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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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Berkeley's Attack on the Theory of Primary and Secondary Qualities

Berkeley's Attack on the Theory of Primary and Secondary Qualities

(p.170) 8 Berkeley's Attack on the Theory of Primary and Secondary Qualities
Berkeley's Idealism

Georges Dicker

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that while Berkeley's arguments against the theory of primary and secondary qualities may count against certain versions of the theory, they don't refute Locke's version, especially when modernized as proposed in Chapter 1. Berkeley's first argument is that since (a) one cannot abstract a primary quality (e.g., shape) from a secondary quality (e.g., color), and (b) secondary qualities are only ideas in the mind, so are primary qualities. Locke would reject (b), since for him secondary qualities are “powers” in objects. But there are complications, since the manifest aspect of a secondary quality is not a mere power. Dicker argues that ultimately, Berkeley's argument shows only that the manifest aspect of a color cannot exist apart from the visual manifest aspect of a shape, and doesn't support idealism. Berkeley's second, relativity argument is invalid and shows only that primary qualities would be mind-dependent if secondary qualities were.

Keywords:   Locke, Phillip Cummins, one-target assumption, primary qualities, secondary qualities, manifest aspects, dispositional aspects, colors, two-term theories of perception, three-term theories of perception, perceptual relativity, resemblance thesis, no-resemblance thesis, Jonathan Bennett

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