Reid and Condillac on Sensation and Perception

Southwest Philosophy Review 24 (1):191-200 (2008)
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In order to illustrate the difference between sensation and perception, Reid imagines a blind man that by ‘some strange distemper’ has lost all his notions of external objects, but has retained the power of sensation and reasoning. Reid argues that since sensations do not resemble external objects, the blind man could not possibly infer from them any notion of primary qualities. Condillac proposed a similar thought experiment in the Treatise on Sensations. I argue that Condillac can reach a conclusion opposite to that of Reid only by assuming that some particular collections of sensations do indeed resemble the qualities of external objects. Reid had considered a similar case in a manuscript, but he again notices that such complex collections sensations do not resemble the qualities of external objects.

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Giovanni B. Grandi
University of British Columbia


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