Primary and Secondary Qualities: The Historical and Ongoing Debate Published: October 30, Lawrence Nolan ed. The editor, Lawrence Nolan, did a terrific job selecting authors, and he has impressive persuasive powers.
Locke on Primary and Secondary Qualities I want to take one more opportunity clarify this important distinction. In itself, the distinction is not hard to understand, but the language we use tends to blur the very distinction Locke is trying to explain, and all-too-often leads to misunderstandings of the point Locke is trying to make.
Let me start, as I did in class, with a quote from the text: The important point to remember here is that ideas and qualities are different things. Ideas are sensation in our mind and qualities are the properties of objects that cause us to have those sensations.
Given that qualities are causal properties of objects, it would Secondary qualities thesis that any distinction between kinds of properties—such as the distinction between primary and secondary qualities—should be a difference in the kinds of properties a thing has.
The difference between primary and secondary qualities, then or, at least, the crucial one is in the kinds of ideas they produce in our minds.
What is that difference? Locke explicitly answers that question: From what I have said, I think it easy to draw this observation,--that the ideas of primary qualities are resemblances of them [i.
So the difference between primary and secondary qualities can be described in terms of differences in the ideas that they produce in our minds. Qualities, by definition, are the powers objects have to produce ideas in our minds.
The secondary qualities of objects produce ideas in our minds that do not resemble the corresponding qualities in the objects that produced those ideas in our minds.
I perceive a blue rectangle i. According to Locke, shape being rectangular is a primary quality, while color being blue is a secondary quality.
The following statement is false, but something that many people including Berkeley say when trying to explain the difference between primary and secondary qualities: Secondary qualities exist only in the mind. Again, this is false, or, at the least, it is not what Locke means or says when he distinguishes between primary and secondary qualities.
Remember the first quotation we began with: Qualities, that is, by definition, exist in objects, not in our minds. But why, then, would someone say that secondary qualities exist only in the mind?
Recall our example about seeing a blue rectangle. So, one might say, the blue that we see exists only in our mind, and not in the world. But blue, a color, is a secondary quality, so secondary qualities must exist in our minds.
In claiming that my sensation of blue does not resemble the quality that produced that idea in me, Locke is saying that there is nothing in the world that resembles my sensation of blue. It is easy to slip from this to the claim one that Locke is not making that there is nothing in the world that is blue, i.
But this last claim is clearly false, as our experience shows. For example, our scientific understanding of how we come to have sensations of blue explains this in terms of the primary qualities of the tiny particles or wavelengths of light that enter our bodies.This accessible literary criticism is perfect for anyone faced with Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous essays, papers, tests, exams, or for anyone who needs to create a Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous lesson plan.
By hooking up all of our sensations of secondary qualities with pleasure and pain, then, he forces us to. Locke’s Distinctions Between Primary and Secondary Qualities Michael Jacovides1 Is there a distinction between primary and secondary qualities?
The question may rest on a of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Boyle offers a defense of the thesis . Locke uses the example of a grain of wheat and describes how it still retains it primary qualities even if it is continuously divided into smaller pieces.
The characteristics attributed to primary qualities include shape, solidity, extension and motion. Locke then goes on to describe secondary qualities and their relationship with primary qualities. In the thesis I criticize the project of showing that the primary qualities mentioned in a special "scientific" or "objective" conception of the world enjoy a status that secondary qualities do not, and suggest how the appeal of such a distinction might be overcome.
A confusion: The following statement is false, but something that many people (including Berkeley) say when trying to explain the difference between primary and . John Locke: John Locke, English philosopher whose works lie at the foundation of modern philosophical empiricism and political liberalism.
” qualities of physical objects. Primary qualities include size, shape, weight, and solidity, among others, and secondary qualities include colour, taste, and smell.