What is a "qualitative difference" between two things? Looking up "qualitative" just gets "having or pertaining to a quality," which is no help to me at all in context.

"Any sentence that begins 'Humans would never be so stupid as to...' is very probably wrong." -David M. Palmer, on Usenet
1 2 3 4 5
What is a "qualitative difference" between two things? Looking up "qualitative" just gets "having or pertaining to a quality," which is no help to me at all in context.

If there's a qualitative difference between two things, it means they're different kinds of things. The opposite is a quantitative difference: the same kind of thing, but in different amounts. Usually the main reason for referring to a qualitative difference is to emphasize that it's not just quantitative.
-Aaron J. Dinkin
Dr. Whom
What is a "qualitative difference" between two things? Looking up "qualitative" just gets "having or pertaining to a quality," which is no help to me at all in context.

It's a difference which, while real, is not directly measurable that is, in order to measure it, a surrogate "quantitative" difference would need to be used.

Cheers, Harvey
Ottawa/Toronto/Edmonton for 30 years;
Southern England for the past 21 years.
(for e-mail, change harvey to whhvs)
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
What is a "qualitative difference" between two things? Looking up "qualitative" just gets "having or pertaining to a quality," which is no help to me at all in context.

A qualitative difference is a difference that has not been measured properly. This is to be contrasted with a quantitative difference, which is supported by a measurement or a count..
"John is taller than Peter". A qualitative difference, not supported by a measurement.
"John is 4 cm taller than Peter". A quantitative difference, in which a measurement is given.
"John has more oranges than Peter". The difference has not been counted, therefore qualitative.
Qualitative differences also apply to those items that could never be measured. For example:-
"The English Lake District is more beautiful than the foothills of the American Rockies". A mere assertion, which you may or may not agree with, and which cannot be measured. Therefore, a qualitative difference is being asserted.
Richard Chambers Leeds UK.
What is a "qualitative difference" between two things? Looking up ... which is no help to me at all in context.

A qualitative difference is a difference that has not been measured properly. This is to be contrasted with a quantitative difference, which is supported by a measurement or a count..

Quibble mode: Shouldn't that be "has not been measured precisely" rather than "properly"?
In situations where it's appropriate to leave precision out of the equation, the "propriety" of a lack of measurement isn't really a factor.

Cheers, Harvey
Ottawa/Toronto/Edmonton for 30 years;
Southern England for the past 21 years.
(for e-mail, change harvey to whhvs)
A qualitative difference is a difference that has not been ... difference, which is supported by a measurement or a count..

Quibble mode: Shouldn't that be "has not been measured precisely" rather than "properly"? In situations where it's appropriate to leave precision out of the equation, the "propriety" of a lack of measurement isn't really a factor.

I understand the quibble, but I'm not sure that your formulation deals properly or precisely with it.
It might be better to omit adverbs: "a qualitative difference is a difference that has not been measured". But that is still not very good, because it suggests that worthwhile methods might not have been employed, and a qualitative difference is often not amenable to meaningful measurement.
PB
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
snip
I understand the quibble, but I'm not sure that your formulation deals properly or precisely with it. It might be ... suggests that worthwhile methods might not have been employed, and a qualitative difference is often not amenable to meaningful measurement.

Maybe the problem is that we're trying to define a qualitative difference in terms of what it's not, rather than what it is.

How about "a qualitative difference is a relational rather than measured difference"? (Or something along those lines.)

Cheers, Harvey
Ottawa/Toronto/Edmonton for 30 years;
Southern England for the past 21 years.
(for e-mail, change harvey to whhvs)
Quibble mode: Shouldn't that be "has not been measured precisely" rather than "properly"? In situations where it's appropriate to leave precision out of the equation, the "propriety" of a lack of measurement isn't really a factor.

By "properly", I mean that the measurement must be of sufficient precision to establish the difference beyond all reasonable doubt. Thus, I might say:- "The Empire State Building" is taller than my own house in Leeds". What degree of precision does the measurement need in order to establish this fact? All you need do is to look at the two buildings, and that is a sufficient degree of precision for what I would call a proper measurement. Measuring the two buildings "by eye", and taking absolutely no risks with the truth, I could say, quantitatively:-
"The Empire State Building is at least ten times as tall as my house in Leeds.".
In the case of:-
"John is 1 cm taller than Peter."
This is a difference in height that cannot be discerned in a measurement "by eye". The height measurements would have to be performed very carefully, under controlled conditions. The spine can contract by a centimetre in the course of a working day, because of the weight of the vertical trunk compressing the cartilage between the vertebrae. The above statement about John and Peter certainly claims to be quantitative. Whether the quantitative claim is actually true will depend upon the accuracy of the measurements.

I have asserted that a measurement by eye is sufficient for an approximate quantitative assessment of the relative heights of the Empire State Building and my own home. Is a measurement "by eye" sufficient to claim a quantitative
statement in the following? :-
"Susan's hair is redder than Jane's".
After all, this fact is self-evident just by looking at the two ladies. But it is still a qualitative statement, because nobody would be able to make a claim, just by looking at the two ladies, that Susan's hair is (for example)
4 times redder than Jane's. If there is no way to even start to quantifyyour statement, it is a qualitative one, even though it may be self-evidently true.
Richard Chambers Leeds UK.
I understand the quibble, but I'm not sure that your formulation deals properly or precisely with it. It might be ... suggests that worthwhile methods might not have been employed, and a qualitative difference is often not amenable to meaningful measurement.

The discussion of measurement at all is an error. Height and width are qualitatively different. They can each be measured, and they can each be measured in the same units. The difference in the measurements can easily be discovered. We can even say that someone is (or is not) taller than he is wide.
(alt.thedavid, whatever that is, removed)

Martin Ambuhl
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Show more