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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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Qualities and Simple Ideas: Hume and his Debt to Berkeley

Qualities and Simple Ideas: Hume and his Debt to Berkeley

(p.216) 9 Qualities and Simple Ideas: Hume and his Debt to Berkeley
Primary and Secondary Qualities

Alan Nelson

David Landy

Oxford University Press

In early modern empiricist theories of ideas, there is a tight theoretical linkage between qualities and simple ideas. In Locke's theory, knowledge of the qualities of objects is based on the simple ideas they cause. In Berkeley, there is a tendency to reduce qualities to a kind of simple idea, namely, the minimum sensibile. This chapter argues that Hume extends Berkeley's version of the theory by developing the insight that simple ideas are not experienced as simple. According to Hume, experience ultimately consists only of simple ideas, but the simplicity of the ideas is not directly experienced. This means that the simplicity of simple ideas is a theoretical posit. The chapter argues that the distinction between primary and secondary qualities is pragmatic rather than metaphysical.

Keywords:   Locke, Berkeley, Hume, simple idea, abstract idea, quality, primary qualities, secondary qualities

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