The first half of this review article on Locke on primary and secondaryqualities 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 secondaryqualities 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)
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 secondaryqualities 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 secondaryqualities 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.
Sensibility theorists such as John McDowell have argued that once we appreciate certain similarities between moral values and secondaryqualities, 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 secondaryqualities 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 secondaryqualities 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. (shrink)
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 secondaryqualities, dispositions to produce certain sorts of experiences in perceivers. In particular, colors are secondaryqualities: 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 secondary quality theory (...) is viciously circular, we discuss three main lines of argument for the secondary quality theory. The first is inspired by an intuitively compelling picture of perception articulated by Reid; the second is that the secondary quality 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 secondary quality theory is unmotivated. Keywords: color, secondary quality, disposition, vision, perception.. (shrink)
In this paper I shall focus attention on a principle which lies at the heart of Locke's distinction between primary and secondaryqualities. It is to be found explicitly or implicitly stated at many places in the Essay , but its clearest expression is at E.II.viii.11, where Locke writes that ' Impulse [is] the only way which we can conceive Bodies operate in'. Let us call it 'the impulse principle'. The first task is to describe what exactly the (...) term impulse means here and to what the principle amounts. Next, I shall consider the kind of role the principle plays in the Essay and whether Locke changed his mind about it in the fourth edition. Then, in the main part of the paper, I shall try to show how the impulse principle helps make possible Locke's distinction between primary and secondaryqualities. In the course of my discussion I shall refer to some of Locke's pre- Essay writings: the Epitome, the Abr g , his review of Newton's Principia and Draft C.1 It is a subsidiary aim of the paper to show how these writings - particularly the Abr g which ran to over ninety pages of the Biblioth que universelle and was published in 1688 - can be of help in disentangling the main line of argument in Locke's Essay. (shrink)
McDowell, responding to Mackie’s argument from queerness, defended realism about values by analogy to secondaryqualities. A certain tension between two interpretations of McDowell’s response is highlighted. According to one, realism about values would indeed be vindicated, but at the cost of failing to provide an appropriate response to Mackie’s argument; whereas according to the other, McDowell does provide an adequate response, but evaluative realism is jeopardized.
The paper presents a novel account of nature and genesis of some philosophical problems, which vindicates a new approach to an arguably central and extensive class of such problems: The paper develops the Wittgensteinian notion of ‘philosophical pictures’ with the help of some notions adapted from metaphor research in cognitive linguistics and from work on unintentional analogical reasoning in cognitive psychology. The paper shows that adherence to such pictures systematically leads to the formulation of unwarranted claims, ill-motivated problems, and pointless (...) theories. To do so, the paper proceeds from a case-study on a lastingly influential development in early modern philosophy: the adoption of the doctrine of secondaryqualities, and its principal consequences. The findings motivate a new approach to an arguably extensive and important class of philosophical problems: to the problems we raise in the grip of philosophical pictures. (shrink)
No philosophical intuition has a longer history than that which divides sensible qualities into two kinds, primary and secondary. Something like it appears in Democritus, nearly 2500 years ago, and has been continuously maintained in some form or another ever since then. Philosophers today largely continue to think that there is something right about the distinction, even while it remains notoriously difficult to find agreement on just where its ultimate basis lies. As Mark Johnston (1992) puts it, the (...) primary–secondary distinction has “the dubious distinction of being better understood in extension rather than intension. Most of us can generate two lists under the two headings, but the principles by which the lists are generated are controversial, even obscure” (229). I hope to shed some light on this obscure question. My thesis, in brief, is that the secondaryqualities are those qualities of objects that bear a certain relation to our sensory powers: roughly, they are those qualities that we can readily detect only through a certain distinctive phenomenal experience. Contrary to what is sometimes supposed, there is nothing about the world itself (independent of our minds) that determines the distinction between primary and secondaryqualities. Instead, a theory of the secondaryqualities must be grounded in facts about how we conceive of these qualities, and ultimately in facts about human perception. (shrink)
QUESTIONS Objects seem to have some properties in themselves (like shape), and some other properties that depend on other things around them (like being alone or accompanied). The distinction between primary and secondaryqualities is a special case of this more general contrast: what, according to Locke, is the basis for the distinction? Is there more than one way to understand Locke’s argument: what is the best reading of Locke? What wider signiﬁcance does the distinction between primary and (...)secondaryqualities have? (shrink)
Democritus is generally understood to have anticipated the seventeenthcentury distinction between primary and secondaryqualities. I argue that this is not the case, and that instead for Democritus all sensible qualities are conventional.
Several philosophers have argued that "temporal becoming" is mind-dependent, a claim they see as analogous to the traditional one about the mind-dependence of secondaryqualities. They have tended to assume that the classical secondaryqualities are mind-dependent, and also that the close analogue for time of directly experienced secondaryqualities is an irreducibly indexical nowness. In an earlier article it was argued that we should reject the second assumption. Here it is shown why there (...) is indeed a genuine problem of the ontological status of directly experienced temporality and spatiality, a problem analogous to the traditional one about secondaryqualities. (shrink)
Although the importance, both historically and systematically, of the seventeenth century distinction between primary and secondaryqualities 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-secondary quality distinctions drawn by Boyle and Locke. We criticise, more specifically, MacIntoshs analysis of them. On the one hand, MacIntosh attributes too many different (...) primary-secondary quality distinctions to Boyle and Locke. On the other hand, he forbears to attribute a particular primary-secondary quality 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)
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 secondaryqualities, 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 secondaryqualities that it might well be appropriate to think of them as a subclass of secondaryqualities. 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 secondary quality/evaluative property distinction. (shrink)
Arguably one of the most fundamental phase shifts that occurred in the intellectual history of Western culture involved the ontological reduction of secondaryqualities to primary qualities. To say the least, this reduction worked to undermine the foundations undergirding Aristotelian thought in support of a scientific view of the world based strictly on an examination of the real—primary— qualities of things. In this essay, I identify the so-called “Causal Argument” for a reductive view of secondary (...)qualities and seek to deflect this challenge by deriving some plausible consequences that support a non-reductive view of secondaryqualities from an Aristotelian view (via the philosophical commentary of Thomas Aquinas). Specifically, my argument has two facets. First, I show that Aristotle’s view both implies recognition of the extramental existence of secondaryqualities and is a prima facia natural view to take regarding the ontology of secondaryqualities. Second, I show that the Causal Argument, which is thought to undermine a natural view of secondaryqualities as real things, loses its bite when one examines perception in light the ontological relationship among the categories of quality, quantity and substance. (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)
Locke’s argument for the primary-secondary quality 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-secondary quality 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.
Introduction in chapter viii of book ii of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke provides various putative lists of primary qualities. Insofar as they have considered the variation across Locke's lists at all, commentators have usually been content simply either to consider a self-consciously abbreviated list (e.g., "Size, Shape, etc.") or a composite list as the list of Lockean primary qualities, truncating such a composite list only by omitting supposedly co-referential terms. Doing the latter with minimal judgment (...) about what terms are co-referential gives us the following list of eleven qualities (in the order in which they appear in this chapter of the Essay): solidity, extension, figure, mobility, motion or rest, number, bulk, texture, motion, size, and situation. Perhaps surprisingly given the attention to the primary/secondary distinction since Locke, Locke's primary qualities themselves have received little more than passing mention in the bulk of the subsequent literature. In particular, no discussion both offers an interpretation of Locke's conception of primary qualities and makes sense of Locke's various lists as lists of primary qualities. A central motivation for this paper is the idea that these two tasks are not independent. (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 secondaryqualities to the properties of physical theory, and ultimately.
Reid offers an under-appreciated account of the primary/secondary quality 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. Secondaryqualities, 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)
Secondary and tertiary qualities are plausibly explained along dispositionalist lines. Concepts of such qualities are response-dependent, denoting properties that are partly mind/brain-dependent. Unfortunately, dispositionalism is hard to square with extant versions of naturalistic theories of representation. In particular the standard naturalistic (indicational) semantics of representational content cannot handle the question from either the subjectivist or the dispositional viewpoint. The paper proposes a remedy: the problem can be solved in a smooth and natural way, provided that we revise (...) and supplement the standard semantics in a rather obvious fashion, by allowing the mind/brain-involving properties to figure within it. (shrink)
Colors aren't as real as shapes. Shapes are full?fledged qualities of things in themselves, independent of how they're perceived and by whom. Colors aren't. Colors are merely qualities of things as they are for us, and the colors of things depend on who is perceiving them. When we take the fully objective view of the world, things keep their shapes, but the colors fall away, revealed as the mere artifacts of our own subjective, parochial perspective on the world (...) that they are. (shrink)
For Locke, an idea is ‘the immediate object of perception, thought, or understanding’ (§8).1 Perhaps this is something like a concept: he goes on to give examples of white, cold, and round, which look like they have some representational content. What do these ideas represent? Locke defines a quality: ‘the power to produce any idea in our mind, I call quality of the subject wherein that power is’ (§8). The natural thought is that these ideas represent some quality of the (...) object, which quality just is the power that the object has to produce that idea in us. Though the idea is in us, the power or quality is clearly in the object. Sometimes, it is true, we speak loosely and refer to the quality of the object by the same name that we use to refer to the idea in us, and talk of white being in the object, for example. Locke cautions that when we speak like this, we should ‘be understood to mean those qualities in the objects which produce them [the ideas] in us’ (§8). (shrink)
In philosophical discussions of the secondaryqualities, color has taken center stage. Smells, tastes, sounds, and feels have been treated, by and large, as mere accessories to colors. We are, as it is said, visual creatures. This, at least, has been the working assumption in the philosophy of perception and in those metaphysical discussions about the nature of the secondaryqualities. The result has been a scarcity of work on the “other” secondaryqualities. In (...) this paper, I take smells and place them front and center. I ask: What are smells? For many philosophers, the view that colors can be explained in purely physicalistic terms has seemed very appealing. In the case of smells, this kind of nonrelational view has seemed much less appealing. Philosophers have been drawn to versions of relationalism—the view that the nature of smells must be explained (at least in part) in terms of the effects they have on perceivers. In this paper, I consider a contemporary argument for this view. I argue that nonrelationalist views of smell have little to fear from this argument. (shrink)
Philosophical Delusion and its Therapy provides new foundations and methods for the revolutionary project of philosophical therapy pioneered by Ludwig Wittgenstein. The book vindicates this currently much-discussed project by reconstructing the genesis of important philosophical problems: With the help of concepts adapted from cognitive linguistics and cognitive psychology, the book analyses how philosophical reflection is shaped by pictures and metaphors we are not aware of employing and are prone to misapply. Through innovative case-studies on the genesis of classical problems about (...) the mind and perception, and on thinkers including Locke, Berkeley and Ayer, the book demonstrates how such autonomous habits of thought systematically generate unsound intuitions and philosophical delusions, whose clash with reality, or among each other, gives rise to ill-motivated but maddening problems. The book re-examines models of therapeutic philosophy, due to Wittgenstein and J. L. Austin, and develops an approach that may let us overcome philosophical delusions and the problems they engender. In this way, the book explains where and why therapy in called for in philosophy, and develops techniques to carry it out. Introduction : some perplexing discoveries -- Philosophical pictures : the birth of "the mind" -- Through pictures to problems : minds and bodies -- Pictures' effects : from "secondaryqualities" to "perceptions" -- The power of pictures : Berkeley's approach -- Self-perpetuating absurdity : Berkeley defends "perceptions" -- Philosophical delusions : Ayer reinvents "perceptions" -- Two turns : a new vision of philosophy -- Linguistic analysis as therapy : Austin on "perceptions" -- Self-reflection as therapy : Wittgenstein on understanding. (shrink)
In this paper I will argue that Crispin Wright’s defence of the claim that the truth about intention is judgement-dependent is unstable because it can serve also to establish that the truth about shape is judgement-dependent, thereby violating his constraint that in developing the distinction between judgement-independent and judgement-dependent subject matters we have to be driven by the assumption that colour and shape will fall on different sides of the divide.