Perceptual content, information, and the primary/secondary quality distinction

Philosophical Studies 122 (2):103-131 (2005)
Our perceptual systems make information about the world available to our cognitive faculties. We come to think about the colors and shapes of objects because we are built somehow to register the instantiation of these properties around us. Just how we register the presence of properties and come to think about them is one of the central problems with understanding perceptual cognition. Another problem in the philosophy of perception concerns the nature of the properties whose presence we register. Among the perceptible properties are colors and shapes, for example, and there is a long philosophical tradition of drawing and refusing to draw metaphysical distinctions between them. This paper makes a claim about the information-theoretic approach to perceptual cognition in order to argue for a fundamentally epistemological distinction between colors and shapes. What makes shapes and colors seem so different to us is how we carry information about their presence around us. In particular, we can come to know more about the shapes on the basis of perceiving them than we can come to know about the colors. One interesting feature of how this distinction is drawn is that it partially vindicates Locke’s claim that our ideas of primary qualities like shapes resemble them in ways our ideas of colors do not
Keywords Content  Information  Metaphysics  Perception  Quality
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    D. M. Armstrong (1993). A World of States of Affairs. Philosophical Perspectives 7:429-440.

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