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Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - 6:50amSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

Primary qualities are those that objects have independent of any observer, such as solidity, extension, motion, number and figure (shape). They exist in the thing itself and do not rely upon something external. Secondary qualities are those that produce sensations in observers, such as color, taste, smell, and sound. A sensation or perception can differ due to different perceptual systems, e.g. color-blindness versus normal color vision, or what is external to the object, e.g. light conditions. The powers an object has to produce sensations in us depend on its primary qualities (Locke, ECHU, II, VIII, 10). 
But even the "primary" qualities can be perceived differently.

Rand's argument was that categorizing qualities by looking at how it is that humans perceive them, is wrong. Take butter. At the North Pole, the Eskimos perceive it as yellow ice. At the Equator, the Tropical People perceive it as yellow water. But, according to PQSD, it's solidity was supposed to be independent of any observer, even independent of "what is external to the object."

Take motion. If you are carrying money on a train travelling 70 mph and you look at the money bags, your money bags are motionless to you (which you find relieving). However, if cowboys wearing black masks are hidden behind the bluff as you pass it, then your money bags are moving, according to them.

Take figure (shape). If you are having dinner at the end of a long table, and you look down at your plate, it's round. However, to the person at the other end of the long table, your plate is perceived as being oval.

These "problems" of differing perception have nothing to do with primary or secondary qualities (because the qualities above were supposed to be primary, in the first place -- not dependent on observer). Every quality is actually primary (in the PQSD sense). The very notion of secondary qualities isn't a metaphysical notion, it's an epistemological one. It's a mixing of epistemology with metaphysics. That's what Rand disagreed with.

As soon as you start talking about the form in which you perceive a quality -- of something "in" the object -- as soon as you start talking about forms of perception, you are into epistemology (and "out of" metaphysics). Every sense or sensation can be traced back to an interaction of what's "in" an object with our sensory apparatus -- everything perceived can be.

Ed




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Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - 8:11amSanction this postReply
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Ed T. wrote:
Rand's argument was that categorizing qualities by looking at how it is that humans perceive them, is wrong.
That was not the argument Rand gave that I reported in my first paragraph. If you believe that was her argument elsewhere, then please tell us exactly where she made it.

I don't think perspective arguments weigh against the PSQD. If you want to compare two different observers, they should have the same perspective. If somebody says something's extension -- in terms of its measured length -- varies by perspective, I don't buy it.
Every sense or sensation can be traced back to an interaction of what's "in" an object with our sensory apparatus -- everything perceived can be.
Yes, but some sensations vary by what's not in the object, like the surroundings or something in the observer. That is the point of the PSQD.
(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 6/09, 2:02pm)




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Post 2

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - 10:15amSanction this postReply
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Merlin, good work in this article!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Berkeley’s Three Dialogues

Hylas. Light and colours, as immediately perceived by us, I grant cannot exist without the mind. But in themselves they are only the motions and configurations of certain insensible particles of matter.

Philonous. Colours then, in the vulgar sense, or taken for the immediate objects of sight, cannot agree to any but a perceiving substance.

Hyl. That is what I say.

Phil. . . . . I would advise you to bethink yourself, whether, considering the inquiry we are upon, it be prudent for you to affirm the red and blue which we see are not real colours, but certain unknown motions and figures which no man ever did or can see, are truly so. . . .

Hyl. I frankly own, Philonous, that it is in vain to stand out any longer. Colours, sounds, tastes, in a word, all those termed secondary qualities, have certainly no existence without the mind. But by this acknowledgment I must not be supposed to derogate any thing from the reality of matter or external objects, seeing it is not more than several philosophers maintain, who nevertheless are the furthest imaginable from denying matter. For the clearer understanding of this, you must know sensible qualities are by philosophers divided into primary and secondary. The former are extension, figure, solidity, gravity, motion, and rest. And these they hold exist really in bodies. The latter are those above enumerated; or briefly, all sensible qualities beside the primary, which they assert are only so many sensations or ideas existing no where but in the mind. . . .

Phil. You are still then of opinion, that extension and figures are inherent in external unthinking substances.

Hyl. I am.

. . . .

Phil. Again, have you not acknowledged that no real inherent property of any object can be changed, without some change in the thing itself?

Hyl. I have.

Phil. But as we approach to or recede from an object, the visible extension varies, being at one distance ten or a hundred times greater than at another. Doth it not therefore follow from hence likewise, that it is not really inherent in the object?

Hyl. I own I am at a loss what to think.

Phil. Your judgment will soon be determined, if you will venture to think freely concerning this quality, as you have done concerning the rest. Was it not admitted as a good argument, that neither heat nor cold was in the water, because it seemed warm to one hand, and cold to the other?

Hyl. It was.

Phil. Is it not the very same reasoning to conclude, there is not extension or figure in an object, because to one eye it shall seem little, smooth, and round, when at the same time it appears to the other, great, uneven, and angular?

Hyl. The very same. But doth this latter fact ever happen?

Phil. You may at any time make the experiment, by looking with one eye bare, and with the other through a microscope.

Hyl. I know not how to maintain it, and yet I am loath to give up extension, I see so many odd consequences following upon such a concession.

Phil. . . . Should it not seem very odd, if the general reasoning which includes all other sensible qualities did not also include extension? If it be allowed that no idea nor any thing like an idea can exist in an unperceiving substance, then surely it follows, that no figure or mode of extension, which we can either perceive or imagine, or have any idea of, can be really inherent in matter . . . . Be the sensible quality what it will, figure, or sound, or colour; it seems alike impossible it should subsist in that which doth not perceive it.

Hyl. I give up the point for the present . . .

Phil. . . . Figures and extension being despatched, we proceed next to motion. . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kant Takes Charge

“Only from the human standpoint, therefore, can we speak of space, of extended beings, etc. If we depart from the subjective condition under which alone we can—viz., as far as we may be affected by objects—acquire outer intuition, then the presentation of space means nothing whatsoever. This predicate is ascribed to things only insofar as they appear to us, i.e., only insofar as they are objects of sensibility. The constant form of this receptivity which we call sensibility is a necessary condition of all relations in which objects are intuited as outside us; and if we abstract from these objects, then the form of that receptivity is a pure intuition that bears the name of space. We cannot make the special conditions of sensibility to be conditions of the possibility of things, but only of the possibility of their appearances. Hence we can indeed say that space encompasses all things that appear to us externally, but not that it encompasses all things in themselves, intuited or not, or intuited by whatever subject. . . . The proposition, All things are side by side in space, holds under the limitation: if these things are taken as objects of our sensible intuition. If I here add the condition to the concept and say, All things considered as outer appearances are side by side in space, then this rule holds universally and without limitation. Accordingly, our exposition teaches that space is real (i.e., objectively valid) in regard to everything that we can encounter externally as object, but teaches at the same time that space is ideal in regard to things when reason considers them in themselves, i.e., without taking into account the character of our sensibility. Hence we assert than space is empirically real (as regards all possible outer experience), despite asserting that space is transcendentally ideal, i.e., that it is nothing as soon as we omit [that space is] the condition of the possibility of all experience and suppose space to be something underlying things in themselves.” (B42–44 A26–28, translated by Werner Pluhar) (See also the two succeeding paragraphs for Kant’s wise-up for and superseding of Berkelyean idealism.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A. D. Smith writes in The Problem of Perception (Harvard 2002): “There is a long string of philosophers from Berkeley, through Whitehead, to the present day who have railed heatedly against the primary / secondary quality distinction’s denuding our world of its familiar, loveable, character. . . . If such a position is indeed intolerable, we should be clear what is involved in rejecting it: that we must reject Realism about the physical world as such. For even Direct Realism, in its only viable form, entails the distinction.” (63–64)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Related notes: A, B, C

Related paper: “Sensory Qualities, Their Relation to Sensory System and World”


(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 6/09, 10:20am)




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Post 3

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - 4:09pmSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

That was not the argument Rand gave that I reported in my first paragraph. If you believe that was her argument elsewhere, then please tell us exactly where she made it.
She said as much (in ITOE)  but I will have to post the exact page when I'm home. I think it's mid-page in page 280 in the paperback edition of ITOE.

I don't think perspective arguments weigh against the PSQD. If you want to compare two different observers, they should have the same perspective. If somebody says something's extension -- in terms of its measured length -- varies by perspective, I don't buy it.
Well, okay, but asking that they have the same perspective erases the secondary qualities then. For instance, if I have to take the perspective of a color-blind man, then I'm stuck seeing things in shades of gray, just like him (and the shades "become" primary qualities by way of being stipulated as observer-independent). The PSQD introduces a class of things -- secondary qualities -- in order to explain the noted perceptual subjectivity (but there's no real need to explain it). There's not really a good reason to introduce this new class of things.

A red stop-sign may appear gray to a color-blind man, but that is not a good reason to say that red isn't in the sign, so, therefore, red is a secondary quality (of red stop-signs). What gives rise to colors (to non-color-blind folks) is still "in" the object -- i.e., the stop sign's light-reflective properties. It's only under the prior assumption of naive realism (that things are as they appear) that you get to talking about the need for secondary qualities to explain the noted perceptual subjectivity.

Yes, but some sensations vary by what's not in the object, like the surroundings or something in the observer. That is the point of the PSQD.
Okay, but PSQD still seems to be an unneeded distinction -- as long as one thinks of things as things which can appear differently at different times, in different places, and to different observers.

Locke, who treated the mind like it was a sense-organ, seemed to want to spare or save objectivity -- objectivity of primary qualities -- by (dis-)claiming some "necessary" subjectivity in perception (perception of secondary qualities). Kant did the same thing in order to protect Newton's laws from criticism. He created this whole new realm, the noumenal, and granted it more importance than the phenomenal.

Ed




Post 4

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - 8:35pmSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

I found the quote. It was at the bottom (not middle) of p. 280 -- and runs over to p. 281. Here it is:

Now you can properly distinguish that which is in the object from the form in which you perceive that quality. But that isn't the same thing as saying color is a secondary quality but extension is a primary quality. That isn't the same issue at all. Color is a form of perception--something caused by one existing phenomenon, namely wavelength, acting on another phenomenon, namely, the retina of our eye. That does not make color a "secondary quality," as if one could say color isn't in the object but extension is.

You see, it's the classification of the attributes of reality according to how and by what means we perceive them that is wrong in that whole classification. The same argument can be made against any sensation, anything that you perceive by means of your senses.
Ed
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 6/09, 8:38pm)




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Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - 5:05amSanction this postReply
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Ed wrote:

Well, okay, but asking that they have the same perspective erases the secondary qualities then. For instance, if I have to take the perspective of a color-blind man, then I'm stuck seeing things in shades of gray, just like him (and the shades "become" primary qualities by way of being stipulated as observer-independent). The PSQD introduces a class of things -- secondary qualities -- in order to explain the noted perceptual subjectivity (but there's no real need to explain it).

When I said "same perspectives", I did not expect you to take it that far. I meant the same viewpoint. I did not mean you to imagine being colorblind. You and a colorblind person do not see the same color. Also, there are other arguments in favor of the PSQD that I gave in the article. One is about measurement, and the other is Aristotle's distinction between qualities perceived by two senses versus only one.  

A red stop-sign may appear gray to a color-blind man, but that is not a good reason to say that red isn't in the sign, so, therefore, red is a secondary quality (of red stop-signs). What gives rise to colors (to non-color-blind folks) is still "in" the object -- i.e., the stop sign's light-reflective properties.

Correct, it is the light reflection/absorption properties that are strictly "in" the stop sign and probably a result of the primary qualities.  Red is not a secondary quality of the sign to a person who does not see it as red.

Locke, who treated the mind like it was a sense-organ, seemed to want to spare or save objectivity -- objectivity of primary qualities -- by (dis-)claiming some "necessary" subjectivity in perception (perception of secondary qualities).

I believe what Locke tried to do was distinguish intrinsic qualities from ones that are not.

 

Moving on to post 4, my article addressed the first paragraph you quoted from Rand. Her first sentence is: "Now you can properly distinguish that which is in the object from the form in which you perceive that quality." That is what the PSQD does.

 

Does the second paragraph you quoted mean that Aristotle's distinction and the point about measurability are wrong?  You may believe so, but I don't.

 

I am not as convinced about the PSQD as I am about, say, the truths of arithmetic. However, I believe the arguments in its favor easily outweigh the ones against it.

 

Stephen, thanks for the compliment and your comments.

(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 6/10, 5:29am)




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Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - 6:34amSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

On Aristotle
He did not use what I regard as a stronger argument for the PQSD.  That is the nature of our various senses, something Aristotle noted long ago. According to Aristotle the “common sensibles” are motion, rest, shape, magnitude, number, and unity (De Anima III.1 425a16). (Different translations might use slightly different terms here.) They are apprehended by more than one sense – sight and touch. For example, extension and roundness can be perceived by both sight and touch. What Aristotle called the “special perceptibles” were those grasped by one sense only, e.g. warmth, color, taste, smell and sound.
Okay, but as soon as you start talking about "the nature of our various senses," you are talking about epistemology -- not the metaphysical qualities of things. The PSQD should be renamed the EPD (the "existing-perceiving distinction"). It differentiates qualities as they are circumstantially perceived, from qualities as they are perceived from an objective perspective. It differentiates naive realism from realism. It differentiates metaphysics from epistemology. It does not, however, differentiate one kind of metaphysical quality (e.g., "secondary qualities") from another kind of metaphysical quality (e.g., "primary qualities").

So-called secondary qualities -- hinged on how humans perceive things -- aren't a metaphysical concept in the first place, but an epistemological concept.


On Measurement

Another argument in favor of the PQSD is that primary qualities are measurable or countable, but secondary qualities are not. Measuring decibels or sound wave frequency or amplitude is not measuring the sensation of sound. Measuring light wave frequency or amplitude is not measuring the sensation of color. 
But this argument can be made against 'primary' qualities, too. Measuring the solidity of butter, the motion of money bags on a train, or the shape of a plate on a table "is not measuring the sensation of" solidity, motion, and shape.

Ed



Post 7

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - 9:26amSanction this postReply
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Question to the participants on this thread:

According to your understanding, is it Rand's position that what you perceive -- i.e., the object of your perception -- is a real existent independent of your perception, but that how you perceive it are its qualities, both primary and secondary, and that these qualities are produced by an interaction of the object with your organs of perception?

Merlin? Ed? Stephen?

And Merlin, if that is your understanding and you still disagree with Rand's position, could you state the reasons for your disagreement?

Thanks.

- Bill



Post 8

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - 9:42amSanction this postReply
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Bill Dwyer asked:

According to your understanding, is it Rand's position that what you perceive -- i.e., the object of your perception -- is a real existent independent of your perception, but that how you perceive it are its qualities, both primary and secondary, and that these qualities are produced by an interaction of the object with your organs of perception?

I agree without the clause "both primary and secondary." In the Appendix of ITOE she said the PSQD is invalid.

And Merlin, if that is your understanding and you still disagree with Rand's position, could you state the reasons for your disagreement?

I did that in the article.





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Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - 11:44amSanction this postReply
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Bill,

According to your understanding, is it Rand's position that what you perceive -- i.e., the object of your perception -- is a real existent independent of your perception, but that how you perceive it are its qualities, both primary and secondary, and that these qualities are produced by an interaction of the object with your organs of perception?
Yes, according to my understanding, that's Rand's position. However, there's a phrase in it which I might not use:

... these qualities are produced by an interaction ...
I'd say that the knowledge or awareness of the existence of these qualities is produced by "an interaction."

Otherwise, it's too easy to accidentally equate thought with things. Thought and things aren't the same thing. Perceptual awareness involves being conscious of the effects of the interaction of stuff with our sensory apparatus. The attributes perceived by us, in a sense, "owe" their existence to the interaction -- but it's potentially an intellectual hazard to say that the attributes or qualities are, themselves, "produced by" the interaction.

You could accidentally slip into vulgar idealism, for instance -- where nothing exists on it's own, without a mind to first think of it. Or where nothing exists, but "thinking" makes it so.

Ed




Post 10

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - 12:54pmSanction this postReply
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In Post #7, I asked, "According to your understanding, is it Rand's position that what you perceive -- i.e., the object of your perception -- is a real existent independent of your perception, but that how you perceive it are its qualities, both primary and secondary, and that these qualities are produced by an interaction of the object with your organs of perception?"

Merlin replied,
I agree without the clause "both primary and secondary." In the Appendix of ITOE she said the PSQD is invalid.
I know that she said the distinction is philosophically invalid; I meant what are regarded as primary and secondary qualities.

I also asked, "And Merlin, if that is your understanding and you still disagree with Rand's position, could you state the reasons for your disagreement?"
He replied,
I did that in the article.
If you did, then I misunderstood your position. When you said --
Primary qualities are those that objects have independent of any observer, such as solidity, extension, motion, number and figure (shape). They exist in the thing itself and do not rely upon something external. Secondary qualities are those that produce sensations in observers, such as color, taste, smell, and sound.
-- I didn't realize that that was actually your view; I thought you were simply presenting the view of the PSQD's proponents. My apologies. In that case, I would refer you to Berkeley's dialogues as presented by Stephen in Post #2, in which the good Bishop argues, I think, persuasively against the distinction.

Of course, Berkeley then concludes that reality is through and through subjective, a view which Rand dispatched quite elegantly in Galt's speech, when she wrote, "a consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms; before it could identify itself as consciousness it had to be conscious of something."

- Bill
(Edited by William Dwyer on 6/10, 1:08pm)




Post 11

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - 2:20pmSanction this postReply
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Bill Dwyer wrote:
If you did, then I misunderstood your position.
Yes, and maybe you still do. I disagreed with Rand because her argument was against a straw man.
I didn't realize that that was actually your view; I thought you were simply presenting the view of the PSQD's proponents. My apologies. In that case, I would refer you to Berkeley's dialogues as presented by Stephen in Post #2, in which the good Bishop argues, I think, persuasively against the distinction.
It's both. I don't buy Berkeley's argument. He made Hylas a dupe when Philonous challenged him on extension. Suppose they were talking about a building 40 feet wide. Moving farther or nearer to it makes it occupy a smaller or larger part of one's visual field. However, the width remains 40 feet.

A similar argument can be made for shape. For example, a dartboard appears circular when the viewpoint is perpendicular to it but elliptical when viewed quite obliquely. If the viewer moves from one viewpoint to the other, that does not imply the dartboard itself changes shape.




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Post 12

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - 11:42pmSanction this postReply
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I don't buy Berkeley's argument. He made Hylas a dupe when Philonous challenged him on extension. Suppose they were talking about a building 40 feet wide. Moving farther or nearer to it makes it occupy a smaller or larger part of one's visual field. However, the width remains 40 feet.

A similar argument can be made for shape. For example, a dartboard appears circular when the viewpoint is perpendicular to it but elliptical when viewed quite obliquely. If the viewer moves from one viewpoint to the other, that does not imply the dartboard itself changes shape.
Hmm. Good point, Merlin! I guess Berkeley's argument wasn't so conclusive after all, at least as expressed in his dialogues.

But I wonder -- couldn't you say the same thing about color that you say about size and shape? An object emits a certain wavelength of light, irrespective of the observer's ability to discriminate it from a different wavelength of light, so that both size, shape and color could be said to have an "objective" (or perhaps you would say "intrinsic") dimension.

Further, even if we are talking only about the subjective experience of color, which could be different for a dichromat than for a trichromat, the color itself will occupy a three-dimensional object, so that if the object has no color independent of the observer, then how could it have a size and shape that is independent of the observer? An independently existing size and shape with no color?? How is that possible?

- Bill
(Edited by William Dwyer on 6/10, 11:44pm)




Post 13

Thursday, June 11, 2009 - 4:18amSanction this postReply
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Bill,

I'm inclined to think that an object's light reflection/absorption property, which has a role  in color experience, is intrinsic. What exactly is intrinsic about it is beyond my expertise. But like you say, a dichromat and trichromat experience the reflected light differently, which makes the perception of color depend on something external to the object. Dependency or independency of external factors -- environment or observer -- seems to me to be the key point of the PSQD.

Some describe color as a relational property. For example, see here.   Note also that David Kelley made an intrinsic-relational distinction in The Evidence of the Senses.

I can't imagine what "having color independent of any observer" might mean, but I can easily imagine it for size or shape. Having to rely on imagination (or thought experiments) gives me reservations about the PSQD.




Post 14

Thursday, June 11, 2009 - 11:06amSanction this postReply
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This issue is more complicated that it might appear at first blush.
I'm inclined to think that an object's light reflection/absorption property, which has a role in color experience, is intrinsic. What exactly is intrinsic about it is beyond my expertise.
Right. I'm not sure that Objectivism's view of intrinsic properties would agree with yours. I'm inclined to think that, according to Rand, we can't say anything about what is intrinsic, other than that it exists (independently of observation). Any attempt to qualify it or identify it in terms of its attributes commits us to the use of sensory qualities, which are not intrinsic but objective (i.e., relational).
But like you say, a dichromat and trichromat experience the reflected light differently, which makes the perception of color depend on something external to the object. Dependency or independency of external factors -- environment or observer -- seems to me to be the key point of the PSQD.
Perhaps, but can we say anything about an external existent that is not, in some way, a function of our sensory perception?
Some describe color as a relational property. For example, see here. Note also that David Kelley made an intrinsic-relational distinction in The Evidence of the Senses.
The question is: do we perceive color, or do we simply perceive something in the form of of color? The question is similar to the one, when a free falls in the forest, does it make a sound if no one is around? The answer depends on what is meant by "sound." If "sound" means the audio reception of sound waves, then the answer is no, but if it simply means the sound waves themselves, then yes.

The sensation of color (if that is what we mean by "color") is definitely relational, for it depends not only on the object perceived but also on the subject perceiving it. In that respect, color isn't what we perceive, but how we perceive it. Color would then not be a quality of the object itself; the quality of the object itself would simply be the capacity to reflect light waves that generate a sensation of color in the appropriate visual receptors.

So, the question then would be, what are the qualities that objects themselves possess independently of any sensory characteristics (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.), for it is those qualities that are truly primary? It is tempting to say that size and shape are primary in that respect. The problem is that size and shape are themselves sensory qualities insofar as they arise from sight and touch and not from hearing, taste or smell. So, are size and shape, like the sensation of color, merely the form in which we perceive an object, and not qualities that the object itself possesses?

We cannot jump outside our senses and access the intrinsic nature of the object through some non-sensory means. All we can say is that the information our senses give us is how we perceive the object. In that respect, size and shape are themselves relational, insofar as they are characteristics that depend on the nature of our senses. The intrinsic nature of that world is not something to which we can attribute any characteristics.
I can't imagine what "having color independent of any observer" might mean, but I can easily imagine it for size or shape. Having to rely on imagination (or thought experiments) gives me reservations about the PSQD.
The problem is that in "imagining" an object's having characteristics like size and shape independent of an observer, you are attempting to imagine them independent of observation, even though they were grasped through observation and are incomprehensible without it.

- Bill



Post 15

Thursday, June 11, 2009 - 12:46pmSanction this postReply
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Bill, you make good points in post 14. I agree with all of it except a little of the wording, and I forego further comment on that. Rand did not use "intrinsic" very much, and then it was to criticize positions she didn't agree with, e.g. concepts are perceived by some non-sensory or extra-sensory means. I used it with one of its typical dictionary meanings -- not dependent on external circumstances or inherent.  Without using "intrinsic", Rand did allude to that meaning in the Appendix of ITOE2: "Now you can properly distinguish that which is in the object from the form in which you perceive that quality."

There is an article in the Philosophical Quarterly by Jennifer McKitrick (link) that I'd like to read, but I don't have access. It is about 18th century Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid's account of the primary/secondary quality distinction. It seems Reid had a different and wider view of sensation, even giving it a role in perceptions of primary qualities like size and shape. The summary at the link includes: "Primary qualities, for Reid, are qualities whose intrinsic natures can be known through sensation. Secondary qualities, on the other hand, are unknown causes of sensations."

(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 6/11, 12:47pm)




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Post 16

Thursday, June 11, 2009 - 12:48pmSanction this postReply
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I have to agree with Ed here. I have sanctioned all of his original posts in this thread.

We should be able to come to a consensus that the primary/secondary distinction is able to be drawn. Aristotle's concept of the common sensibles does that. Also, developmentally children grasp the concepts of secondary qualities before they do the concepts of primary qualities. The concepts of secondary qualities are less abstract. The macroscopic/microscopic distinction is also a fruitful one, if not absolute.

But no one has mentioned qualia [as such]. The secondary qualities have qualia, such as red or soft or sour. Length as extension, measurable in units such as inches, does not have an associated [quale].

Given that the distinction itself is drawable, Rand is perfectly right to argue that the supposed philosophical implications are invalid. Let us take the example of the extensions bodies, say a big red ball next to a small blue cube on on a green rug. We could try to say that the width of the ball is "objectively" bigger than that of the cube, while the difference in color depends on the observer. But how do we discover the width of the ball? We can see where the ball begins and ends - but only because we can distinguish the red surface of the ball from the blue surface of the cube and the green surface of the rug. Or we can close our eyes, and use our hands to measure the items, but without the perceived qualia, the feel of the solid resistance of the cube, the resilient resistance of the ball, and the soft feel of the rug, we would not know we were touching anything nor be able to measure the items.

Without qualia, there is no way to distinguish primary qualities. Measure the length of an invisible square on an invisible background using an invisible ruler? Without qualia of some sort, length and so forth cannot be discriminated from its background. There would be no way to determine where one thing left off and another began. The concepts of the primary qualities are genetically dependent upon such concepts as edge which are based upon the knowledge of where discontinuities in qualia of some sort (red here, blue there) exist. One cannot divorce primary qualities from secondary qualities, and using them as stolen abstractions somehow invalidate the prior and more certain givens of the secondary qualities.

[Edited after Merlin's response below.]

(Edited by Ted Keer on 6/11, 4:08pm)




Post 17

Thursday, June 11, 2009 - 1:07pmSanction this postReply
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But no one has mentioned qualia. The secondary qualities have qualia, such as red or soft or sour.
True, but sensations is a synonym.
Length as extension measurable in units such as inches does not have an associated qualium.
The singular is "quale."  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualia




Post 18

Thursday, June 11, 2009 - 1:30pmSanction this postReply
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Well, no, sensation is not an exact synonym. Quale is more specific and concrete, and in this context enlightening. But thanks for the grammar correction. I think my points all stand.



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Post 19

Friday, June 12, 2009 - 8:55amSanction this postReply
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I found a copy of the article by McKitrick online here. Reid's position per McKitrick is as follows. Reid distinguishes between the property (or quality) of the object (P) and the sensory effect (E) on us. P and E are causally related. We have substantial, direct knowledge of primary qualities. We only have limited, indirect knowledge of secondary qualities, and our senses give us only a relative and obscure notion of them. The difference between primary and secondary qualities is a matter of a difference in human epistemic access to these qualities, not in the nature of the properties themselves.

McKitrick, and I suspect Reid, gives no explanation for "substantial and  direct" versus "limited and indirect." In my opinion a good explanation is Aristotle's common-special distinction. We have more substantial knowledge of primary qualities because we encounter them by both sight and touch, and touch is very direct. The secondary qualities are accessible by only one sense.

David Kelley does not mention Reid in The Evidence of the Senses, but Kelley's account also gives us greater epistemic access to primary qualities. Partly it is that we can measure them. Partly it is that perceiving them through more than one sense facilitates abstraction. With secondary qualities we "do not abstract the intrinsic attribute fully from the form in which we perceive it" (p. 117).





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