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Q1. Critically examine John Locke’s categorization of primary and secondary qualities and explain the problem it posed for later empiricist.(2012/15)


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  • jaish

    John Locke was the empiricist philosopher and he has accepted the experience as the valid source of knowledge. As per locke, we find experience in two ways that is sensation in which our sense organ comes in contact with the external objects and other is reflection which we get through our perception of internal conditions. Through sensation and reflection, we find knowledge in the form of ideas.
    Through complex ideas we get the perception of qualities of objects. These are further divided into two that is primary qualities and secondary qualities.
    Primary qualities and secondary qualities:
    These qualities like weight, solidity, extension etc. belongs to the things themselves. But, secondary qualities, colour, sound, touch etc. are simple effects produces in mind by things by virtue of their primary qualities.
    It is generally criticised about these qualities that distinction between primary qualities and secondary qualities is not empirically justifiable. According to him, primary qualities belong to objects while secondary qualities are simple effects produced in mind by things by virtue of their primary qualities. But both of these qualities are experienced simultaneously and the cognition of primary qualities depends on our cognition of secondary. This distinction between them is not based on experience.
    It posed problem for the later empiricist because on the basis of the primary qualities, locke has accepted external objects as the ground. But these distinctions between primary and secondary qualities are rejected by Berkeley and he has rejected the existence of external objects because he has accepted there is no difference between primary and secondary qualities. In fact, hume’s philosophy which is considered as the culmination of empiricism, carried the half empiricism from Berkeley to reject finally ‘self’ on the basis of experience. Therefore, it is generally said that seed of skepticisn has sown in locke’s philosophy only.