Numerosity, number, arithmetization, measurement and psychology

Philosophy of Science 28 (2):178-203 (1961)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The paper aims to put certain basic mathematical elements and operations into an empirical perspective, evaluate the empirical status of various analytic operations widely used within psychology and suggest alternatives to procedures criticized as inadequate. Experimentation shows the "manyness" of items to be a perceptual quality for both young children and animals and that natural operations are performed by naive children analogous to those performed by persons tutored in arithmetic. Number, counting, arithmetic operations therefore can make distinctions that are not inevitably arbitrary, and conceptual operations can obviously have a status as natural events with psychology. If the elements and conceptual operations involved in mathematical systems were not inherent in physiological process, various primitive discriminations could not be possible. Also, since some calculi have a natural status in a given empirical circumstance, the axioms of others can not be satisfied. Therefore the psychologist when acting as an empirical scientist seeks a calculus having a structure whose elements are isomorphic with natural units of stimulus and response and whose operations are isomorphic with whatever natural processes are involved. Measurement poses a special problem for the empirical scientist. It concerns but a single class of natural qualities and this only in a limited way. The concept of quantity has a natural counterpart but quantity and measurement are not wholly analogous. Measurement is defined, as H. S. Leonard suggests, as a theoretical activity. Measurement theory has a formal structure but empirical end. Measurement hypothesizes about the position of a particular quality within a definite range of qualities. It therefore is beholden to definite empirical restrictions. Some hypotheses-making systems use terms and relations per se as the context and starting point for dealing with discriminable events. Such procedures are 'transcendent." In empirical science, questions are part of problem-solving activity and their reference is naturally restricted. In providing description and explanation, psychological researchers frequently use calculi in a transcendent way. This results in theories that are only quasi-empirical and "half" true. The roles measurement plays in psychology are discussed. Of particular concern are those cases in which the results of measuring or a theory of measurement are used to define the "real" units, or the "real" relations involved in problematic psychological events, and thence to describe and explain behaviors of interest. Metaphysical or ontological usages of measurement sometimes occur. The implication of these arguments with regard to a view of empirical science is discussed



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,991

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

233 (#89,856)

6 months
16 (#172,464)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

Out for the count.Mark Johnson - 1988 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11 (4):589-589.
Counting versus subitizing versus the sense of number.C. R. Gallistel - 1988 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11 (4):585-586.

View all 27 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Science and the Modern World.Alfred North Whitehead - 1925 - Humana Mente 1 (3):380-385.
The Child's Conception of Number.J. Piaget - 1953 - British Journal of Educational Studies 1 (2):183-184.
Number; The Language of Science.Tobias Dantzig - 1931 - Philosophy 6 (24):517-519.
Interrogatives, imperatives, truth, falsity and lies.Henry S. Leonard - 1959 - Philosophy of Science 26 (3):172-186.

View all 12 references / Add more references