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In philosophy, a property that applies to things taken singly, in contrast to a relation, which applies to things taken in pairs, triples, etc. The distinction drawn by Galileo and John Locke between primary and secondary qualities is motivated by the fact that modern science seems to reveal that unaided sensory perception gives false or incomplete information about the intrinsic qualities of physical objects. In this view, primary qualities, such as shape, quantity, and motion, are genuine properties of things that are describable by mathematics, whereas secondary qualities, such as odour, taste, sound, and colour, exist only in human consciousness.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on quality, visit Britannica.com.