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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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Primary and Secondary Qualities in the Phenomenalist Theory of Leibniz

Primary and Secondary Qualities in the Phenomenalist Theory of Leibniz

(p.190) 8 Primary and Secondary Qualities in the Phenomenalist Theory of Leibniz
Primary and Secondary Qualities

Martha Brandt Bolton

Oxford University Press

Leibniz recognizes little difference between the primary and secondary qualities in regard to metaphysical status (both are partly imaginary) or veridicality of our perceptions of them (both are true). The important contrast concerns discursive, rather than perceptual, knowledge. Two strains in Leibniz's theorizing support this atypical stance. One is that, in his view, there is an unbridgeable gap between actual bodies, which are endlessly divided and individually diverse, and any possible physical theory, for theories are intelligible and explanatory only because they abstract from irregularity and heterogeneity. The second is Leibniz's theory that every substance has veridical perceptions of each thing in the physical world. This is managed by balancing the relatively distinct perception of a whole body against relatively confused perceptions of its parts.

Keywords:   Descartes, Locke, A. D. Smith, phenomenalism, Leibniz, perception, distinct ideas, distinct and confused perceptions, phenomenal character

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