This chapter revisits three key disagreements between Locke and Berkeley. The disagreements relate to abstraction, the idea of substance, and the status of the primary/secondary quality distinction. The goal of the chapter is to show that these disagreements are rooted in a more fundamental disagreement over the nature of ideas. For Berkeley, ideas are tied very closely to perceptual content. Locke adopts a less restrictive account of the nature of ideas. On his view, ideas are responsible for both perceptual content (...) and non-perceptual mental content. Recognizing this allows for the following analysis of their disputes. Berkeley often appeals to introspection to suggest that we do not have some particular idea. But Locke’s arguments that we have a particular idea often appeal to the functional role the idea has in our cognitive economy rather than to facts about our immediate phenomenology. (shrink)
Commentators have rightly focused on the reasons why Hume maintains that the conclusions of skeptical arguments cannot be believed, as well as on the role these arguments play in Hume’s justification of his account of the mind. Nevertheless, Hume’s interpreters should take more seriously the question of whether Hume holds that these arguments are demonstrations. Only if the arguments are demonstrations do they have the requisite status to prove Hume’s point—and justify his confidence—about the nature of the mind’s belief-generating faculties. (...) In this paper, I treat Hume’s argument against the primary/secondary quality distinction as my case study, and I argue that it is intended by Hume to be a demonstration of a special variety. (shrink)
In this paper, I will argue that Locke is a substance dualist in the general sense, in that he holds that there are, independent of our classificatory schema, two distinct kinds of substances: wholly material ones and wholly immaterial ones. On Locke’s view, the difference between the two lies in whether they are solid or not, thereby differentiating him from Descartes. My way of establishing Locke as a general substance dualist is to be as minimally committal as possible at the (...) outset, especially with respect to the classic debates on Locke’s positions in this domain, including those concerning substrata, real essences, and the like. Nonetheless, I show that minimal commitments about Locke’s primary/secondary quality distinction are sufficient to derive some substantive conclusions about his positions on these issues, as well as that he is a general substance dualist. (shrink)
Locke establishes the primary-secondary quality distinction in two steps. First, he identifies the primary qualities by means of a separability argument that involves transdictive inference about the properties of the minute, imperceptible parts of matter. Second, he identifies the secondary qualities by means of a dispensability argument that relies on the principle that bodies normally act by ‘impulse.’ I suggest this principle is also justified through transdictive inference. This allows us to see Locke’s claims about primary and secondary qualities as (...) unified, fallibilist and rooted in empiricism and the methodology of Newtonian science. (shrink)
In this paper I will defend the view that, according to Locke, secondary qualities are dispositions to produce sensations in us. Although this view is widely attributed to Locke, this interpretation needs defending for two reasons. First, commentators often assume that secondary qualities are dispositional properties because Locke calls them “powers” to produce sensations. However, primary qualities are also powers, so the powers locution is insufficient grounds for justifying the dispositionalist interpretation. Second, if secondary qualities are dispositional properties then objects (...) would retain secondary qualities while not being observed, but Locke says that colors “vanish” in the dark. Some commentators use this as evidence that Locke rejects the dispositionalist view of secondary qualities, and even those that are sympathetic to the traditional interpretation find these comments to be problematic. By contrast, I argue that even in these supposedly damning passages Locke shows an unwavering commitment to the view that the powers to produce sensations in us, i.e., the secondary qualities, remain in objects even when they are not being perceived. Thus the arguments against the traditional interpretation are unpersuasive, and we should conclude that Locke does indeed hold that secondary qualities are dispositions to cause sensations in us. (shrink)
In this paper I analyze the virtual debate between Locke and Leibniz on solidity as proposed in Leibniz’s chapter on solidity in his New Essays on Human Understanding. I first track the oddities of the dialogue presented in the New Essays’ chapter on solidity. In this virtual dialogue, Leibniz’s representative often digresses and sometimes overlooks or misrepresents some of Locke’s most important insights. I then argue that these oddities reflect Leibniz’s sentiment that a productive controversy on this issue cannot be (...) conducted due to his substantial differences with Locke regarding solidity and the nature of matter. These differences are at most indirectly implied in passing in Leibniz’s chapter on solidity and to see them one has to consider other texts presenting Leibniz’s theory of matter. (shrink)
Michael Jacovides provides an engaging account of how the scientific revolution influenced one of the foremost figures of early modern philosophy, John Locke. By placing Locke's thought in its scientific, religious, and anti-scholastic contexts, Jacovides explains not only what Locke believes but also why he believes it.
This paper offers an epistemic defense of empathy, drawing on John Locke's theory of ideas. Locke held that ideas of shape, unlike ideas of color, had a distinctive value: resembling qualities in their objects. I argue that the same is true of empathy, as when someone is pained by someone's pain. This means that empathy has the same epistemic value or objectivity that Locke and other early modern philosophers assigned to veridical perceptions of shape. For this to hold, pain and (...) pleasure must be a primary quality of the mind, just as shape is a primary quality of bodies. Though Locke did not make that claim, I argue that pain and pleasure satisfy his criteria for primary qualities. I consider several objections to the analogy between empathy and shape-perception and show how Locke's theory has resources for answering them. In addition, the claim that empathetic ideas are object-matching sidesteps Berkeley's influential objection to Locke's theory of resemblance. I conclude by briefly considering the prospects for a similar defense of empathy in contemporary terms. (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, the understanding of Locke’s resemblance thesis, and Locke’s views of qualities and their relationship to powers. (shrink)
Tertiary qualities have been studied primarily by Gestalt psychologists. My aim in this article is to revisit the theoretical assumptions regarding tertiary qualities. I start from the Galilean distinction of the qualities of experience, the Lockean subdivision of qualities, the subjectivist definition in aesthetics and the theoretical contribution of Gestalt theory, to show the theoretical value of ‘tertiary qualities’ in the current context of experimental psychological research. I conclude that tertiary qualities are a crucial keyword for an experimental psychology based (...) on the primacy of perception. Such a perspective is in favour of a neo-Gestalt Experimental Phenomenology. (shrink)
Hume is widely read as committed to a kind of anti-realism about secondary qualities, on which secondary qualities are less real than primary qualities. I argue that Hume is not an anti-realist about secondary qualities as such, and I explain why Hume’s remarks on the primary-secondary distinction are better read as abstaining from the realist/anti-realist debate as it was understood by modern philosophers such as Locke. By contextualizing Hume’s discussion of the primary-secondary distinction in Treatise 1.4.4 as a response to (...) a broadly Lockean understanding of the distinction, my analysis retrieves Hume’s critique of the resemblance and inseparability theses that structure Locke’s version of the distinction and establishes that Hume has epistemic reasons to reject Locke’s metaphysical conclusions about the distinction. (shrink)
Matthew Stuart offers a fresh interpretation of John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, arguing for the work's profound contribution to metaphysics. He presents new readings of Locke's accounts of personal identity and the primary/secondary quality distinction, and explores Locke's case against materialism and his philosophy of action.
Ideas play at least two roles in Locke's theory of the understanding. They are constituents of ‘propositions,’ and some of them ‘represent’ the qualities and sorts of surrounding bodies. I argue that each role involves a distinct kind of intentional directedness. The same idea will in general be an ‘idea of’ two different objects, in different senses of the expression. Identifying Locke's scheme of twofold ‘ofness’ reveals a common structure to his accounts of simple ideas and complex ideas of substances. (...) A consequence is a distinction among substance sorts parallel to one of his distinctions between primary and secondary qualities. (shrink)
In this paper I shall focus attention on a principle which lies at the heart of Locke's distinction between primary and secondary qualities. 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 secondary qualities. 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)
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.
This paper argues that an important feature of Locke's doctrine concerning primary and secondary qualities is also central to Hume's thinking. Section one considers Locke's distinction, presenting it in terms of an "error theory." Locke argues that we attribute secondary qualities to objects and that in so doing give those qualities an ontological status they do not otherwise possess. Locke completes his theory by drawing on the concept of "resemblance" to explain why such mistakes occur in the first place. Section (...) two turns to Hume's philosophy, arguing that, despite his ambiguous comments on Locke and "the modern philosophy," he employs an error theory of the sort developed by Locke. This contention is supported by way of Hume's treatment of beauty as a secondary quality or sentiment which arises in an individual who judges an object beautiful. The paper concludes by emphasizing that, for Hume, this philosophical explanation of beauty stands in contrast to the error committed in common life where, as in Locke's account, people make the mistake of taking beauty to be in the object itself. (shrink)
It seems a compelling idea that experience of colour plays some role in our having concepts of the various colours, but in trying to explain the role experience plays the first thing we have to describe is what sort of colour experience matters here. I will argue that the kind of experience that matters is conscious attention to the colours of objects as an aspect of them on which direct intervention is selectively possible. As I will explain this idea, it (...) is a matter of being able to use experience to inform linguistic or conceptual thought about what would happen were there to be various interventions on an object. Against this background, I will review Locke’s fundamental argument that since we can change the colour of an almond by pounding it, there must be an error embodied in our ordinary concepts of colour: there is no such thing as intervening directly on the colour of an object. The analysis I present brings out the force of Locke’s argument. But I will propose a vindication of our commonsense conception of colour as an aspect of objects on which direct intervention is selectively possible. (shrink)
Primary quality theories of color claim that colors are intrinsic, objective, mind-independent properties of external objects — that colors, like size and shape, are examples of the sort of properties moderns such as Boyle and Locke called primary qualities of body.1 Primary quality theories have long been seen as one of the main philosophical options for understanding the nature of color.
What sort of property did Locke take colors to be? He is sometimes portrayed as holding that colors are wholly subjective. More often he is thought to identify colors with dispositions—powers that bodies have to produce certain ideas in us. Many interpreters find two or more incompatible strands in his account of color, and so are led to distinguish an “official,” prevailing view from the conflicting remarks into which he occasionally lapses. Many who see him as officially holding that colors (...) are dispositions concede that some of his remarks imply that colors are in us rather than in objects. After raising some difficulties for these readings, I offer an alternative. I will argue that Locke takes colors to be relational, but not dispositional, properties of the objects around us. On his view, an object is red if and only if it is actually causing a certain sensation in some observer. (shrink)
The dissertation contains eight chapters in which I provide an interpretation of the resemblance theses and the primary-secondary quality distinction in John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. ;In chapters one through four, I analyze John Locke's famous claims that ideas of primary qualities resemble primary qualities, but that ideas of secondary qualities fail to resemble secondary qualities. There are two dominant traditions of interpretation of these resemblance theses. The first tradition claims that Locke draws this distinction from introspective awareness (...) of the representational character of ideas of sense. The other tradition claims that Locke conceives of these resemblance claims as pure entailments of an anterior theory of material substance to which he wholeheartedly subscribes. I argue that both of these traditions misfire on the interpretation of the resemblance theses. Instead, Locke's use of resemblance is situated in a tightly circumscribed debate with the Scholastic-Aristotelians on the nature of perception and body. This provides a way of understanding Locke that does not punish him with vulnerabilities that beset the traditional ways of looking at his resemblance theses. ;In chapters five through eight, I analyze John Locke's distinction between primary and secondary qualities. I investigate the work of Robert Boyle and trace the possible contours of his influence on Locke. In Boyle's scientific writings, the so-called mechanical affections or primary modes of matter are the ancestors to Locke's primary qualities of body, and the non-mechanical powers or sensible qualities are the ancestors to Locke's secondary qualities. In Boyle, it is hard to know exactly what the ontological relationship is between mechanical affections and powers. One thing, however, is clear. Identity cannot be the relation. In Locke, however, I argue that there is good reason to deny that primary and secondary qualities of body are ontological distinct. They are conceptually distinct, but there is good reason to believe that Locke takes them to be ontologically identical in body. The burden of this portion of the dissertation is to offer both textual and philosophical reasons for motivating this interpretation of Locke. (shrink)
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)
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-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)
Locke’s porphyry argument at 2.8.19 of the Essay has not been properly appreciated. On my reconstruction, Locke argues from the premise that porphyry undergoes a mere Cambridge change of color in different lighting conditions to the conclusion that porphyry’s colors do not belong to it as it is in itself. I argue that his argument is not quite sound, but it would be if Locke chose a different stone, alexandrite. Examining his argument teaches us something about the relation between explanatory (...) qualities and real alterations and something about the ways that colors inhere in bodies. (shrink)
Locke asserts that “the Ideas of primary Qualities of Bodies, are Resemblances of them, and their Patterns do really exist in the Bodies themselves; But the Ideas, produced in us by these Secondary Qualities, have no resemblance of them at all.”1 On an unsophisticated way of taking his words, he means that ideas of primary qualities are like the qualities they represent and ideas of secondary qualities are unlike the qualities they represent.2 I will show that if we take his (...) assertions in this unsophisticated way, our reward will be a straightforward and satisfying interpretation of the central arguments of his chapter on primary and secondary qualities. With these arguments, Locke attempts to justify his assertions about resemblance. Some may be skeptical, thinking that the assertions, interpreted literally, are either too absurd or too obvious to have reasons supporting them. I take this skepticism to rest on deep foundations of charity, so half of the paper will be devoted to undermining these foundations by giving a sympathetic and historical exposition of Locke’s positive thesis that primary qualities resemble the ideas that represent them. I criticize rival interpretations of Lockean resemblance, say what it means to believe that ideas resemble qualities, explain the plausibility of the belief in Locke’s environment, and examine his descriptions of how ideas resemble particular primary qualities. Once I establish that we should take Locke’s resemblance theses literally, I can describe their place in his theory of representation. After that, I can describe his reasons for believing the resemblance theses. I will conclude by showing how Locke’s belief that ideas of secondary qualities do not resemble anything in bodies leads him to conclude that secondary qualities are merely powers to produce ideas. Let me begin near the end, however. Before defending a literal interpretation of the resemblance theses, I want to criticize three rival interpretations.. (shrink)
This new volume in the successful Oxford Readings in Philosophy series presents a selection of the best recent articles on the main topics in Locke's philosophy. These include: innate ideas, ideas and perception, primary and secondary qualities, free will, substance, personal identity, language, essence, knowledge, and belief. The authors include some of the world's leading Locke scholars, and their essays exemplify the best - and most accessible - recent scholarship on Locke, making the volume essential for students and specialists.
The prominent place of corpuscularian mechanism in Locke's Essay is nowadays universally acknowledged. Certainly, Locke's discussions of the primary/secondary quality distinction and of real essences cannot be understood without reference to the corpuscularian science of his day, which held that all macroscopic bodily phenomena should be explained in terms of the motions and impacts of submicroscopic particles, or corpuscles, each of which can be fully characterized in terms of a strictly limited range of properties: size, shape, motion, and, perhaps, solidity (...) or impenetrability. Indeed, Locke's lists of primary qualities are quite consistent with those found in the work of his friend Robert Boyle, a prominent defender of the corpuscularian program; his real essences of substances appear to be corpuscular constitutions, arrangements of particles. (shrink)