Our Mad Rush to Measure: How Did We Get into this Mess?

  • Donald W. Katzner


In our quest to describe, analyze, understand, know, and make decisions, we moderns, it seems, attempt to measure everything. The pages of our popular newspapers and magazines are full of measures. So are our scholarly journals. We measure the physical world. We measure our society, our economy, our polity, our culture, and ourselves. Give us a problem and our impulse — almost reflex — is to measure all we can think of that relates to it. We evaluate performance by measurement. We attempt to understand our quality of life in terms of measurement. We analyze and define government policy in the context of measurement. What is not measurable we strive to render measurable, and when we cannot, we dismiss it from our thoughts and justify our neglect by assigning it the status of the “less important.” Lord Kelvin’s dictum [56, p. 80] appears to reign supreme: “... when you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers you know something about it; but when you cannot measue it, when you cannot express it in number, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.”


Measured Analysis Seventeenth Century Popular Culture Objective Science Metaphysical Foundation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald W. Katzner
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MassachusettsUSA

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