Reid offers an under-appreciated account of the primary/secondaryquality distinction. He gives sound reasons for rejecting the views of Locke, Boyle, Galileo and others, and presents a better alternative, according to which the distinction is epistemic rather than metaphysical. Primary qualities, for Reid, are qualities whose intrinsic natures can be known through sensation. Secondary qualities, on the other hand, are unknown causes of sensations. Some may object that Reid's view is internally inconsistent, or unacceptably relativistic. However, a (...) deeper understanding shows that it is consistent, and relative only to normal humans. To acquire this deeper understanding, one must also explore the nature of dispositions, Reid's rejection of the theory of ideas, his distinction between sensation and perception, and his distinction between natural and acquired perceptions. (shrink)
Frank Jackson formulated his knowledge argument as an argument for dualism. In this paper I show how the argument can be modified to also establish the irreducibility of the secondary qualities to the properties of physical theory, and ultimately.
Sensibility theorists such as John McDowell have argued that once we appreciate certain similarities between moral values and secondary qualities, a new meta-ethical position might emerge, one that avoids the alleged difficulties with moral intuitionism and non-cognitivism. The aim of this paper is to examine the meta-ethical prospects of this secondary-quality analogy. Of particular concern will be the extent to which McDowell’s comparison of values to secondary qualities supports a viewpoint unique from that of the moral (...) intuitionist. Once we disentangle the various metaphysical and epistemological strands of McDowell’s analogy, McDowell’s position might appear closer to moral intuitionism than initially supposed. This discussion will also help clarify the intended meaning of the secondary-quality analogy, as well as its significance for ethics more generally. (shrink)
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/secondaryquality distinction, where the distinction is founded upon conceptual grounds. The primary/secondaryquality distinction is epistemic rather than metaphysical. (...) A consequence of Reid’s primary/ secondaryquality 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. (shrink)
In "the subjective view", Colin mcginn contends that a dispositional (or "subjectivist") account of secondary qualities may be incompatible with physicalism, As it provides special reasons to think that the experiences of secondary qualities cannot be reduced to physical or functional states. The primary aim of this paper is to show that such an account of secondary qualities is compatible with--Indeed, Encourages--A physico-Functional theory of experience. Further, It argues that if secondaryquality experiences cannot be (...) reduced to physical or functional states, Then the dispositional account of secondary qualities cannot hope to match the explanatory adequacy of a sophisticated reductionist view. (shrink)
: Interpretations of Kant's transcendental idealism have been dominated by two extreme views: phenomenalist and merely epistemic readings. There are serious objections to both of these extremes, and the aim of this paper is to develop a middle ground between the two. In the Prolegomena, Kant suggests that his idealism about appearances can be understood in terms of an analogy with secondary qualities like color. Commentators have rejected this option because they have assumed that the analogy should be read (...) in terms of either a Lockean or a Berkelean account of qualities such as color, and have argued, rightly, that neither can provide the basis for a coherent interpretation of Kant's position. I argue that the account of color that the analogy requires is one within the context of a direct theory of perception, as opposed to Locke's representative account. Using this account of color, the secondaryquality analogy enables us to explain how appearances can be mind-dependent without existing in the mind. (shrink)
Abstract: The 'special composition question' is this: given objects O1, . . . , On, under what conditions is there an object O, such that O1, . . . , On compose O? This paper explores a heterodox answer to this question, one that casts composition as a secondaryquality. According to the approach I want to consider, there is an O that O1, . . . , On compose (roughly) just in case a normal intuiter would, under (...) normal conditions, intuit that there is. (shrink)
Frank Jackson formulated his knowledge argument as an argument for dualism. In this paper I show how the argument can be modified to also establish the irreducibility of the secondary qualities to the properties of physical theory, and ultimately "secondaryquality eliminativism"- the view that the secondary qualities are physically uninstantiated.
In this paper, I argue that Book II, Chapter viii of Locke' Essay is a unified, self-consistent whole, and that the appearance of inconsistency is due largely to anachronistic misreadings and misunderstandings. The key to the distinction between primary and secondary qualities is that the former are, while the latter are not, real properties, i.e., properties that exist in bodies independently of being perceived. Once the distinction is properly understood, it becomes clear that Locke's arguments for it are simple, (...) valid and (in one case) persuasive as well. (shrink)
This book investigates the subjective and objective representations of the world, developing analogies between secondary qualities and indexical thoughts and arguing that subjective representations are ineliminable. Throughout, McGinn brings together historical and contemporary discussions to illuminate old problems in a novel way.
The aim of this article is to give an account of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities in a way which allows the distinction a useful place in an explanation of scientific enquiry. this is done by modifying certain of locke's criteria for primacy, and by showing that this procedure has certain advantages over keith campbell's account of the distinction. in particular, i argue that primary qualities cannot be specified in a theory-neutral way, and that this has important (...) consequences for an account of scientific observation and the relation between the scientific and everyday images of the world. (shrink)
Locke denied that ideas of secondary qualities resemble their causes. It has been suggested that Locke denied this because he accepted a mechanical corpuscular hypothesis about the constitution of objects. This paper shows that this and other usual explanations of Locke's denial are mistaken. Further, it suggests an alternative relationship between the scientific account and Locke's philosophical views, and finally it provides Locke's real justification for his claim that ideas of secondary qualities do not resemble their causes.
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. (shrink)
It seems almost a truism to say that colour is a sensation; and yet Young, by honestly recognizing this elementary truth, established the first consistent theory of colour. So far as I know, Thomas Young was the first who, starting from the well-known fact that there are three primary colours, sought for the explanation of this fact, not in the nature of light, but in the constitution of man. (James Clerk Maxwell, p. 267.)It is doubtless scientific to disregard certain aspects (...) when we work; but to urge that therefore such aspects are not fact, and that what we use without them is an independent real thing-this is barbarous metaphysics. (F. H. Bradley, p. 15.). (shrink)
'color is not "in" objects" makes sense only if 'color "is" in objects' does. But it does not, Because we cannot say what it "would be like" if it "were". 'being green' means 'that which looks green' understood "attributively", Not referentially, I.E., 'that which looks green ("whatever that is")', Not 'that which emits certain light-Waves'. "contra" kripke, Heat is 'that which feels hot ("whatever that is")', Though the only thing whose "existence" it requires is molecular motion. If we ask what (...) it would be like to see 'objects themselves', We get incoherence; hence the dichotomy between this and seeing 'ideas' is also meaningless. (shrink)
In this paper we defend the view that the ordinary notions of cause and effect have a direct and essential connection with our ability to intervene in the world as agents.1 This is a well known but rather unpopular philosophical approach to causation, often called the manipulability theory. In the interests of brevity and accuracy, we prefer to call it the agency theory.2 Thus the central thesis of an agency account of causation is something like this: an event A is (...) a cause of a distinct event B just in case bringing about the occurrence of A would be an effective means by which a free agent could bring about the occurrence of B. (shrink)
In this paper we defend the view that the ordinary notions of cause and effect have a direct and essential connection with our ability to intervene in the world as agents.1 This is a well known but rather unpopular philosophical approach to causation, often called the manipulability theory. In the interests of brevity and accuracy, we prefer to call it the agency theory.2 Thus the central thesis of an agency account of causation is something like this: an event A is (...) a cause of a distinct event B just in case bringing about the occurrence of A would be an effective means by which a free agent could bring about the occurrence of B. In our view the unpopularity of the agency approach to causation may be traced to two factors. The first is a failure to appreciate certain distinctive advantages that this approach has over its various rivals. We have drawn attention to some of these advantages elsewhere, and we summarize below. However, the second and more important factor is the influence of a number of stock objections, objections that seem to have persuaded many philosophers that agency accounts face insuperable obstacles. In this paper we want to show that these objections have been vastly overrated. There are four main objections. (shrink)
How are we to define red? We seem to face a dilemma. For it seems that we must define red in terms of looks red. But looks red is semantically complex. We must therefore define looks red in terms of red. Can we avoid this dilemma? Christopher Peacocke thinks we can. He claims that we can define the concept of being red in terms of the concept of being red; the concept of a sensational property of visual experience. Peacocke agrees (...) that his definition of red makes use of a concept that those who possess the concept of being red need not possess; namely, red. But he thinks that this does not matter. For, he says, the definition is justified provided we can specify what it is to possess the concept of being red in terms of the concept of being red. What he tries to show is that this might be so even if no-one could possess the concept of being red unless he possessed the concept of being red. Peacocke has two attempts at showing this. However, both these attempts fail. What Peacocke does show is something weaker. He shows that, using red, we can construct a concept that gives what he calls the constitutive role of the concept of being red; but, importantly, that it gives the constitutive role of red does not suffice for what Peacocke says is required for giving a definition. Thus, if we accept Peacocke's standard for definition, it follows that he gives us no way of avoiding the original dilemma. If this is right then perhaps we should join with those like Colin McGinn who think that we should give up our attempts to define our secondaryquality concepts. (shrink)
The first half of this review article on Locke on primary and secondary qualities leads up to a fairly straightforward reading of what Locke says about the distinction in Essay II.viii, one that, in its general outlines, represents a sympathetic understanding of Locke’s discussion. The second half of the paper turns to consider a few of the ways in which interpreting Locke on primary and secondary qualities has proven more complicated. Here we take up what is sometimes called (...) the Berkeleyan interpretation of Locke (section 6), the understanding of Locke’s resemblance thesis (section 7), and Locke’s views of qualities and their relationship to powers (section 8). (shrink)
Locke’s argument for the primary-secondaryquality distinction is compared with Descartes’s argument (in the Principles of Philosophy) for the distinction between mechanical modifications and sensible qualities. I argue that following Descartes, Locke’s argument for the primary-secondaryquality distinction is an essentially a priori argument, based on our conception of substance, and the constraints on intelligible bodily interaction that this conception of substance sets.
The Dangerous Book for Boys Abstract: Seventeenth and eighteenth century discussions of the senses are often thought to contain a profound truth: some perceptible properties are secondary qualities, dispositions to produce certain sorts of experiences in perceivers. In particular, colors are secondary qualities: for example, an object is green iff it is disposed to look green to standard perceivers in standard conditions. After rebutting Boghossian and Velleman’s argument that a certain kind of secondaryquality theory is (...) viciously circular, we discuss three main lines of argument for the secondaryquality theory. The first is inspired by an intuitively compelling picture of perception articulated by Reid; the second is that the secondaryquality theory is a conceptual truth; the third line of argument is presented in Johnston’s influential paper ‘How to speak of the colors’. We conclude that all these arguments fail, and that the secondaryquality theory is unmotivated. Keywords: color, secondaryquality, disposition, vision, perception.. (shrink)
Response-dispositional accounts of value defend a biconditional in which the possession of an evaluative property is said to covary with the disposition to cause a certain response. In contrast, a fitting-attitude account of the same property would claim that it is such as to merit or make fitting that same response. This paper argues that even for secondary qualities, response-dispositional accounts are inadequate; we need to import a normative notion such as appropriateness even into accounts of such descriptive properties (...) as redness. A preliminary conclusion is that the normativity that appears in fitting-attitude accounts of evaluative properties need not have anything to do with the evaluative nature of those properties. It may appear there because evaluative properties—or at least thosefor which fitting-attitude accounts are plausible—really are so much like secondary qualities that it might well be appropriate to think of them as a subclass of secondary qualities. In the second half of the paper I discuss the views of three of the philosophers who have been most influential in discussions of response-featuring accounts of evaluative notions and who explicitly distinguish response-dispositional accounts of value from fittingattitude accounts: John McDowell, Simon Blackburn, and Crispin Wright. I highlight some of the theoretical temptations that can be associated with the assumption that the response-dispositional/fitting-attitude distinction parallels the secondaryquality/evaluative property distinction. (shrink)
Although the importance, both historically and systematically, of the seventeenth century distinction between primary and secondary qualities is commonly recognised, there is no consensus on its exact nature. Apparently, one of the main difficulties in its interpretation is to tell the constitutive from the argumentative elements. In this paper, we focus on the primary-secondaryquality distinctions drawn by Boyle and Locke. We criticise, more specifically, MacIntoshs analysis of them. On the one hand, MacIntosh attributes too many different (...) primary-secondaryquality distinctions to Boyle and Locke. On the other hand, he forbears to attribute a particular primary-secondaryquality distinction to them, which, at least in the case of Boyle, differs genuinely from his main distinction between the mechanical affections of matter and all of matters other qualities. (shrink)