Aristotle’s definition in De Anima of perception as the assimilation of sensible form without the matter of the perceived object is notoriously difficult to interpret. The present essay provides a novel interpretation of Aristotle’s definition by reading it in light of a puzzle about sensory presentation to be found in the work of Empedocles. Empedocles held a general conception of sensory awareness for which ingestion provides the model. In order for something to be perceived it must be taken within (...) so that it may be in contact with the sense organ. This raises a puzzle about color vision since color vision presents itself as the perception of the colors of distant particulars. Empedocles resolves this puzzle with his theory of effluences. If the colors of distant particulars are the effluences that they emit, then the colors may be assimilated by the organ of sight and so be seen. While Aristotle rejects the theory of effluences and the claim that to be perceptible is to be palpable to sense, he retains a conception of sensory awareness as a mode of assimilation. Thus it is natural to think of perception as a mode of taking in. But how can we take in what remains external? And if we can, what does taking in here mean such that we could? A generalized form of Empedoclean puzzlement consists in the persistence of this latter question. This puzzlement persists to this day. Thus Broad remarks that “It is a natural, if paradoxical, way of speaking to say that seeing seems to ‘bring us into contact with remote objects’ and to reveal their shapes and colors.” What is novel in the present essay is the attempt to understand Aristotle’s definition of perception as a response to such puzzlement. The assimilation of sensible form is meant to be the sense in which we take in the scene before us. (shrink)
Color has been studied for centuries, but has never been completely understood. Digital technology has recently sparked a burgeoning interdisciplinary interest in color. The fact that color is a quality of perception rather than a physical quality brings up a host of interesting questions of interest to both artists and scholars. This volume--the ninth in the Vancouver Studies in Cognitive Science series--brings together chapters by psychologists, philosophers, computer scientists, and artists to explore the nature of human color perception (...) with the aim to further our understanding of color by encouraging interdisciplinary interaction. (shrink)
This book is a major contribution to the interdisciplinary project of investigating the true nature of color vision. In recent times, research into color vision has been one of the main success stories of cognitive science. Each discipline in the field--neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, computer science and philosophy--has contributed significantly to our understanding of color. Evan Thompson provides an accessible review of current scientific and philosophical discussions of color vision. He steers a course between the subjective and objective positions on color, (...) arguing for a relational account. Thompson develops a novel "ecological" approach to color vision in cognitive science and the philosophy of perception. The book is vital reading for all cognitive scientists and philosophers whose interests touch upon this central area. (shrink)
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 (...) conception of the function of color vision, according to which color vision serves to partition object surfaces into discrimination classes. (shrink)
Why do we draw the boundaries between “blue” and “green”, where we do? One proposed answer to this question is that we categorize color the way we do because we perceive color categorically. Starting in the 1950’s, the phenomenon of “categorical perception” (CP) encouraged such a response. CP refers to the fact that adjacent color patches are more easily discriminated when they straddle a category boundary than when they belong to the same category. In this paper, I make three (...) related claims. (1) Although what seems to guide discrimination performances seems to indeed be categorical information, the evidence in favor of the fact that categorical perception influences the way we perceive color is not convincing. (2) That CP offers a useful account of categorization is not obvious. While aiming at accounting for categorization, CP itself requires an account of categories. This being said, CP remains an interesting phenomenon. Why and how is our discrimination behavior linked to our categories? It is suggested that linguistic labels determine CP through a naming strategy to which participants resort while discriminating colors. This paper’s final point is (3) that the naming strategy account is not enough. Beyond category labels, what seems to guide discrimination performance is category structure. (shrink)
Inter-species variation in colourperception poses a serious problem for the view that colours are mind-independent properties. Given that colourperception 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 simultaneously instantiate a plurality of colours, all of them genuinely mind-independent, and subjects select from amongst this plurality which colours they perceive. I contrast selectionist views with relationalist views that deny the mind-independence of colour, and consider some general objections to this strategy. (shrink)
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 for errors of color perception. I’ll conclude that worries about making room for error are worries the relationalist can meet. (shrink)
When an object looks red to an observer, the visual experience of the observer has two important features. The experience visually represents the object as having a property—being red. And the experience has a phenomenological character; that is, there is something that it is like to have an experience of seeing an object as red. Let qualia be the properties that give our sensory and perceptual experiences their phenomenological character. This essay takes up two related problem for a nonreductive account (...) of qualia. Some have argued that on such an account there is no room in a physicalist ontology for qualia. Section 1 shows how qualia might fit into a physicalist ontology. The second problem begins with the observation that there is a gap in scientific accounts of color experience; there is no explanation of why the features of the brain that determine our color experiences give those experiences their phenomenological character. Building on the results of Sect. 1, Sect. 2 develops an account of color perception that bridges this gap and shows how qualia give color perception its phenomenological character. To get a grip on the issues involved the paper begins by considering some aspects of a physicalist account of color. (shrink)
Perspectivalism is a semantic theory according to which the contents of utterances and mental states (perhaps of a particular kind) have a truth-value only relative to a particular perspective (or standard) determined by the context of the speaker or bearer of the mental state. I have defended this view for epistemic terms, moral terms and predicates of personal taste elsewhere (Brogaard 2008a, 2008b, forthcoming). The main aim of this paper is to defend perspectivalism about color perception and color discourse. (...) The content of color perception and color discourse, I will argue, has a truth-value only relative to a centered world containing an appropriate viewing condition and the perceiver, or a perceiver that is deferred to. (shrink)
A neighbor who strikes it rich evokes both admiration and envy, and a similar mix of emotions must be aroused in many neighborhoods of cognitive science when the residents look at the results of research in color perception. It provides what is probably the most widely acknowledged success story of any domain of scientific psychology: the success, against all expectation, of the opponent process theory of color perception. Initially proposed by a Ewald Hering, a nineteenth century physiologist, it (...) drew its inspiration from the existence of opposing muscle groups. Hering thought that analogous opposing processes could explain some aspects of color perception, but the resulting theory was more complicated and less intuitive than that proposed by the great Hermann von Helmholtz. Helmholtz carried his day, but in the long run Hering turned out to be right. (shrink)
Byrne & Hilbert (B&H) conceive of colorperception as the representation of a physical property “out there.” In our view, their approach does not only have various internal problems, but is also apt to becloud both the intricate and still poorly understood role that “color” plays within perceptual architecture, and the complex coupling to the “external world” of the perceptual system as an entirety. We propose an alternative perspective, which avoids B&H's misleading dichotomy between a purely subjective (...) and a realist conception of “color.”. (shrink)
Trichromacy may result from an adaptation to the regularities in terrestrial illumination. However, we suggest that a complete characterization of the challenges faced by colourperception must include changes in surface surround and illuminant changes due to inter-reflections between surfaces in cluttered scenes. Furthermore, our trichromatic system may have evolved to allow the detection of brownish-reddish edibles against greenish backgrounds. [Shepard].
Colour has long been a source of fascination to both scientists and philosophers. In one sense, colours are in the mind of the beholder, in another sense they belong to the external world. Colours appear to lie on the boundary where we have divided the world into 'objective' and 'subjective' events. They represent, more than any other attribute of our visual experience, a place where both physical and mental properties are interwoven in an intimate and enigmatic way. -/- The (...) last few decades have brought fascinating changes in the way that we think about 'colour' and the role 'colour' plays in our perceptual architecture. In ColourPerception: Mind and the physical world, leading scholars from cognitive psychology, philosophy, neurophysiology, and computational vision provide an overview of the contemporary developments in our understanding of colours and of the relationship between the 'mental' and the 'physical'. With each chapter followed by critical commentaries, the volume presents a lively and accessible picture of the intellectual traditions which have shaped research into colourperception. -/- Written in a non-technical style and accessible to an interdisciplinary audience, the book will provide an invaluable resource for researchers in colourperception and the cognitive sciences. (shrink)
What knowledge of the colors does perception of the colors provide? My first aim in this essay is to characterize the way in which color experience seems to provide knowledge of colors. This in turn tells us something about what it takes for there to be colors. Color experience provides knowledge of the aspect of the world that is being acted on when we, or some external force, act on the color of an object and thus make a difference (...) to the experiences of people looking at it. It is in this sense that the nature of the colors is transparent to us. For there to be colors is for there to be the qualitative categorical properties that we encounter in perception, action on which affects the color experiences of observers. This line of thought contrasts with the idea that color experience reveals the colors to us, in the sense that it provides knowledge of a number of necessary truths about the colors. In a recent paper, Alex Byrne and David Hilbert provide a careful exposition and critique of this way of developing the idea of color experience as revelatory of the colors. In this paper my main aim is simply to contrast the idea that experience makes the colors transparent to us, with the idea that color experience provides us with knowledge of truths relating to the essences of the colors. (shrink)
Color subjectivists claim that, despite appearances to the contrary, the world external to the mind is colorless. However, in giving an account of color perception, subjectivists about the nature of perceived color must address the nature of perceived spatial location as well. The argument here will be that subjectivists’ problems with coordinating the metaphysics of perceived color and perceived location render color perception implausibly mysterious. Consequently, some version of color realism, the view that colors are (physical, dispositional, functional, (...) sui generis, or some other) properties of physical objects, is correct. (shrink)
According to color subjectivism, colors are mental properties, processes, or events of visual experiences of color. I first lay out an argument for subjectivism founded on claims from visual science and show that it also relies on a philosophical assumption. I then argue that subjectivism is untenable because this view cannot provide a plausible account of color perception. I describe three versions of subjectivism, each of which combines subjectivism with a theory of perception, namely sense datum theory, adverbialism, (...) and the virtual color proposal, and argue that each version faces serious objections. Considering these three theories of perception to be exhaustive of those available to the subjectivist, I conclude that subjectivism is untenable and that the scientifically motivated argument for this view is unsound. I then offer the diagnosis that the philosophical assumption on which this argument relies is mistaken. (shrink)
This article was written as a commentary on a target article by Peter W. Ross entitled "The Location Problem for Color Subjectivism" [Consciousness and Cognition 10(1), 42-58 (2001)], and is published together with it, and with other commentaries and Ross's reply. If you or your library have the necessary subscription you can get PDF versions of the target article, all the commentaries, and Ross's reply to the commentaries here. However, I do not think that it is by any means essential (...) for you to have read Ross's piece in order to understand this one. Ross defends a view called "color physicalism" or color realism that holds (simplifying somewhat) that colors are real physical properties (in typical cases, spectral reflectances of object surfaces). This is in opposition to what is probably a more widely held "subjectivist" view of color, holding that color qualities really exist only in the mind. In my commentary I suggest that a realist view of qualitative properties, such as Ross's, together with a direct, active view of perception, and a concept of "extended mind" (Clark & Chalmers, 1998) may provide the materials for a real solution to the notorious hard problem of consciousness. I sketch this solution in outline. - N.J.T.T. (shrink)
Can psychology explain the qualitative content of experience? A persistent philosophical objection to that discipline is that it cannot. Qualitative states or "qualia" are argued to have characteristics which cannot be explained in terms of their relationships to other psychological states, stimuli, and behavior. Since psychology is confined to descriptions of such relationships, it seems that psychology cannot explain qualia.
I disagree with Ross about the location of colors: They are in the brain, not in the external world. It is difficult to deny that there are colors in our conscious visual experience, and if we take the causal theory of perception seriously, we cannot identify these colors with the beginning of the causal chain in perception (external objects in the distal stimulus field), but we must search for them at the end of the causal chain (in the (...) brain). Several lines of compelling evidence from cognitive neuroscience (e.g., synesthesia, dreaming, and achromatopsia) demonstrate unambiguously that color is in the brain. Furthermore, it seems that Ross has failed to consider one substantial version of subjectivism in his article. This monistic approach to color and consciousness appears to be the least implausible alternative when we try to understand what colors are and where they reside. (shrink)
In “The Location Problem for Color Subjectivism,” Peter Ross argues against what he calls subjectivism — the view that “colors are not describable in physical terms, ... [but are] mental processes or events of visual states” (2),1 and in favor of physicalism — a view according to which colors are “physical properties of physical objects, such as reﬂectance properties” (10). He rejects an argument that has been oﬀered in support of subjectivism, and argues that, since no form of subjectivism is (...) able to account for our perception of color, we are better oﬀ adopting physicalism. (shrink)
We designed a new protocol requiring French adult participants to group a large number of Munsell colour chips into three or four groups. On one, relativist, view, participants would be expected to rely on their colour lexicon in such a task. In this [ramework, the resulting groups should be more similar to French colour categories than to other languages categories. On another, universalist, view, participants would be expected to rely on universal features of perception. In this (...) second framework, the resulting groups should match colour categories of three and four basic terms languages. In this work, we first collected data to build an accurate map of French colour terms categories (Experiment 1). We went on testing how native French speakers spontaneously sorted a set of randomly presented coloured chips and, in line with the relativist prediction, we found that the resulting colour groups were more similar to French colour categories than to three and four basic terms languages (Experiment 2). However, the same results were obtained in a verbal interference condition (Experiment 3), suggesting that participants rely on language specific and nevertheless perceptual, colour categories. Collectively, these results suggest that the universalist/relativist dichotomy is a too narrow one. (shrink)
The dominant view among philosophers of perception is that color experiences, like color judgments, are essentially representational: as part of their very nature color experiences possess representational contents which are either accurate or inaccurate. My starting point in assessing this view is Sydney Shoemaker’s familiar account of color perception. After providing a sympathetic reconstruction of his account, I show how plausible assumptions at the heart of Shoemaker’s theory make trouble for his claim that color experiences represent the colors (...) of things. I consider various ways of trying to avoid the objection, and find all of the responses wanting. My conclusion is that we have reason to be skeptical of the orthodox view that color experiences are constitutively representational. (shrink)
Susan Hurley has attacked the ''Duplication Assumption'', the assumption thatcreatures with exactly the same internal states could function exactly alike inenvironments that are systematically distorted. She argues that the dynamicalinterdependence of action and perception is highly problematic for the DuplicationAssumption when it involves spatial states and capacities, whereas no such problemsarise when it involves color states and capacities. I will try to establish that theDuplication Assumption makes even less sense for lightness than for some ofthe spatial cases. This is (...) due not only to motor factors, but to the basic physicalasymmetry between black and white. I then argue that the case can be extendedfrom lightness perception to hue perception. Overall, the aims of this paper are:(1) to extend Susan Hurley''s critique of the Duplication Assumption; (2) to argueagainst highly constrained versions of Inverted Spectrum arguments; (3) to proposea broader conception of the vehicle for color perception. (shrink)
Are color categories the evolutionary product of their usefulness in communication, or is this an accidental benefit they give us? It is argued here that embodiment constraints on color categorization suggest that communication is an add-on at best. Thus, the Steels & Belpaeme (S&B) model may be important in explaining coordination, but only at the margin. Furthermore, the concentration on discrimination is questionable: coclassification is at least as important.
Steels & Belpaeme (S&B) ask how autonomous agents can derive perceptually grounded categories for successful communication, using color categorization as an example. Their comparison of nativism, empiricism, and culturalism, although interesting, does not include key biological and technological constraints for seeing color or learning color categories in realistic environments. Other neural models have successfully included these constraints.
Why do we draw the boundaries between “blue” and “green”, where we do? One proposed answer to this question is that we categorize color the way we do because we perceive color categorically. Starting in the 1950’s, the phenomenon of “categorical perception” (CP) encouraged such a response. CP refers to the fact that adjacent color patches are more easily discriminated when they straddle a category boundary than when they belong to the same category. In this paper, I make three (...) related claims. (1) Although what seems to guide discrimination performances seems to indeed be categorical information, the evidence in favor of the fact that categorical perception infl uences the way we perceive color is not convincing. (2) That CP offers a useful account of categorization is not obvious.While aiming at accounting for categorization, CP itself requires an account of categories. This being said, CP remains an interesting phenomenon. Why and how is our discrimination behavior linked to our categories? It is suggested that linguistic labels determine CP through a naming strategy to which participants resort while discriminating colors. This paper’s fi nal point is (3) that the naming strategy account is not enough. Beyond category labels, what seems to guide discrimination performance is category structure. (shrink)
Byrne & Hilbert propose that color can be identified with explicit properties of physical surfaces. I argue that this claim must be qualified to take into account constraints needed to make recovery of surface color information possible. When these constraints are satisfied, then a biological visual system can establish a correspondence between perceived surface color and specific surface properties.
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 nature of colour, and of perception. If this is so, there cannot be neutral empirical evidence on this point, and this does seem to undermine Hilbert’s claim for empirical support. In the end, I suggest alternative ways of thinking about the relationship between colour ontology and empirical work on colour. (shrink)
Adults and infants display a robust ability to perceive the unity of a center-occluded object when the visible ends of the object undergo common motion (e.g. Kellman, P.J., Spelke, E.S., 1983. Perception of partly occluded objects in infancy. Cognitive Psychology 15, 483±524). Ecologically oriented accounts of this ability focus on the primacy of motion in the perception of segregated objects, but Gestalt theory suggests a broader possibility: observers may perceive object unity by detecting patterns of synchronous change, of (...) which common motion is a special case. We investigated this possibility with observations of adults and 4-month-old infants. Participants viewed a center-occluded object whose visible surfaces were either misaligned or aligned, stationary or moving, and unchanging or synchronously changing in color or bright- ness in various temporal patterns (e.g. ¯ashing). Both alignment and common motion con- tributed to adults' perception of object unity, but synchronous color changes did not. For infants, motion was an important determinant of object unity, but other synchronous changes and edge alignment were not. When a stationary object with aligned edges underwent syn- chronous changes in color or brightness, infants showed high levels of attention to the object, but their perception of its unity appeared to be indeterminate. An inherent preference for fast over slow ¯ash rates, and a novelty preference elicited by a change in rate, both indicated that infants detected the synchronous changes, although they failed to use them as information for object unity. These ®ndings favor ecologically oriented accounts of object perception in which surface motion plays a privileged role. Ó 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
This article proposes an account of color constancy based on an examination of the relevant scientific literature. Differences in experimental settings and task instructions that lead to variation in subject performance are given particular attention. Based on the evidence discussed, the core of the proposal made is that there are two different forms of color constancy, one phenomenal and the other projective. This follows the hypothesis of Reeves et al. (Perception & Psychophysics 70:219–228, 2008). Unlike Reeves et al. ( (...) class='Hi'>Perception & Psychophysics 70:219–228, 2008), it is argued that projective color constancy is crucially dependent upon phenomenal color constancy and certain aspects of scene perception. Additionally, it is hypothesized that capacities that support projective color constancy have an important role to play in facilitating our ability to quickly recognize scenes with diagnostic chromatic properties independently of assignments of colors to object surfaces. (shrink)
The condition of ‘genuine perceptual synaesthesia’ has been a focus of attention in research in psychology and neuroscience over the last decades. For subjects in this condition stimulation in one modality automatically and consistently over the subject’s lifespan triggers a percept in another modality. In hearing→colour synaesthesia, for example, a specific sound experience evokes a perception of a specific colour. In this paper, I discuss questions and challenges that the phenomenon of synaesthetic experience raises for theories of (...) perceptual experience in general, and for theories thatsee the content and modality of conscious experience as being constituted and determined by the active and skilful exploration of the environment in particular. The focus of my paper will be on the latter, ‘enactive’ view of perception and its theory of what determines the modality-specific ‘feel’ of a perceptual experience. (shrink)