Purpose

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Counting sheep is a philosophically inspired intervention to the social tendency to compare things and experiences in the world in terms of relative quantities. The concern with this tendency is that quantifiable relations are posited even where the units of measurement that are seemingly required to make such comparisons might not be available.

In destabilising this tendency, Counting sheep contributes to our shifting self-awareness of how we communicate with each other.

Often an opinion about, or a description of, a thing or an experience, integrates qualifications which position that thing or experience as being “more than,” “better than,” or “greater than,” another thing or experience. The identity of a thing or an experience is defined here in quantifiable terms. In many circumstances these quantifiable definitions work. However, this is not always the case.

For example, if we say that vanilla ice cream is more commercially successful than strawberry ice cream, the condition to such a claim is that there is something measurable about the commercial success of each ice cream that can be compared. The measurable feature in such an instance could be said to be an ice cream’s total number of sales. Vanilla ice cream is determined to have “x” number of units of sales, as is strawberry ice cream. In aggregating these units of sales for each ice cream, their respective commercial successes are measured, and a quantifiably comparable relation between them can be produced. The units of measurement here seem relatively straightforward.

What about, however, the claim that eating vanilla ice cream makes me more happy than eating strawberry ice cream? As with the above, inherent to such a claim is that there is something measurable about each ice cream that can be compared. In this case, it is deemed that eating vanilla ice cream causes “x” number of units of happiness, and that such a number is more than the number that strawberry ice cream causes of it. But are such units of measurement, of something like happiness, actually available?

I am undertaking this project to question whether units of measurement in such circumstances, via which claims of comparability are conditioned, are legitimately assumed. The complementary aspiration here explores whether we quantify unquantifiable phenomena because we are uncomfortable with the notion of incomparable, irreducible difference. The theoretical, and indeed practical, inspiration for this project, is provided by the late 19th and early 20th century French philosopher, Henri Bergson. This connection is comprehensively explained on the Bergsonian Inspiration page.