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Essays on the Philosophy and Science of René Descartes$
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Stephen Voss

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780195075519

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195075519.001.0001

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Descartes on the Perception of Primary Qualities

Descartes on the Perception of Primary Qualities

(p.162) 12 Descartes on the Perception of Primary Qualities
Essays on the Philosophy and Science of René Descartes

Margaret D. Wilson

Oxford University Press

This chapter explains Descartes confusion on sensations, size, shape, position, and motion. Descartes in detail explains that we perceive particular figures or actual bodies affecting our senses much more distinctly than their colours. Descartes construe the perception of position, distance, size, and shape as involving strong intellectual elements and he holds that they differ in this fundamental respect from ordinary perceptions of color, sound, heat and cold, taste, and the like, which are said to consist just in having “sensations” that “arise from the mind-body union.” This position leaves room for uncertainty about what he means when he speaks elsewhere of the near-uselessness of sense perceptions in informing us of particular qualities of bodies, in so far as it opens the possibility of a quite restricted understanding of “sense perception” in these contexts.

Keywords:   sensations, senses, perception, Dioptrics, mind–body union, size, shape, position, motion

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