Try sitting outdoors in a natural landscape for half an hour. After quieting yourself and becoming as receptive as possible to the surrounding world, consider this: Is there any content here beside the purely qualitative? From the sky and the distant hill to the grass, pine needles, or soil beneath your feet, do you not have to say, “The world I am experiencing simply is its qualities”? How many of us, during years or decades of creative work, will put such a problem to ourselves in this direct, observational, scientifically sanctioned way, as opposed to thinking about the problem in our studies or laboratories, with our thought mediated by a vast network of mental abstractions?
Now try subtracting from the content of your observation everything qualitative. In the case of the tree over there, remove the green of the foliage, the gray of the bark, the smell of sap, the rustling of leaves in the breeze, the felt hardness of the trunk...and what do you have left? Nothing at all. You do not even have geometric form, since without light and color there is no visible form, and without the different qualities of touch there is no felt form. Form is not something independent that we proceed to flesh out with qualities; it subsists in nothing but the qualities themselves.
-Steve Talbott, The Language of Nature
Talbott's piece is a defense of qualities against the all-quantifying intellectual devices of popular scientific inquiry. Though I have ceased to practice with zeal the wordplay of the amateur philosopher, I've long wondered how such a hard distinction between qualities and quantities endures. The quantifiable shares that very quality, after all.
Talbott goes on to emphasize the epistemological priority of qualia:
Objects changing their positions in space may give us certain mathematically describable relationships, but so, too, can points on a piece of graph paper. No one takes these points to be exerting a physical force upon each other. Neither could we think of planets as exerting a force upon each other unless we had an independent concept of force. As the graph paper illustrates, the mathematical relationships alone do not give us such a concept. Think about it all you wish, but a force is something real in the world, and you will never find a concept for it except through your own experience of the world.
Or as another quotation puts it, "You use the word 'force' and, when queried, you define it by law, field, and vector; but what you really have in mind is the force you feel in commanding your muscles." Science piggybacks upon metaphors analogically understood.