Locke on sense perception

In Jessica Gordon-Roth & Shelley Weinberg (eds.), The Lockean Mind. London: Routledge. pp. 116-126 (2021)
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Much recent philosophy of perception is preoccupied with finding a place for phenomenal character in a physical world. By contrast, Locke’s philosophy of sensory perception is an episode in his ‘Historical, plain method’ and seeks to map out the processes by which we experience ordinary objects. On Locke’s account, our ideas of primary and secondary qualities enter the mind ‘simple and unmixed’; having an idea of a colour, for example, is not necessary for the visual experience of a shape. An analysis of the Molyneux problem reveals that, for Locke, judgment corrects the initial two-dimensional idea vision presents us with. Nevertheless, Locke’s position is problematic: he has no account of how we pair ideas of primary and secondary qualities, nor of how we could experience a colourless visual idea of shape.

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Walter Ott
University of Virginia


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