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Like all interesting concepts, ‘quality’ has multiple and sometimes quite separate usages. One could start with its usage as referring simply to an attribute of a thing (‘this rose has a lovely aroma’) or a characteristic of a person (‘she is a woman of great courage’). A quality or characteristic found in a person is also and generally thought of as a possession of that person, which is hardly how one would talk of the smell of a flower. Philosophers have made heavy weather of distinguishing between primary qualities, which are truly in an object, as hardness is in concrete or softness in a pile of cotton wool, and secondary qualities, which are the sensation or impressions – the ideas – we have of ...

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