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I always try to classify disciplines into three groups; the qualitative, the quantitative, and amalgam of the two. Whenever I think of qualitative disciplines, or those that involve value-judgments, literature, fine arts, and law come into my mind. What fascinates me about these “qualitative disciplines” is that they are not as objective or structured as quantitative disciplines like chemistry or physics in that they don’t measure the properties of things. Rather, they study the invisible and non-calculable properties of an object. Hence, while scientists can profess the use scientific method and mathematics in re-evaluating their calculations should they find their conclusions somewhat doubtful, qualitative scholars like lawyers can only rely on their unstructured and abstract interpretation of facts.

How can we show that qualitative reasoning can also be systematic? In other words, if we can say that mathematics is the language of the natural sciences, then what is the language or tool used in qualitative disciplines?

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    Would logic and rhetoric apply? If not, why not? Also, are you talking about the present state of affairs, or are you asking what might be possible to make the practice of (for example) lawful decisions and the production of beautiful music on the same exacting and repeatable level as science? (Seeking clarification.) – CoolHandLouis Mar 15 '15 at 18:30
  • I think that logic and rhetoric and language all come into making qualitative reasoning systematic. – user13847 Mar 21 '15 at 0:05
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Mathematics isn't purely quantititative - this seems to be a common misconception; there are judgements that decide on what to study, and why.

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I believe you are using it - language itself is the language of qualitative analysis.

As in disciplines like the law, language used as such is built upon a foundation of agreed upon definitions. Its processes are endless and circular given the fluidity and built-in imprecision of a tool whose lifeblood is metaphor. (Do you see what I did there?)

We will always experience a degree of frustration with the gap between the tools we use to describe a thing and the thing itself. However, could this not also be said for mathematics? And in contrasting qualitative with quantitative thinking, could we be describing what the lawyers call a distinction without a difference?

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What fascinates me about these “qualitative disciplines” is that they are not as objective or structured as quantitative disciplines like chemistry or physics in that they don’t measure the properties of things.

Why do you think that the standard of objectivity is being measurable? There are plenty of philosophers who think that value-judgements, for instance, can be objectively true, and so are on a par with scientific statements in their objectivity. On the flip side, plenty of philosophers think that so-called 'quantitative' disciplines aren't as objective as they purport to be.

How can we show that qualitative reasoning can also be systematic? ... what is the language or tool used in qualitative disciplines?

You seem to think that we require a particular language to be rigorous and systematic in a particular domain of inquiry. But I'm not sure that is true. We can show that so-called 'qualitative' thinking (and I am very skeptical of the distinction you're drawing here) is systematic by doing what we always do - regardless of language - when we want to be systematic: set down our starting points, and seeing what follows. If we want to be rigorous, we make sure our starting points are good ones, and that our inferences follow. There's no special language required, just careful, honest thought.

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