Grading, a study in semantics

Philosophy of Science 11 (2):93-116 (1944)


The first thing to realize about grading as a psychological process is that it precedes measurement and counting. Judgments of the type “A is larger than B” or “This can contains less milk than that” are made long before it is possible to say, e.g., “A is twice as large as B” or “A has a volume of 25 cubic feet, B a volume of 20 cubic feet, therefore A is larger than B by 5 cubic feet,” or “This can contains a quart of milk, that one 3 quarts of milk, therefore the former has less milk in it.” In other words, judgments of quantity in terms of units of measure or in terms of number always presuppose, explicitly or implicitly, preliminary judgments of grading. The term four means something only when it is known to refer to a number which is “less than” certain others, say five, six, seven, arranged in an ordered series of relative mores and lesses, and “more than” certain others, say one, two, three, arranged in an ordered series of relative mores and lesses. Similarly, a foot as a unit of linear measure has no meaning whatever unless it is known to be more than some other stretch, say an inch, and less than a third stretch, say a yard.

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