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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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Hume and the Sensible Qualities

Hume and the Sensible Qualities

(p.239) 10 Hume and the Sensible Qualities
Primary and Secondary Qualities

Kenneth P. Winkler

Oxford University Press

The aim of this chapter is to understand better Hume's response to what he calls the "fundamental principle" of the modern philosophy, the opinion that "colors, sounds, tastes, smells, heat and cold" are "nothing but impressions in the mind." Does he endorse the principle? Can he rely on it when he compares virtue and vice to sensible qualities? Can he accept the suggestion, made before him by Ralph Cudworth, that passionate engagement in the world of our senses survives intellectual entry into the world of modern philosophy? In trying to make progress on these questions and others, the chapter examines three ways in which Hume uses perceptual relativity, and consider a difficulty concerning objectivity into which one of those uses leads him. The chapter concludes, bleakly, that Hume probably cannot be completely satisfied by any philosophy of the sensible qualities that he is in a position to provide.

Keywords:   Hume, Locke, Cudworth, Boyle, Berkeley, sensible qualities, secondary qualities, primary qualities, perceptual relativity, objectivity

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