The Average Man as Statistical Degradation of the Ordinary Man


It has been said that figures rule the world. Maybe. But I am not sure that figures show us whether it is being ruled well or badly.
—Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann

There is in moral man left to himself a point around which all the passions, all the forces that dominate him, find their equilibrium. This point is analogous to that which in a body is designated by the term ‘centre of gravity’: I call it the moral centre.
—L.-A. Quételet, A Treatise On Man

Such a social physics is outlined by Belgian sociologist and astronomer Lambert-Adolphe Quételet in his theory of the ‘average man’, which succeeds in hauling up the great collectives of Robinson-particles to the dignity of an object of an applied mathematics: ‘moral statistics’…