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Color Realism

Edited by Alex Byrne (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
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Summary Color realism is the view that physical objects like lemons and tomatoes are colored, and typically have the colors they appear to have: lemons are yellow, tomatoes are red, and so on. Color realism is opposed to color irrealism (or eliminativism), the view that physical objects are not colored.
Introductions For short overviews of the competing theories of color, see the introduction to Byrne & Hilbert 1997, Hilbert 1998 and Byrne & Hilbert 2002. For a more substantial introduction see Maund 2008. A useful annotated bibliography is Brogaard 2010.
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  1. Keith Allen (2011). Revelation and the Nature of Colour. Dialectica 65 (2):153-176.
    According to naïve realist (or primitivist) theories of colour, colours are sui generis mind-independent properties. The question that I consider in this paper is the relationship of naïve realism to what Mark Johnston calls Revelation, the thesis that the essential nature of colour is fully revealed in a standard visual experience. In the first part of the paper, I argue that if naïve realism is true, then Revelation is false. In the second part of the paper, I defend naïve realism (...)
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  2. Keith Allen (2010). In Defence of Natural Daylight. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (1):1-18.
    Objects appear different as the illumination under which they are perceived varies. This fact is sometimes thought to pose a problem for the view that colours are mind-independent properties: if a coloured object appears different under different illuminations, then under which illumination does the object appear the colour it really is? I argue that given the nature of natural daylight, and certain plausible assumptions about the nature of the colours it illuminates, there is a non-arbitrary reason to suppose that it (...)
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  3. Keith Allen (2010). Locating The Unique Hues. Rivista di Estetica 43 (43):13-28.
    Variations in colour perception have featured prominently in recent attempts to argue against the view that colours are objective mind-independent properties of the perceptual environment. My aim in this paper is to defend the view that colours are mind-independent properties in response to worries arising from one type of empirically documented case of perceptual variation: variation in the perception of the «unique hues». §1 sets out the challenge raised by variation in the perception of the unique hues. I argue in (...)
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  4. Keith Allen (2009). Being Coloured and Looking Coloured. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (4):pp. 647-670.
    What is the relationship between being coloured and looking coloured? According to Alva Noë, to be coloured is to manifest a pattern of apparent colours as the perceptual conditions vary. I argue that Noë’s ‘phenomenal objectivism’ faces similar objections to attempts by traditional dispositionalist theories of colour to account for being coloured in terms of looking coloured. Instead, I suggest that to be coloured is to look coloured in a ‘non-perspectival’ sense, where non-perspectival looks transcend specific perceptual conditions.
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  5. Keith Allen (2009). Inter-Species Variation in Colour Perception. Philosophical Studies 142 (2):197 - 220.
    Inter-species variation in colour perception poses a serious problem for the view that colours are mind-independent properties. Given that colour perception varies so drastically across species, which species perceives colours as they really are? In this paper, I argue that all do. Specifically, I argue that members of different species perceive properties that are determinates of different, mutually compatible, determinables. This is an instance of a general selectionist strategy for dealing with cases of perceptual variation. According to selectionist views, objects (...)
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  6. Keith Allen (2007). The Mind-Independence of Colour. European Journal of Philosophy 15 (2):137–158.
    The view that the mind-dependence of colour is implicit in our ordinary thinking has a distinguished history. With its origins in Berkeley, the view has proved especially popular amongst so-called ‘Oxford’ philosophers, proponents including Cook Wilson (1904: 773-4), Pritchard (1909: 86-7), Ryle (1949: 209), Kneale (1950: 123) and McDowell (1985: 112). Gareth Evans’s discussion of secondary qualities in “Things Without the Mind” is representative of this tradition. It is his version of the view that I consider in this paper.
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  7. Edward Wilson Averill & Allan Hazlett (2011). Color Objectivism and Color Projectivism. Philosophical Psychology 24 (6):751 - 765.
    Objectivism and projectivism are standardly taken to be incompatible theories of color. Here we argue that this incompatibility is only apparent: objectivism and projectivism, properly articulated so as to deal with basic objections, are in fundamental agreement about the ontology of color and the phenomenology of color perception.
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  8. John Bacon, Keith Campbell & Lloyd Reinhardt (eds.) (1993). Ontology, Causality and Mind: Essays in Honour of D M Armstrong. New York: Cambridge University Press.
    This collection of essays, all especially written for this volume, explore the many facets of Armstrong's work, concentrating on his more recent interests.
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  9. Paul A. Boghossian (2002). Seeking the Real. Philosophical Studies 108 (1-2):223-38.
    A critical discussion of Barry Stroud's claim, in his book The Quest for Reality, that we could never rationally arrive at the conclusion that, for example, the world is not really colored.
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  10. Bill Brewer (2004). Stroud's Quest for Reality. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (2):408-414.
    Barry Stroud begins his investigation into the metaphysics of colour with a discussion of the elusiveness of the genuinely philosophical quest for reality. He insists upon a distinction between two ways in which the idea of a correspondence between perceptions or beliefs and the facts may be understood: first, as equivalent to the plain truth of the perceptions/beliefs in question; second, as conveying the metaphysical reality of the corresponding features of the world. I begin by voicing some suspicion about this (...)
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  11. Justin Broackes (2007). Colour, World and Archimedean Metaphysics: Stroud and the Quest for Reality. [REVIEW] Erkenntnis 66 (1-2):27-71.
    Barry Stroud’s book _The Quest for Reality_1 is, I think, the most substantial study of colour realism that has yet been written. It subjects to fundamental criticism a tradition that found its classic expression in Descartes and Locke and which in many ways remains standard today; it argues to be flawed not only the traditional rejection of colours as mere ideas or features of ideas in the mind, but also the view that colours are dispositions or powers in objects to (...)
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  12. Justin Broackes (1992). The Autonomy of Colour. In K. Lennon & D. Charles (eds.), Reduction, Explanation, and Realism. Oxford University Press. 191-225.
    This essay* takes two notions of autonomy and two notions of explanation and argues that colours occur in explanations that fall under all of them. The claim that colours can be used to explain anything at all may seem to some people an outrage. But their pessimism is unjustified and the orthodox dispositional view which may seem to support it, I shall argue, itself has difficulties. In broad terms, Section 2 shows that there exist good straight scientific laws of colour, (...)
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  13. Alex Byrne (2006). Comments on Cohen, Mizrahi, Maund, and Levine. Dialectica 60:223-44.
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  14. Alex Byrne & David R. Hilbert (2007). Truest Blue. Analysis 67 (1):87-92.
    Physical objects are coloured: roses are red, violets are blue, and so forth. In particular, physical objects have fine-grained shades of colour: a certain chip, we can suppose, is true blue (unique, or pure blue). The following sort of scenario is commonplace. The chip looks true blue to John; in the same (ordinary) viewing conditions it looks (slightly) greenish-blue to Jane. Both John and Jane are “normal” perceivers. Now, nothing can be both true blue and greenish-blue; since the chip is (...)
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  15. Alex Byrne & David R. Hilbert (2004). Hardin, Tye, and Color Physicalism. Journal of Philosophy 101 (1):37-43.
    Larry Hardin has been the most steadfast and influential critic of physicalist theories of color over the last 20 years. In their modern form these theories originated with the work of Smart and Armstrong in the 1960s and 1970s1 and Hardin appropriately concentrated on their views in his initial critique of physicalism.2 In his most recent contribution to this project3 he attacks Michael Tye’s recent attempts to defend and extend color physicalism.4 Like Byrne and Hilbert5, Tye identifies color with the (...)
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  16. K. Campbell (1993). David Armstrong and Realism About Colour. In John Bacon, K. Campbell & Lloyd Reinhardt (eds.), Ontology, Causality, and Mind. Cambridge University Press.
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  17. Mazviita Chirimuuta (2008). Reflectance Realism and Colour Constancy: What Would Count as Scientific Evidence for Hilbert's Ontology of Colour? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (4):563 – 582.
    Reflectance realism is an important position in the philosophy of colour. This paper is an examination of David R. Hilbert’s case for there being scientific support for the theory. The specific point in question is whether colour science has shown that reflectance is recovered by the human visual system. Following a discussion of possible counter-evidence in the recent scientific literature, I make the argument that conflicting interpretations of the data on reflectance recovery are informed by different theoretical assumptions about the (...)
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  18. Jonathan Cohen (2009/2011). The Red and the Real: An Essay on Color Ontology. Oxford.
    The space of options -- The argument from perceptual variation -- Variation revisited : objections and responses -- Relationism defended : linguistic and mental representation of color -- Relationism defended : ontology -- Relationism defended : phenomenology -- A role functionalist theory of color -- Role functionalism and its relationalist rivals.
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  19. Jonathan Cohen (2007). A Relationalist's Guide to Error About Color Perception. Noûs 41 (2):335–353.
    Color relationalism is the view that colors are constituted in terms of relations to perceiving subjects. Among its explanatory virtues, relation- alism provides a satisfying treatment of cases of perceptual variation. But it can seem that relationalists lack resources for saying that a representa- tion of x’s color is erroneous. Surely, though, a theory of color that makes errors of color perception impossible cannot be correct. In this paper I’ll argue that, initial appearances notwithstanding, relationalism contains the resources to account (...)
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  20. Jonathan Cohen (2003). Barry Stroud, the Quest for Reality: Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Colour. Noûs 37 (3):537-554.
    In The Quest for Reality: Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Colour [Stroud, 2000], Barry Stroud carries out an ambitious attack on various forms of irrealism and subjectivism about color. The views he targets - those that would deny a place in objective reality to the colors - have a venerable history in philosophy. Versions of them have been defended by Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, Locke, and Hume; more recently, forms of these positions have been articulated by Williams, Smart, Mackie, Ryle, and (...)
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  21. Jonathan Cohen, C. L. Hardin & Brian P. McLaughlin (2007). The Truth About 'the Truth About True Blue'. Analysis 67 (294):162–166.
    It can happen that a single surface S, viewed in normal conditions, looks pure blue (“true blue”) to observer John but looks blue tinged with green to a second observer, Jane, even though both are normal in the sense that they pass the standard psychophysical tests for color vision. Tye (2006a) finds this situation prima facie puzzling, and then offers two different “solutions” to the puzzle.1 The first is that at least one observer misrepresents S’s color because, though normal in (...)
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  22. Don Dedrick (1995). Objectivism and the Evolutionary Value of Color Vision. Dialogue 34 (1):35-44.
    In Color for Philosophers C. L. Hardin argues that chromatic objectivism?a view which identifies colour with some or other property of objects?must be false. The upshot of Hardin's argument is this: there is, in fact, no principled correlation between physical properties and perceived colours. Since that correlation is a minimal condition for objectivism, objectivism is false. Mohan Matthen, who accepts Hardin's conclusion for what can be called "simple objectivism," takes it that an adaptationist theory of biological function applied to colour (...)
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  23. Fabian Dorsch (2009). The Nature of Colours / Die Natur der Farben (in German). Ontos.
    Farben sind für uns sowohl objektive, als auch phänomenale Eigenschaften. In seinem Buch argumentiert Fabian Dorsch, daß keine ontologische Theorie der Farben diesen beiden Seiten unseres Farbbegriffes gerecht werden k ann. Statt dessen sollten wir akzeptieren, daß letzterer sich auf zwei verschiedene Arten von Eigenschaften bezieht: die repräsentierten Reflektanzeigenschaften von Gegenständen und die qualitativen Eigenschaften unserer Farbwahrnehmungen, die als sinnliche Gegebenheitsweisen ersterer fungieren. Die Natur der Farben gibt einen detaillierten Überblick über die zeitgenössischen philosophischen und naturwissenschaftlichen Theorien der Farben und (...)
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  24. Naomi M. Eilan, On the Reality of Color.
    The Quest for Reality, contains, amongst much else, a sustained and deeply illuminating investigation of the thesis Barry Stroud labels ’subjectivism’ about colours. The grounds he relentlessly amasses for rejecting the thesis are, in my view, compelling. There is a sense, indeed, in which I think they are more compelling than he says he himself finds them. For as I understand his arguments, they contain the materials for delivering a positive answer to the question: are objects really coloured? As Stroud (...)
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  25. Robert J. Fogelin (2004). Stroud's Quest for Reality. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (2):401-407.
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  26. Joshua Gert (2006). A Realistic Colour Realism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84 (4):565 – 589.
    Whether or not one endorses realism about colour, it is very tempting to regard realism about determinable colours such as green and yellow as standing or falling together with realism about determinate colours such as unique green or green31. Indeed some of the most prominent representatives of both sides of the colour realism debate explicitly endorse the idea that these two kinds of realism are so linked. Against such theorists, the present paper argues that one can be a realist about (...)
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  27. Allan F. Gibbard (1996). Visible Properties of Human Interest Only. Philosophical Issues 7:199-208.
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  28. Kathrin Glüer (2007). Colors Without Circles? Erkenntnis 66 (1-2):107--131.
    Realists about color, be they dispositionalists or physicalists, agree on the truth of the following claim: (R) x is red iff x is disposed to look red under standard conditions. The disagreement is only about whether to identify the colors with the relevant dispositions, or with their categorical bases. This is a question about the representational content of color experience: What kind of properties do color experiences ascribe to objects? It has been argued (for instance by Boghossian and Velleman, 1991) (...)
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  29. Mario Gomez-Torrente (2011). Kripke on Color Words and the Primary-Secondary Quality Distinction. In Alan Berger (ed.), Saul Kripke. Cambridge University Press. 290-323.
  30. C. L. Hardin (2004). A Green Thought in a Green Shade. Harvard Review of Philosophy 12 (1):29-39.
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  31. C. L. Hardin (2003). A Spectral Reflectance Doth Not a Color Make. Journal of Philosophy 100 (4):191-202.
  32. C. L. Hardin (1990). Color and Illusion. In William G. Lycan (ed.), Mind and Cognition. Blackwell.
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  33. C. L. Hardin (1988). Color for Philosophers. Hackett.
    This expanded edition of C L Hardin's ground-breaking work on colour features a new chapter, 'Further Thoughts: 1993', in which the author revisits the dispute ...
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  34. Clyde L. Hardin (1988). Color for Philosophers: Unweaving the Rainbow. Hackett.
    This expanded edition of C L Hardin's ground-breaking work on colour features a new chapter, 'Further Thoughts: 1993', in which the author revisits the dispute ...
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  35. Gary Hatfield (2003). Objectivity and Subjectivity Revisited: Colour as a Psychobiological Property. In Rainer Mausfeld & Dieter Heyer (eds.), Colour Perception: Mind and the Physical World. Oxford University Press. 187--202.
  36. Gary Hatfield (1992). Color Perception and Neural Encoding: Does Metameric Matching Entail a Loss of Information? Philosophy of Science Association 1992:492-504.
    It seems intuitively obvious that metameric matching of color samples entails a loss of information, for spectrophotometrically diverse materials appear the same. This intuition implicitly relies on a conception of the function of color vision and on a related conception of how color samples should be individuated. It assumes that the function of color vision is to distinguish among spectral energy distributions, and that color samples should be individuated by their physical properties. I challenge these assumptions by articulating a different (...)
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  37. David R. Hilbert (1992). What is Color Vision? Philosophical Studies 68 (3):351-70.
    There are serious reasons for accepting each of these propositions individually but there are apparently insurmountable difficulties with accepting all three of them simultaneously if we assume that color is a single property. 1) and 2) together seem to imply that there is some property which all organisms with color vision can see and 3) seems to imply that there can be no such property. If these implications really are valid then one or more of these propositions will have to (...)
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  38. David R. Hilbert (1987). Color and Color Perception: A Study in Anthropocentric Realism. Csli Press.
  39. K. Lennon & D. Charles (eds.) (1992). Reduction, Explanation, and Realism. Oxford University Press.
    Reduction has long been a favourite method of analysis in all areas of philosophy, but in recent years there has been a reaction against it. The contributors to this volume examine the motivations for such anti-reductionist views and assess their coherence and success in a number of fields.
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  40. Mohan Matthen (2010). Color Experience: A Semantic Theory. In Jonathan Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. MIT Press. 67--90.
    What is the relationship between color experience and color? Here, I defend the view that it is semantic: color experience denotes color in a code innately known by the perceiver. This semantic theory contrasts with a variety of theories according to which color is defined as the cause of color experience (in a special set of circumstances). It also contrasts with primary quality theories of color, which treat color as a physical quantity. I argue that the semantic theory better accounts (...)
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  41. Mohan P. Matthen (1999). The Disunity of Color. Philosophical Review 108 (1):47-84.
    What is color? What is color vision? Most philosophers answer by reference to humans: to human color qualia, or to the environmental properties or "quality spaces" perceived by humans. It is argued, with reference to empirical findings concerning comparative color vision and the evolution of color vision, that all such attempts are mistaken. An adequate definition of color vision must eschew reference to its outputs in the human cognition and refer only to inputs: color vision consists in the use of (...)
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  42. J. Barry Maund (1995). Colours: Their Nature and Representation. Cambridge University Press.
    This book defends the radical thesis that no physical object has any of the colours we experience it as having.
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  43. Rainer Mausfeld (2010). Color Within an Internalist Framework : The Role of Color in the Structure of the Perceptual System. In Jonathan D. Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. Mit Press.
  44. John McDowell (2004). Reality and Colours: Comment on Stroud. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (2):395-400.
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  45. James A. McGilvray (1994). Constant Colors in the Head. Synthese 100 (2):197-239.
    I defend a version of color subjectivism — that colors are sortals for certain neural events — by arguing against a sophisticated form of color objectivism and by showing how a subjectivist can legitimately explain the phenomenal fact that colors seem to be properties of external objects.
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  46. Vivian Mizrahi (2010). Color and Transparency. Rivista di Estetica 43 (1):181-192.
    In this paper I argue that all transparent objects are colorless. This thesis is important for at least three reasons. First, if transparent objects are colorless, there is no need to distinguish between colors which characterize three-dimensional bodies, like transparent colors, and colors which lie on the surface of objects. Second, traditional objections against color physicalism relying on transparent colors are rendered moot. Finally, an improved understanding of the relations between colors, light and transparency is provided.
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  47. Vivian Mizrahi (2006). Color Objectivism and Color Pluralism. Dialectica 60 (3):283-306.
    Most objectivist and dispositionalist theories of color have tried to resolve the challenge raised by color variations by drawing a distinction between real and apparent colors. This paper considers such a strategy to be fundamentally erroneous. The high degree of variability of colors constitutes a crucial feature of colors and color perception; it cannot be avoided without leaving aside the real nature of color. The objectivist theory of color defended in this paper holds that objects have locally many different objective (...)
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  48. Vivian Mizrahi & Martine Nida-Rumelin (2006). Introduction. Dialectica 60 (3):209-222.
  49. John Morrison (2012). Colour in a Physical World: A Problem Due to Visual Noise. Mind 121 (482):333-373.
    I will develop a new problem for almost all realist theories of colour. The problem involves fluctuations in our colour experiences that are due to visual noise rather than changes in the objects we are looking at.
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  50. Adam Pautz (2003). Have Byrne and Hilbert Answered Hardin's Challenge? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26 (1):44-45.
    I argue that Byrne and Hilbert have not answered Hardin’s objection to physicalism about color concerning the unitary-binary structure of the colors for two reasons. First, their account of unitary-binary structure seems unsatisfactory. Second, _pace_ Byrne and Hilbert, there are no physicalistically acceptable candidates to be the hue- magnitudes. I conclude with a question about the justification of physicalism about color.
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