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Sorin Sabou

Letter to the Romans, Nicomachean Ethics, and more

The Qualities of Perception

Locke and Berkeley on the qualities of perception
Because the mind we are born with is a blank slate (Locke), the knowledge we have come from the outside as perceptions. Locke tries to avoid the split between the mind and the world around us by introducing the distinction between primary and secondary qualities of perception. The primary qualities are the qualities of objective, extra-mental reality; the qualities of the object independent of who, or whether anyone is perceiving the object (shape, size, weight). These qualities are independent of perception. The secondary qualities are not properties of the object at all. They occur in the mind of the perceiver at the moment of perception and they endure only as long as the perception endures. They depend primarily on our senses (color, taste, smell).
Berkeley does not agree with this position and criticizes it on the following grounds: 1. it is self defeating (if it is true, we can not know that; if the immediate objects of perception are only ideas, how do we know that something else exists?), 2. it is ontologically redundant (why add a distinct, external world which forms no part on anyone's experience at all?), 3. the only true case of causation is intelligent agency, so that the mere mechanical happenings could in principle neither cause nor explain anything.
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