Secondary Qualities

Brian O'Shaughnessy

in Consciousness and the World

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780199256723
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598135 | DOI:
Secondary Qualities

Show Summary Details


Secondary qualities are essential to sight, hearing, smell, and taste, and correspond to the sensations definitive of each sense. They are relative, first to which beings they appear to, secondly to the conditions under which they do so. Dispositionist analyses are examined, along with materialist, and rejected: the former because colour is predicable of after‐images, the latter because a (open‐ended) disjunct of material properties in principle ‘found’ any (determinate) secondary quality. While attributions to physical objects are relative, attribution to sensations are absolute: sensations of red are absolutely, intrinsically, essentially red. ‘Red’ names the look predicable necessarily of the sensation of red and contingently and derivatively of much else. What is of central importance to the secondary quality, indeed the rationale behind the very concept, is that it is the only psychological phenomenon that can be an immediate material or external object of noticing. From this unique property, compounded with the psycho‐physical nomic situation governing its objectification, flows the special utility of the secondary quality. Namely, to take its place as material object for the Attention in an experience in which it simultaneously qualifies a whole string of causally interrelated items: sensation, light, surface, side, and object.

Keywords: dispositional; dispositionism; materialism; noticing; object; secondary quality; seeing; sensation

Chapter.  12722 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.