Abstract. This essay is an attempt to uncover the hidden strategies underlying the use of numbers and quantities in order to reach certain social or political aims. Though statistics is invaluable, its effect can be deceptive since it is a symptom of the quantification of living processes which eventually escape measurement. This is where the quality of number becomes more important – as seen by such thinkers as Kepler or Pythagoras. There is a cosmic potential in numbers that should be considered when building houses or interpreting poems. However, number is not everything. Elias Canetti diagnosed the hypnotic power of numbers and crowds in anthropological terms. His diagnosis is part of a constant defence in literature and the arts against the overwhelming and dehumanising power of numbers in modern life – G. K. Chesterton being one of its most prominent representatives.

Key words: quantity/quality; statistics; mass hypnosis; wholeness; G. K. Chesterton

Schenkel E (2022) Numbing numbers: considering the dark side of counting. Ransford T, trans. Creativity 5(1): 117–127. doi:10.22381/C5120224

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University of Leipzig;
Leipzig, Germany

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