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Primary and Secondary QualitiesThe Historical and Ongoing Debate$
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Lawrence Nolan

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199556151

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556151.001.0001

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Are Colors Secondary Qualities? *

Are Colors Secondary Qualities? *

Chapter:
(p.339) 13 Are Colors Secondary Qualities?*
Source:
Primary and Secondary Qualities
Author(s):

Alex Byrne (Contributor Webpage)

David R. Hilbert

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556151.003.0014

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 if, and only if, 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’. This chapter concludes that all these arguments fail, and that the secondary quality theory is unmotivated.

Keywords:   color, secondary qualities, dispositions, vision, perception, Reid, Natural Sign Theory

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