Locke’s Primary and Secondary Qualities
When reading Lock’s Book II “Of Ideas”, one comes to a state of boredom, while reading about things that should seem obvious to an adult. These ideas are mainly trying explain to the reader that a person can not think about something without experiencing it with some sort of sensation first. But then, all of the sudden, one does a double take after reading Lock’s thoughts about an object’s primary and secondary qualities, which he begins to discuss in chapter eight. Locke states that qualities such as color, smell, and heat do not lie within an object, but are more like powers that an object possesses. This essay will make Locke’s points regarding primary and secondary qualities of objects clear, and will discuss why these qualities are important to Locke’s philosophy.
Locke describes a primary (real or original) quality, as something an object has within itself. Any other object need not sense these primary qualities in order for that object to really exist. This is because whether something else perceives that object or not, it is still an entity. This object has bulk, figure, number, and motion. Motion can be classified as movement from one location to another, or that the object is at rest. Take for example a block of ice. Thoughts probably come to mind of something very cold, smooth, and semi-transparent. Notice that these are all sense orientated, because that is what sticks out in the mind about a block of ice, our past perceptions of examining a block of ice. If one was not able to touch, sense it’s coldness, or see, one would not be able to perceive these phenomenon of the objects secondary qualities. One would only be able to realize the objects relative size, shape, number, and movement (whether it is as rest or in motion). One might say that if one does not perceive an object that is within close vicinity, how does one even know that it exists? Locke explains this with the idea of force. In this situation the only way to know if the other object exists would be to collide into it, obstructing both objects motion.
Secondary qualities (sensible qualities) do not lie within the object itself, rather secondary qualities are produced when one perceives an object’s unique primary qualities. These secondary qualities are things such as smell, color, texture, taste, etc. These secondary qualities along with it’s primary qualities can be sensed by other beings. Secondary qualities are emitted from the object, because of it’s primary qualities. Take fire for example. It has a primary quality of molecules moving so quickly that it can be perceived as having extreme heat (relative to healthy human being). This varies in degree of perceived heat as one draws nearer or further from it. Two different people might perceive the heat level differently or not at all, depending on the primary qualities of the perceiver. So the secondary qualities of pain or warmth are not really a part of the fire, they are just our perceptions of the fire. Our thoughts have linked warmth and pain with fire for so long, that our mind subconsciously links them together. In reality pain is no more a real (primary) quality of fire than pain is a real quality of a donut. Another example of a secondary quality is the color of a car that is in a garage with no natural light, with only one lamp in it. If the lamp is off, one can…