for analogy between each aspect and the quantitative. Here are some examples.

Analogies of other aspect in the quantitative might include:

Types of Quantities Anticipate Later Aspects

(Thanks to Arie Dirkzwager for making this clear.)

First, we have simple discrete quantity, which counts things; this however is targeting rather than full anticipation.

Second, we have ratios of these ('rational numbers') from dividing groups of things into parts. So far, only in the quantitative aspect. And only positive (or non-negative) rationals.

Then we look at the spatial aspect, and look at a right angle triangle with sides of one unit, and find that the hypotenuse has a length whose amount is not a rational number, that is cannot be constructed as a ratio. So, by looking at the spatial aspect, we discover a new type of amount in the quantitative aspect, namely irrationals. Square roots are often of this kind.

Next, look at the kinematic aspect, and we encounter movement. Now, let us 'move' among the numbers themselves, and we find that as well as moving to larger numbers we can move to smaller ones, and move through zero to negative numbers. We also find a special type of number, the imaginary or complex number, which is the square root of a negative number. So, by moving up to the kinematic aspect, we discover yet another type of number.

And so on. So, different things in the quantitative aspect seem to anticipate different things in later aspects, and we can determine which aspect by asking "Which aspect makes this meaningful rather than merely an academic curiosity of mathematics?":

See this in fuller, tabular form to illustrate the notion of anticipation as a whole.

Antinomies x

Common Reductions x


Current finance and commerce and accountancy seems often to be reduced to this aspect. While keeping within a budget is truly of the economic whose kernel is frugality, the emphasis in business today is more in a simple numerical maximization e.g. of profits or efficiency and a minimization of costs. No idea of a limit here; it purely numeric.


In the same way, in many fields there is a desire or tendency to reduce all things to numerical measures or metrics. This, it seems, is the only way we think we can make decisions. But such reduction (teleological) is harmful, as many now realise.

Numerical Limits in Law

Many laws stipulate a numerical limit to separate legal from illegal activities. A common one is an age limit. These limits cause no end of trouble. For instance, just recently in the U.K. Parliament has debated whether the age at which consenting adults can engage privately in homosexual activity should be reduced from 18 to 16, to bring it in line with the heterosexual limit, on the grounds that it is unfair to differentiate. For instance, often we hear it argued that persons aged 16 years 1 day are allowed to do things that others only a few days younger cannot; the limit of 16 seems arbitrary. Especially when the chronologically younger person is actually more mature in various ways. There are many similar issues, such as limit of alcohol in blood.

The root of the problems is in using numbers as legal limits, which is a type of reduction. Though it might not be as severe a type of reduction as others, it nevertheless leads to problems. What is happening is that the real differentiator of legal from illegal has been transducted into a numerical measure and limit. For instance, the real problem of driving under the influence of alcohol is one of irresponsible, selfish behaviour and also of dulled responses when in charge of a powerful, dangerous artifact. For instance (as some, including myself, would argue) the differentiator of sexual activity should be a serious, volitional act of commitment to the other person (called 'marriage'), rather than an arbitrary age limit.

The problem is that transducing something to number might be convenient, and might give the appearance of precision, but it fundamentally misses the real point and purpose. And when we start to rely on such a transduction then we have a reduction.

Notes x

Reals, Integers and Rationals

Dooyeweerd clearly states that the quantitative aspect has as its kernel discrete quantity (see his lengthy arguments in NC II:79-95ff). He places continuity within the spatial aspect, whose kernel is 'continuous extension', with a strong retrocipation to this aspect. For example, he argues that irrational numbers are not in fact true numbers (but rather functions). I found difficulty in accepting this, having been brought up to see number as essentially continuous. But I have now changed my mind.

I have recently been discussing integer and 'real' (continuous) numbers with a mathematician. The discussion centred on two types of infinity. That related to real numbers is larger than the infinity related to integers! Due to the continuous nature of spatial numbers (continuous extension). So, he was saying, 'reals' are a fundamentally different kind of number, and require a different kind of mathematics. This recognition of a fundamental difference is indicative of crossing an aspectual boundary. So, since the main use of reals is to cope with spatial factors, indirectly if not directly, then it might seem that they are attached more to the spatial aspect.

Andrew Hartley sent me the following expansion on this theme:

"I went back to some of your Dooy web pages and felt I must sometime soon come to grips with Dooy's idea that the real numbers belong to the spatial mode and not the quantitative one. ... I have an idea that it is all related to the concept of "countability," e.g., as in the language of Nancy McGough who said 'In 1874 Georg Cantor discovered that there is more than one level of infinity. The lowest level is called countable infinity and higher levels are called uncountable infinities. The natural numbers are an example of a countably infinite set and the real numbers are an example of an uncountably infinite set. In 1877 Cantor hypothesized that the number of real numbers is the next level of infinity above countable infinity. Since the real numbers are used to represent a linear continuum, this hypothesis is called the Continuum Hypothesis or CH.'"

It is interesting to find that Dooyeweerd, a lawyer, understood this deep mathematical idea, and saw the kernel of the spatial aspect as continuous extension rather than shape, position, distance, curvature, or whatever.

Why Numberic Order may be Formative

The usual reasons given for numeric order being an original quantitative thing are that if we have three amounts, A, B, C, such that A < B and B < C, then it is obvious that we should place the second after the first to get the order A, B, C. But I argue that, though in the quantitative aspect we have amounts and amount-comparisons, placing the second after the first to get the order A, B, C presupposes a reason why we should place the second after the first. So we deliberately employ formative power to choose to do so: formative aspect. This may be made clearer if we replace the second comparison by 'C > B' (which has the same meaning in the quantitative aspect).

Why Sets are Analytical

In the quantitative aspect we have discrete quantity (amount) which implies that we have counted things (e.g. people in a queue, grains of sugar in a pile, stars in a galaxy, air molecules in a room), but this aspect does not imply that we distinguish the items that are counted, one grain of sugar from another. To make such a distinction, in which the counted things become meaningful individuals to us implies making distinction, which is the kernel of the analytical aspect. In set theory, we make such distinctions. Therefore, in basing mathematics wholly on set theory, Russell and Whitehead were reducing the quantitative aspect tot he analytical.

Comments Received x

From A.M.

(A discussion I had with AM over email. Retained exact wording and spellings, but added html codes, refces, etc.)

AM: The numerical dimension we term as related to amount with the kernel numeric value. The modality is visible in anything that can be expressed in numbers and that refers to amount and/or quantity, e.g. number of produced goods, number of rooms in a house (but not the size of the rooms which refers to spatial), number of walls, number of articles one buys in a shopping situation, amount of money to pay for the articles etc.

AB: Interestingly, I have recently been discussing integer and 'real' (continuous) numbers with a mathematician. I used to think that real numbers were part of the quantitative modality, but have now changed my mind. While integers and rationals are part of the quantitative modality, real numbers as part of the spatial. The discussion centred on two types of infinity. That related to real numbers is larger than the infinity realted to integers! Due to the continuous nature of spatial numbers (continuous extension). It is interesting to find that Dooy understood this deep mathematical idea.

AM: I have problems to understand this modality and have to tell myself that this is the definition I will adopt. I see numbers as symbolic representations (lingual) and therefore the numeric dimension becomes very confusing. I have not been able to differentiate between numbers as 'numeric value' and as symbols for language.

AB: Yes, you will find it confusing if you cannot grasp the concept of number without its conventional symbolic forms. To help me I take two steps.

This helps in two ways. First, when I hold sand in my hand I can immediately conceive of 'amount' without specific number. But, then when I ponder it I realise that it does also have a specific number that is at the basis of my intuitive conception. Namely, the number of grains of sand. It is just that thinking in this way moves me away from the confusion wrought by our tendency to separate numbers from one another, which is what symbolic representation of them as digits does. (NB. 'separation' is 'distinction', namely analytic modality .}

So, what we have is the raw, intuitive appreciation of number-as- amount as opposed to the conceptualisation of number-as-distinct-symbol.

This is part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Questions or comments would be welcome.

Copyright (c) 2004 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Number of visitors to these pages: Counter. Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: by 1 December 1997. Last updated: 1 July 1998 added re. reduction to legal limits. 30 August 1998 rearranged and tidied. 19 April 1999 Added anticipating other aspects. 28 June 1999 added retrocipation from logical. 7 February 2001 new contact and copyright. 8 February 2001 added bits strengthening our understanding of the aspect, after reading NC II:90-94 and thereabouts. 14 February 2001 counter. 3 January 2003 added Andrew Hartley's bit about Cantor and countability. 29 April 2005 targets as harm; .nav. 16 May 2005 incorporated several anticipations, and rewrote some bits at start. 18 May 2005 bit more on logarithms. 25 May 2005 link to anticipation table. 24 August 2005 nav to aspects. 22 September 2010 Dooyeweerd's and Basden's kernel. 13 January 2011 absoluteness and reliability. 12 April 2012 number de Wet. 10 October 2013 Bergson. 21 September 2016 briefly. 2 January 2021 analogy of simultaneity. 19 March 2021 Unity and Multiplicity. 29 May 2021 more on that; deification of qtv.