The Hunt for the Correct Quotation

Misquotations of famous authors take on a life of their own. One statistics textbook states:

"If something exists, it exists in some amount. If it exists in some amount, then it is capable of being measured." Rene Descartes

Variants of this appear in other places, but I have yet to find a source in the writings of Descartes. SIG members, however, have contributed the following parallel quotations:

"Thus, if we perceive the presence of some attribute, we can infer that there must also be present an existing thing or substance to which it may be attributed."

R. Descartes (1644) Principles of Philosophy. I:52.

"For I freely acknowledge that I recognize no matter in corporeal things apart from that which the geometers call quantity, and take as the object of their demonstrations, ... "

R. Descartes (1644) Principles of Philosophy. II:64.

(Pp. 210 and 247 in the Philosophical Works of Descartes, Vol. 1, J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, & D. Murdoch (Eds.), Cambridge University Press, 1985.)

"Whatever exists at all exists in some amount. To know it thoroughly involves knowing its quantity as well as its quality."

Edward L. Thorndike. (1918). The nature, purposes, and general methods of measurements of educational products. Chapter II in G.M. Whipple (Ed.), The Seventeenth yearbook of the National Society for Study of Education. Part II. The Measurement of Educational Products. Bloomington, IL: Public School Publishing Co. p. 16.

"Thesis 6. Whatever exists at all, exists in some amount. [E.L. Thorndike].

Thesis 7. Anything that exists in amount can be measured."

William A. McCall (1939) Measurement. New York: The Macmillan Company. p. 15.

John M. Linacre


"One should not speak simply of addition, but one should always mention the way in which such addition takes place."
Nicole Oresme, Questions about Euclid's Geometry, Paris, 1350

The hunt for the correct quotation. Linacre J.M. … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2000, 14:1 p.739




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