...the qualitative is expressed in our concepts of reality and value. The Aristotelian universe was one in which qualities were primary. They were ontologically primary and indestructible. Qualities constituted an individual material body or substance when imposed on some portion of omnipresent neutral matter. (this is the hylomorphic model -- see form / matter. ) Aristotle sought to describe change-of-quality in general -- including both the fall of a stone and the growth of a child to adulthood.
Herbert Butterfield described the rise of modern science as "putting on a different thinking cap." The methods of the physical sciences depended on the elimination of qualities in favor of measurable quantities. (with a negotiable market value) The qualitative was reduced to the subjective and dismissed as unreal. (Mumford) "I do not believe that there exists anything in external bodies for exciting tastes, smells, and sounds, etc. except size, shape, quantity, and motion." (Galileo Galilei, On Motion, p.48)(see scientific space.)
The basic idea of modern research was expressed in Descarte's concept of mathesis universalits. "The cosmos of universal mathematics, the cosmos of order and measure, encloses and exhausts all knowledge. It is in itself completely autonomous; it requires no support and can acknowledge no other support than the one it find in iself." (Ernst Cassirer)
Joule's principle of the conservation of energy is an example of the subsumption of qualitative transformations into a quantifiable entity. "Thus it is that order is maintained in the universe--nothing is deranged, nothing ever lost, but the entire machinery, complicated as it is, works smoothly and harmoniously." (Joule, quoted in Prigogine, p.108-9)
According to Lord Kelvin, "If you cannot measure, your knowledge is meager and unsatisfactory."
Thomas Kuhn describes much of "normal measurement" as the kind of "mopping up" work which constitutes "normal science." According to Kuhn, these measurements neither confirm nor disprove theories, nor do they generally lead to new theories, but are instead refinements to the currently accepted standards of "reasonable agreement" between theories and observation. (see paradigm.) According to Kuhn's outline of the history of science, crises in science occur when anomalies arise that cannot be reconciled with accepted theories. For Kuhn, quantitative anomalies are far more effective than qualitative anomalies in precipitating such crises, and, he suspects, measurement is the consistent victor in competition between theories. (see "The Function of Measurement in Modern Physical Sciences", in The Essential Tension.)
For Marx, all qualitative distinctions between commodities are effaced in money. To make quantity the criterion of value--that was the contribution of the capitalism to the mechanical world-picture. The abstractions of capitalism preceded the abstractions of modern science and reinforced at every turn its typical lessons and typical methods of procedure. "The power that was science and the power that was money were, in the final analysis, the same kind of power: the power of abstraction, measurement, quantification." (Mumford)
Ernest Mandel, in his introduction to Marx's Capital, vol.1, describes Marx's application of the dialectical method to the study of economic problems, distinguishing between quantitative changes that constantly occur in the given mode of production from those qualitative changes which, by sudden leaps, produce a different structure, a new mode of production -- revolution. Phase transitions, paradigm shifts, bifurcations and singularities are all homologues of revolution and qualitative change.
The project of Surrealism can be seen as an attempt to reconstruct the qualitative universe denied by the positivistic world of quantities, and present just on the other side of everyday phenomena.