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Berkeley's IdealismA Critical Examination$
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Georges Dicker

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195381467

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195381467.001.0001

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The Theory of Primary and Secondary Qualities

The Theory of Primary and Secondary Qualities

(p.9) 1 The Theory of Primary and Secondary Qualities
Berkeley's Idealism

Georges Dicker

Oxford University Press

A key part of the world-view that Berkeley tried to overturn is the theory of primary and secondary qualities, and the classic exposition of this theory is in Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding. This chapter attempts to extract from Locke's ambiguous exposition what the author regards as the strongest version of the theory, so as to see later how it stands up against Berkeley's attack on the theory. Although Locke never wavers from his definition of secondary qualities as powers in objects to produce sensations of color, taste, smells, sound, and temperature, he oscillates inconsistently between equating colors etc. with secondary qualities and equating them with the sensations or ideas produced by those qualities. The chapter explores the reasons for this oscillation and proposes a modernized version of Locke's theory that uses a two-term theory of perception and that distinguishes between the dispositional and the manifest aspect of secondary qualities.

Keywords:   corpuscularianism, Locke, primary qualities, secondary qualities, sensations, ideas, three-term theory of perception, two-term theory of perception, dispositional aspect, manifest aspect

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