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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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Locke's Distinction between Primary Primary Qualities and Secondary Primary Qualities

Locke's Distinction between Primary Primary Qualities and Secondary Primary Qualities

Chapter:
(p.158) 7 Locke's Distinction between Primary Primary Qualities and Secondary Primary Qualities
Source:
Primary and Secondary Qualities
Author(s):

Edwin McCann

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556151.003.0008

Besides distinguishing between primary and secondary qualities, Locke implicitly draws a distinction between two types of primary quality, those of macroscopic objects and those of what he calls the insensible parts of matter. This chapter explores three main interpretive results that come from attending to the distinction as it figures in the Essay. First, it helps to reconcile several seemingly conflicting statements that Locke makes about primary qualities. Second, it makes better sense of Locke's claims that ideas of primary qualities are resemblances of bodies and that such qualities are ‘really in’ them, whereas (ideas of) secondary qualities are not. Third, it enables us to uncover the structure of Locke's argument for the primary–secondary quality distinction itself, which puts us in a better position to appreciate the limits on the justificatory force and ontological import that Locke can claim for this argument.

Keywords:   body, Boyle, Locke, mechanism, motion, powers, primary qualities, real qualities, resemblance, secondary qualities

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