Some remarks on Reid on primary and secondary qualities

Acta Analytica 22 (1):74-84 (2007)
John Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities of objects has meet resistance. In this paper I bypass the traditional critiques of the distinction and instead concentrate on two specific counterexamples to the distinction: Killer yellow and the puzzle of multiple dispositions. One can accommodate these puzzles, I argue, by adopting Thomas Reid’s version of the primary/secondary quality distinction, where the distinction is founded upon conceptual grounds. The primary/secondary quality distinction is epistemic rather than metaphysical. A consequence of Reid’s primary/ secondary quality distinction is that one must deny the original version of Molyneux’s question, while one must affirm an amended version of it. I show that these two answers to Molyneux’s question are not at odds with current empirical research.
Keywords John Locke  Thomas Reid  primary/secondary quality distinction  killer yellow  puzzle of multiple dispositions  Molyneux’s question
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DOI 10.1007/BF02866211
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