Philosophy 290-7

Spring 2014

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-7 Graduate Seminar: Primary & Secondary Qualities in Early Modern Philosophy Warren Tu 2-4 234 Moses Hall

The distinction between primary and secondary qualities is central to the development of philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries. We will begin by examining some of the late scholastic discussions concerning modes and qualities more generally. In the rest of the semester, we will be looking closely at a number of early modern figures, including Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, Locke, and Clarke. On what basis do these scientists and philosophers draw the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, and where do they draw the line between them? To what extent is the distinction based on a priori metaphysical or epistemological considerations; to what extent is it based on what an empirical physical theory says the world is like? What is the relation of the distinction to corpuscularianism and to mechanistic explanation? Secondary qualities are sometimes characterized as being reducible to primary qualities; sometimes, as powers to bring about ideas of certain sorts; sometimes, as merely subjective and as lacking any reality. What is the relation between these different characterizations of secondary qualities?