Dialectics of Quantitative and Quality changes

Even in ancient times, the Greek philosophers drew attention to the fact that insignificant, for the time being, the remaining imperceptible changes of this or that object, accumulating, can lead to changes that are very noticeable. For example, a decrease in the number of grains of sand in a pile of sand or hair on a person’s head sooner or later leads to the fact that a pile of sand disappears and a person becomes bald. moreover, the boundary of the transition of one state to another here is blurred, elusive, in other cases it is drawn sharply.

This kind of life, practical, and then scientific examples can be a great many. Bit by bit, they accumulate, and over time, sports and professional skills and wisdom are well-known. Imperceptibly old man creeps up on man. insidious boundary of the transition from random, one-time use of alcohol or drugs to alcoholism, drug addiction. Many adverse effects of production on the environment are gradually summed up. Starting with harmless doses, air pollution, water bodies, increasing, over time reaches a catastrophic level. Heating or cooling bodies to a certain temperature changes their state of aggregation.

Hegel saw in such changes not just curious cases, but a general pattern, called the law of transition of quantitative to qualitative changes. In Marxist philosophy, this law was scientifically materialistic and was applied to explain all sorts of phenomena in nature and society.

The world is diverse. He appears to man not as a cluster of identical objects, but as a multitude of objects, phenomena, processes endowed with different properties. Each item has not a single, but a number of properties, and therefore has not one, but many different characteristics.
Properties are significant and non-essential. For example, from a business point of view, it is not the color of the eyes, the height of a person, the style of his clothes; it is important what kind of specialist he is, his level of professionalism is high or low. Objects that, for one reason or another, have concealed essential properties, do not simply pass into a new state, but become other objects. For example, the crashed aircraft ceases to be a machine, turns into scrap metal.
There are also specific and nonspecific properties.
A certain value of atomic weight is specific for a given chemical element, the weight in general is the general characteristic of any – 8 material bodies that are in the field of aggression. The specific properties inherent in this phenomenon, characteristic of it, are often called signs or symptoms. They make it possible to detect one or another object among many others that do not possess such signs (fingerprints in a crime situation, a rash characteristic of this disease, etc.). Some properties of the object can be modified, they can be acquired and lost. However, there are also inherent properties. In philosophy, they are called attributes. So, objects are unthinkable without the characteristics of space, time, movement. For the human person, memory is, in particular, an attribute attribute.
A person who has lost his memory, loses with his human appearance. There are also current and potential properties.
The first have already been implemented and are observed at this time. The second ones (they are called dispositional) are of a hidden nature, as it were, and unfold, come to light gradually with various interactions of the given subject with others. Properties such as electrical conductivity, solubility, human responsiveness, etc., manifest themselves in this way.
Objects are not a mechanical set or a simple sum of properties, but their interconnection, unity. That is why the knowledge of objects requires the effort of thought – the synthesis of their diverse manifestations. A stable set of properties of an object is expressed in philosophy by the concept of quality. And the multiplicity of various objects is characterized as qualitative diversity. Properties are found as manifestations of certain features, sides of objects in their relations with other objects.
Each item is multifaceted. He can turn to other objects and to people by different parties, enter into various connections with other objects, and be used differently in human practice.
Similarities and differences in properties determine the existence of qualitatively similar and diverse groups of objects, phenomena, processes. Quality is understood as a holistic, integral characteristic of an object (unity of its properties) in the system of its connections and relations with other objects. When thinking about the quality and properties of objects, a philosophical question arises: are they objective in nature or do they depend on a point of view, practical goals, or peculiarities of a person’s perception?

This question (one of the many variants of the fundamental question of philosophy) arose before philosophers long ago. Recall the dispute about the “primary” (density, extension, movement, weight) and “secondary” (sound, color, taste, smell) “qualities” of things characteristic of the XVII-XVIII centuries. The thinkers of that time were inclined to classify only the first group of properties as objective, while the latter were regarded as subjective, resulting from the effects of objects on the human senses. This corresponded to the mechanistic view of matter as a set of extended bodies, particles moving in space and in various combinations – according to the laws of attraction and repulsion – forming all sorts of real objects.
Further reflections on the reality or illusiveness of the qualitative diversity of the world led to the conclusion that the “primary” qualities are perceived by people through the senses (with the addition of more and more sophisticated instruments). In this sense, gravity, speed of movement, roughness or smoothness of the surface and all other properties taken into account in mechanics, in the case of their sensory perception by people, are no less subjective than the perception of sounds, colors and other “secondary” properties. In other words, people are physically (and not only mentally, spiritually) included in the complex interactions of objects, participate in them. They have the opportunity to judge the properties, qualities of things by how they are presented in their experience. Kant called this “phenomena” – in contrast to the characteristics of “things in themselves.” We have to admit that all the properties of things are cognized by us in the form of “subjective images of the objective world.” But human experience encompasses the real possibilities of increasing objective knowledge about the world, about various properties and qualitative diversity of subjects. This possibility is provided by repeated contacts with objects, moreover, each time under different conditions, on a different basis. Various procedures for the cross-checking of practical knowledge gained, their historical accumulation, the summation of the efforts of many people also help.
The concept of quality expresses the specificity, originality of large and small groups of objects. It helps to clarify the qualitative boundaries between nature and society, animate and inanimate nature, solids, liquids and gases, flora and fauna, etc. The establishment of qualitative boundaries underlies the classifications of minerals, plants, animals, technical devices, professions, nations and nationalities. At the same time, the qualitative diversity of the world is not frozen, given once and for all. It is very mobile. What determines the qualitative characteristics of objects, phenomena, processes? To answer this question, it is necessary to correlate the concept of quality with the opposite concept of quantity.


Quality is such a certainty of an object (phenomenon, process), which characterizes it as a given object, possessing a combination of its inherent properties and belonging to the class of objects of the same type.

Quantity is a characteristic of phenomena, objects, processes according to the degree of development or intensity of their inherent properties, expressed in quantities and numbers.
The law of transition of quantitative to qualitative changes indicates how, how the development process takes place, what is the mechanism of this process.

To understand the essence of this law, it is necessary first of all to find out what quality and quantity are.

1. The concept of quality and quantity

There are a lot of various objects and phenomena around us, all of which are constantly moving, changing. But despite this, we do not confuse these subjects, but we distinguish, we define them.
They do not merge for us into some kind of gray, faceless mass, and each of them differs from the others in its peculiar, unique features and properties.

Take, for example, a metal like gold. It has a characteristic yellow color, ductility and malleability, has a certain density and heat capacity, melting point and boiling point. Gold does not dissolve in alkalis or in a number of acids, it is chemically inactive, it does not oxidize in air, all this, taken together, distinguishes gold from other metals.

All that makes an object just a given, and not another subject, which distinguishes it from countless others, is its quality.

Quality possess all objects and phenomena. This allows us to determine, distinguish them. What is different, for example, living from non-living? The ability to exchange with the environment, it is advisable to respond to external influences, to multiply. These and some other features are its quality.

Qualitatively different and social phenomena. Thus, capitalism differs from feudalism in the domination of commodity production, the presence of capitalist property, wage labor, and other signs.
Quality is manifested in the properties. A property characterizes a thing from any one side, whereas quality gives an idea of ​​the subject as a whole. Yellow color, malleability, ductility and other signs of gold, taken separately, are its properties, and the same properties in their totality are its quality.

In addition to a certain quality, each item has a quantity. Unlike quality, a quantity characterizes an object from the side of the degree of development or intensity of its inherent properties, as well as its size, volume, etc. as a rule, quantity is expressed by number. Numerical expression has dimensions, weight, volume of objects, intensity of colors inherent to them, sounds made by them, etc.
Quantitative characteristic is inherent and social phenomena. Each socio-economic system has an appropriate level, degree of development of production. The state has certain production facilities, human, raw materials, energy resources.

Quantity and quality are the same, since they are sides of the same subject. But between them there are serious differences. A change in quality leads to a change in the subject, to its transformation into another subject; a change in quantity within known limits does not lead to a noticeable transformation of the object.

The unity of quantity and quality is called a measure. Measure is a kind of border, a frame in which the subject remains itself. “Violation” of the measure, this particular combination of quantitative and qualitative aspects, leads to a change in the subject, to turn it into another subject. So, the measure for mercury in a liquid state is the temperature from -39 gr. up to +357 gr.
At a temperature of -39 gr. mercury hardens, and at +357 grams. starts to boil, goes into a vapor state.

Measure – the dialectical unity of quality and quantity, or such an interval of quantitative changes, within which the qualitative certainty of the subject remains.

Quantitative and qualitative certainty inherent in social phenomena.

In cognition and practical activities it is extremely important to take into account the unity of the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the phenomenon.

2. The transition of quantitative changes in the qualitative law of development

As mentioned above, a change in quantity within certain limits does not lead to a change in the qualitative state of the object. But one has only to go beyond these limits, to “violate” the measure, as previously quantitative changes that seemed insignificant will necessarily lead to fundamental qualitative transformations. Quantity will translate into quality. In the process of development, Karl Marx wrote, “purely quantitative changes at a certain stage are turning into qualitative differences.”

The transition of quantitative changes into qualitative ones is the universal law of the development of the material world. Moreover, development itself is primarily a transition of quantitative changes into qualitative ones, since it is during this transition that the movement of objects and phenomena from the lower to the higher, from the old to the new, takes place.

In order to reveal the universal nature of this law, let us show its operation in various areas of reality. Modern physics has established that some elementary particles can turn into others, which are qualitatively different from them. At the same time, the process of their transformation is always associated with known quantitative accumulations: it proceeds only if the particles have a certain, sufficiently high level of energy.

The widespread occurrence of the law of transition of quantitative changes into qualitative ones is the numerous transformations of a substance from one state of aggregation to another (from solid to liquid, from liquid to gaseous, etc.). So, when heating water over 100 degrees. it turns into a different quality – steam. Steam has properties other than water. He, for example, does not have the ability to dissolve salts, sugar, whereas these substances dissolve in water.

The law of transition of quantitative to qualitative changes is especially pronounced in chemical processes. The periodic law of chemical elements DI Mendeleev establishes that the quality of chemical elements depends on the amount of positive nuclear charge of their atom. Up to known limits, a quantitative change in the nuclear charge does not cause qualitative changes in a chemical element, but at a certain stage these quantitative changes lead to the formation of a new element. Thus, with radioactive decay with a loss of atomic weight and nuclear charge, uranium turns, ultimately, into a qualitatively different element — lead.

Chemistry in general is the science of the qualitative transformations of substances that are the result of quantitative changes. An oxygen molecule, for example, contains two atoms, but one has only to add another oxygen atom to this molecule, as it turns into a qualitatively new chemical substance, ozone.

In objective reality, there is not only a transition of quantitative changes into qualitative ones, but also a reverse process — an increase in quantity under the influence of qualitative changes.
Quantitative and qualitative changes are thus interrelated and conditional.

3. Horse racing

A qualitative change, unlike a quantitative one, is expressed by the notion of a jump. A jump is a transition of quantitative changes to a qualitative one or a transition from one qualitative state to another (as a result of a measure being exceeded).

Examples of leaps: the formation of stars and planets, in particular the Solar System, the emergence of life on Earth, the formation of new species of plants and animals, man and his consciousness, the emergence and change of socio-economic formations in the history of human society, social revolutions.

One example of how the accumulating quantitative changes over time lead to a jump (qualitative change) is the breakdown of a machine part due to “metal fatigue.” Microscopic changes in the structure of a metal part under load ultimately lead to fracture. If microcracks occur one after another, their number grows gradually, then the gap of the metal rod, the chipping of the gear tooth in the gear transmission occurs almost instantly, upon the occurrence of a certain limiting state of the metal. As a result of the rise in temperature, there comes a moment of coagulation of the protein – its transition from a liquid to a solid state. You can gradually increase the amount of nuclear fuel, but when a certain mass of plutonium is reached, a nuclear chain reaction occurs, an explosive release of energy.

These are examples of jumps with a sharply pronounced boundary of the transition from one quality state to another, with a fairly quick intensive, complete restructuring of the entire original system. But there are other types of jumps, when there is not a sharp qualitative transition, but there is a gradual accumulation of elements of a new quality and the death of elements of the old quality; such “jumps” are long, gradual.



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