John Locke - Final Writing Assignment Philosophy 10100;...

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Final Writing Assignment Philosophy 10100; Spring ‘07 Section 10: TA: Josh Rasmussen John Locke’s Theory of Causal Perception In this paper, I will explain John Locke’s argument about the properties of objects and their reliability. Locke outlines different types of properties that objects may have and gives examples to prove his point. Locke theorizes that objects contain truly reflective (primary) properties and properties that bear no resemblance to the idea we have of them in our minds. In addition, I will examine George Berkeley’s objection to Locke. I will look at his parallel example and attempt to defend Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities. In doing this, I will attempt to find a flaw in Locke’s variance argument and therefore Berkeley’s parallel argument. After that, I will attempt to rebuild the distinction between primary and secondary qualities in a different manner. First, Locke looks to explain the difference between ideas and qualities, and explain what he is using these terms to represent. First, ideas are the representations of objects that we have in our minds. These may or may not represent reality, but the word “idea” as used by Locke (and consequently myself throughout this paper) to mean exclusively the sensations we collect in our mind about an object. The term quality is the power of an object to produce these sensations in our minds. Qualities belong exclusively to the objects they are associated with. Locke draws a further distinction among qualities. He first defines primary qualities as the qualities of an object that provide us with an idea that is true to reality. In other words, primary qualities are those which stimulate “honest” ideas in us. He says
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Meehan 2 that these primary qualities are inseparable from there objects. These primary qualities include: size, shape and motion. Next, secondary qualities are those which do not represent themselves truly in our minds; the ideas we have, produced by these qualities do not in any way resemble the true object. These qualities are in reality made of the primary qualities of the particles that compose the larger object. These secondary qualities include: color, taste, smell, sound, etc. This distinction between primary and secondary qualities and their respective resemblance to reality is the main purpose of Locke’s theory. One way in which Locke looks to show the difference between primary and secondary qualities and show that secondary qualities do not represent an accurate reflection of themselves in our mind is through examples of secondary qualities. One such example is the quality of hotness or coldness, which Locke defines as a secondary quality; the idea of hot or cold produced in our mind bears no resemblance to the reality of the quality. Locke argues that hotness/coldness is actually provided by motion (a primary quality) of the particles comprising the object. One example Locke uses is the variance argument. Locke states that if a particularly warm hand and a particularly cold
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This essay was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course PHIL PHIL 10100 taught by Professor David during the Spring '08 term at Notre Dame.

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John Locke - Final Writing Assignment Philosophy 10100;...

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