Colors without circles?

Erkenntnis 66 (1-2):107--131 (2007)
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) that truths like (R) cannot be used in an account of the colors as they would result in ‚circular’, and therefore empty, contents. It has also been argued (for instance by Harman, 1996) that switching to an account of color in terms of a functional account of color sensations would result in a circular, and therefore empty, account. In this paper, I defend a realist account of color in terms of a (non-reductive) functional account of color sensations. Such an account of sensations has been suggested by Pagin (2000), and it can be applied to color sensations without the resulting account of the colors themselves being circular or empty. I argue that the so-called transparency of experience does not provide any argument against such an account. I also argue that on such an account, the issue of physicalism vs. dispositionalism boils down to the question of the modal profile of the color concepts.
Keywords Philosophy   Logic   Ethics   Ontology   Epistemology   Philosophy
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John McDowell (1994). Mind and World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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