Similarities Between Primary And Secondary Qualities

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Qualities are defined by M.R Ayers as ‘aspects of things, marked off from one another only by the different ways we have of perceiving things’ (Ayers 1997, p. 12). In distinguishing between these qualities, primary and secondary, John Locke was following an already well-established tradition adopted by other 17th century philosophers, including Descartes, Newton and Boyle. This essay will see to depict this distinction between primary and secondary qualities from Locke, highlight the use of logical validity and empiricism to support Locke’s claims and highlight the flaws in the criticisms from Berkeley in order to reason that Locke is in fact right to distinguish between these primary and secondary qualities. This essay will begin by…show more content…
‘Solid bodies are impenetrable’, it is implied, is an axiom linking an actual, intrinsic property (comparable in status to shape) to a causal property or power. E.J Lowe and Mackie also advance on Locke’s analysis of primary qualities, Lowe claims primary qualities are inseparable, ‘intrinsic and non-relational’ (Lowe 2003: 48) of the body, while Mackie thinks primary qualities can be specified into; solidity, extension, figure, motion, or rest, and number’ (Mackie 2003, p. 10). Secondary qualities are ‘Powers to produce various Sensations in us’ (2.8.10) but they are ‘nothing but such powers’, examples of this include colour, smell and taste. Although we are inclined to think that the colour red, for example, is a surface property of an object, or a stuff, spread thinly over the object. This idea complements that of naïve realism: not so much a theory of perception as an absence of a theory – it involves a tacit assumption that the perceived qualities of physical objects are in the objects just in the way they appear to be, so that there is, in effect, no ‘gap’ between appearance and reality. Thus, Locke repudiates naïve realism and the pre-reflective notion that a colour property like redness is ‘on’ the surface of an object just in the way it appears to be. Locke does not consider that anyone who has not enjoyed the experience of redness can really understand the word ‘red’ at all, as he makes vivid with his example of
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