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)
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)
Let me begin by indicating where I think Harman and I are in agreement. We both think that "subjective reactions" must come into an account of color, although we have different views about how they do. We both think that perceptual experience has a "presentational or representational character," and that color is represented by our visual experiences as a feature of external objects, not as a feature of our experience. Moreover, we agree that, as Harman puts it, "color is experienced (...) as a simple basic quality, rather than a disposition or complex of causal properties." As Harman emphasized in an earlier paper, 1 what we are introspectively aware of in our experience is its presentational or representational content, not any "mental paint" which bestows this content. I shall refer to all of this as Harman's "phenomenological point." Because we agree on this, we also agree that if his characters George and Mary were spectrum inverted relative to each other, supposing that to be possible, this would have to involve their perceiving the same objects as having different properties, this despite the fact that as normal perceivers they would perceive these objects as having the same colors. And I think we agree that in this case the properties would have to be relational ones, defined or constituted by their relations to the experiences of the subject perceiving them. (shrink)
According to color realism, object colors are mind-independent properties that cover surfaces or permeate volumes of objects. In recent years, some color scientists and a growing number of philosophers have opposed this view on the grounds that realism about color cannot accommodate the apparent unitary/binary structure of the hues. For example, Larry Hardin asserts,
the unitary-binary structure of the colors as we experience them corresponds to no known physical structure lying outside nervous systems that is causally involved (...) in the perception of color. This makes it very difficult to subscribe to a color realism that is supposed to be about red, green, blue, black, and white—that is, the colors with which we are perceptually acquainted.1
There is nothing in this World constant but Inconstancy. [Swift 1711: 258] In this paper I argue that two standard characterizations of colour constancy are inadequate to the phenomenon. This inadequacy matters, since, I contend, philosophical appeals to colour constancy as a way of motivating illumination-independent conceptions of colour turn crucially on the shortcomings of these characterizations. After critically reviewing the standard characterizations, I provide a novel counterfactualist understanding of colour constancy, argue that it avoids difficulties (...) of its traditional rivals, and defend it from objections. Finally, I show why, on this improved understanding, colour constancy does not have the philosophical consequences that have been claimed for it in the literature. (shrink)
Color subjectivism is the view that color properties are mental properties of our visual sensations, perhaps identical with properties of neural states, and that nothing except visual sensations and other mental states exhibits color properties. Color phys- icalism, by contrast, holds that colors are exclusively properties of visible physical objects and processes.
Ross argues that the location problem for color-the problem of how it is represented as occupying a particular location in space-constitutes an objection to color subjectivism. There are two ways in which the location problem can be interpreted. First, it can be read as a why-question about the relation of visual experience to the environment represented: Why does visual experience represent a patch of color as located in this part of space rather than that? On this interpretation, the subjectivist can (...) answer Ross's objection by appealing to the physical location of reflectance rather than color. Second, it can be read as a how-question about visual representation itself: How does visual experience put together the experience of a color with the experience of its being located in space? This version makes the location problem a problem about visual experience itself and renders the ontology of color irrelevant to its solution. The location problem is thus no more a problem for the color subjectivist than for the color realist. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to defend the view that the processes underlying early vision are informationally encapsulated. Following Marr (1982) and Pylyshyn (1999) I take early vision to be a cognitive process that takes sensory information as its input and produces the so-called primal sketches or shallow visual outputs: informational states that represent visual objects in terms of their shape, location, size, colour and luminosity. Recently, some researchers (Schirillo 1999, Macpherson 2012) have attempted to undermine the idea (...) of the informational encapsulation of early vision by referring to experiments that seem to show that colour recognition is affected by the subject's beliefs about the typical colour of objects. In my view, however, one can reconcile the results of these experiments with the position that early vision is informationally encapsulated. Namely, I put fort a hypothesis according to which the early vision system has access to a local database that I call the mental palette and define as a network of associative links whose nodes stands for shapes and colours. The function of the palette is to facilitate colour recognition without employing central processes. I also describe two experiments by which the mental palette hypothesis can be tested. (shrink)
We say "the grass is green" or "lemons are yellow" to state what everyone knows. But are the things we see around us really colored, or do they only look that way because of the effects of light rays on our eyes and brains? Is color somehow "unreal" or "subjective" and dependent on our human perceptions and the conditions under which we see things? Distinguished scholar Barry Stroud investigates these and related questions in The Quest for Reality. In this long-awaited (...) book, he examines what a person would have to do and believe in order to reach the conclusion that everyone's perceptions and beliefs about the color of things are "illusions" and do not accurately represent the way things are in the world as it is independently of us. Arguing that no such conclusion could be consistently reached, Stroud finds that the conditions of a successful unmasking of color cannot all be fulfilled. The discussion extends beyond color to present a serious challenge to many other philosophical attempts to discover the way things really are. A model of subtle, elegant, and rigorous philosophical writing, this study will attract a wide audience from all areas of philosophy. (shrink)
This essay deals with the problem of the status of colours, traditionally considered as the paradigmatic case of secondary qualities: do colours exist only as aspects of experience or are they real properties of objects, existing independently of human and animal perception? Recently, John Campbell has argued in favour of the simple view of colours, according to which colours are real properties of objects. I discuss the place of Campbell's position in a debated which was started by John Mackie (...) and continued by John McDowell, and defend it from a criticism due to Michael Smith. I conclude that the simple view is a philosophically credible position. Subsequently, I consider an alleged contradiction between the simple view and semantic externalism pointed out by Jim Edwards. I suggest that a supporter of the simple view may consistently maintain semantic externalism, if she also accepts epistemological externalism about the canonical warrant of perceptual judgements. (shrink)
One reason philosophers have addressed the metaphysics of color is its apparent relevance to the sciences concerned with color phenomena. In the light of such thinking, this paper examines a pairing of views that has received much attention: color physicalism and externalism about the content of perceptual experience. It is argued that the latter is a dubious conception of the workings of our perceptual systems. Together with flawed appeals to the empirical literature, it has led some philosophers to grant color (...) physicalism a scientific legitimacy it does not merit. This discussion provides a useful entry into broader points pertaining to debates about color realism and the relationship between philosophical theories of color and the relevant empirical literatures. A sketch of a novel form of color realism is offered, as is an example that fills in some details of that sketch. (shrink)
We need to reconsider and reconceive the path that will take us from innate perceptual saliencies to basic (and perhaps other) colour language. There is a space between the perceptual and the linguistic levels that needs to be filled by an account of the rules that people use to generate relatively stable reference classes in a social context.
Sensory qualities are objective properties; indeed, on the evidence, they are physical properties. However, what makes a physical property the sensory quality it is is its relationship to sensory experiences of perceivers. For instance, the redness of a surface is a physical property of the surface; what makes that physical property surface red is the fact that it disposes surfaces to look red to appropriate visual perceivers in appropriate viewing circumstances. What it is like for something to look red—that is, (...) the actual phenomenal character of visual experiences as of something red—is also a physical property; on the evidence, it is a physical property of the brain. (shrink)
As standardly conceived, an illusion is an experience of an object o appearing F where o is not in fact F. Paradigm examples of color illusion, however, do not fit this pattern. A diagnosis of this uncovers different sense of appearance talk that is the basis of a dilemma for the standard conception. The dilemma is only a challenge. But if the challenge cannot be met, then any conception of experience, such as representationalism, that is committed to the standard conception (...) is false. Perhaps surprisingly, naïve realism provides a better account of color illusion.An apparence ymaad by som Magyk. Chaucer. (shrink)
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.
Seeing, Doing, and Knowing is an original and comprehensive philosophical treatment of sense perception as it is currently investigated by cognitive neuroscientists. Its central theme is the task-oriented specialization of sensory systems across the biological domain; these systems coevolve with an organism's learning and action systems, providing the latter with classifications of external objects in terms of sensory categories purpose--built for their need. On the basis of this central idea, Matthen presents novel theories of perceptual similarity, content, and realism. (...) His work will be a stimulating resource for a wide range of scholars and students across philosophy and psychology. (shrink)
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.
Are the following propositions true of the colors: No object can be more than one determinable or determinate color all over at the same time (Incompatibility); the colors of objects are mind-independent (Objectivism); and most human observers usually perceive the colors of objects veridically in typical conditions (Veridicality)? One reason to think not is that the empirical literature appears to support the proposition that there is mass perceptual disagreement about the colors of objects amongst human observers in typical conditions (P-Disagreement). (...) In this article, we defend Incompatibility, Objectivism, and Veridicality by calling into question whether the empirical literature really supports P-Disagreement. (shrink)
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 (...) reflecting properties of objects (“reflectance physicalism”). Specifically, the determinate and determinable colors are identified with types of reflectances. (Setting some complications aside, the reflectance of an object is the proportion of light that it reflects at each wavelength in the visible spectrum.) These reflectance types are, in the terminology of Hilbert, anthropocentric—in the terminology of Lewis6, they are not very “natural”. (shrink)
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 the determinable colours of objects, and thus hold that most of the colour ascriptions made by competent speakers are literally true, while denying that there are any positive facts of the matter as to the determinate colours of objects. The result is a realistic colour realism that can certify most of our everyday colour ascriptions as literally correct, while acknowledging the data regarding individual variation. (shrink)
It seems a compelling idea that experience of colour plays some role in our having concepts of the various colours, but in trying to explain the role experience plays the first thing we have to describe is what sort of colour experience matters here. I will argue that the kind of experience that matters is conscious attention to the colours of objects as an aspect of them on which direct intervention is selectively possible. As I will explain this (...) idea, it is a matter of being able to use experience to inform linguistic or conceptual thought about what would happen were there to be various interventions on an object. Against this background, I will review Locke’s fundamental argument that since we can change the colour of an almond by pounding it, there must be an error embodied in our ordinary concepts of colour: there is no such thing as intervening directly on the colour of an object. The analysis I present brings out the force of Locke’s argument. But I will propose a vindication of our commonsense conception of colour as an aspect of objects on which direct intervention is selectively possible. (shrink)
John Campbell proposed a so-called simple view of colours according to which colours are categorical properties of the surfaces of objects just as they normally appear to be. I raised an invertion problem for Campbell's view according to which the senses of colour terms fail to match their references, thus rendering those terms meaningless—or so I claimed. Gabriele de Anna defended Campbell's view against my example by contesting two points in particular. Firstly, de Anna claimed that there is no (...) special problem here for the simple view of colours, a similar invertion story could apply to primary qualities terms for shapes. Secondly, de Anna purported to give an account of the senses and references of colour terms in my invertion story which renders the senses and references of those terms mutually consistent. In this paper I contested both of de Anna's claims. Regarding the first, I argue that his imagined invertion of apparent shapes is not epistemically stable, in contrast to the invertion of apparent shapes is not epistemically stable, in contrast to the invertion of apparent colours. Hence the victims of apparently inverted shapes would be able to discover the mismatch of senses and refences of their shape terms, in contrast to the victims of apparent invertions of colours. Regarding the second, I argue that de Anna's account of the victim's colour terms itself uses and not merely mentions so-called colours terms. Hence de Anna' account of them is itself meaningless due to a mismatch of sense and reference. So I conclude that my objection to Campbell's simple view of colours stands. (shrink)
The human urge to represent the three-dimensional world using two-dimensional pictorial representations dates back at least to Paleolithic times. Artists from ancient to modern times have struggled to understand how a few contours or color patches on a flat surface can induce mental representations of a three-dimensional scene. This article summarizes some of the recent breakthroughs in scientifically understanding how the brain sees that shed light on these struggles. These breakthroughs illustrate how various artists have intuitively understand paradoxical properties about (...) how the brain sees, and have used that understanding to create great art. These paradoxical properties arise from how the brain forms the units of conscious visual perception; namely, representations of threedimensional boundaries and surfaces. Boundaries and surfaces are computed in parallel cortical processing streams that obey computationally complementary properties. These streams interact at multiple levels to overcome their complementary weaknesses and to transform their complementary properties into consistent percepts. The article describes how properties of complementary consistency have guided the creation of many great works of art. (shrink)
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.
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 (...) wavelength discrimination in the construction of visual representations. A color quality is one that is generated from such processing. (shrink)
b>. Computational models of colour vision assume that the biological function of colour vision is to detect surface reflectance. Some philosophers invoke these models as a basis for 'externalism' about perceptual content (content is distal) and 'objectivism' about colour (colour is surface reflectance). In an earlier article (Thompson et al. 1992), I criticized the 'computational objectivist' position on the basis of comparative colour vision: There are fundmental differences among the colour vision of animals and (...) these differences do not converge on the detection of any single type of environmental property. David R. Hilbert (1992) has recently defended computational objectivism against my 'comparative argument;' his arguments are based on the externalist approach to perceptual content originally developed by Mohan Matthen (1988) and on the computationally inspired theory of the evolutionary basis for trichromacy developed by Roger N. Shepard (1990). The present article provides a reply to Hilbert with extensive criticism of both Matthen's and Shepard's theories. I argue that the biological function of colour vision is not to detect surface reflectance, but to provide a set of perceptual categories that can apply to objects in a stable way in a variety of conditions. Comparative research indicates that both the perceptual categories and the distal stimuli will differ according to the animal and its visual ecology; therefore externalism and objectivism must be rejected. (shrink)
Dispositionalist accounts of colour concepts are now largely discarded. But a number of recent and influential objections to this type of theory can be readily answered providing the dispositionalist account contains the key elements it should-which actual versions in the literature do not. I explicate some of the conceptual components needed in such an account once we correctly understand the anthropocentricity of the colour concepts involved. When these components are incorporated into dispositionalism, including one crucial distinction in particular, (...) some powerful seeming objections against this revised dispositionalism fail. In addition, dispositionalism has extra advantages over the far more popular physicalist theories, and I therefore contend that we should explore vigorously this kind of enriched dispositionalist account. (shrink)
A dual referent approach to colour theory maintains that colour names have two intended, equally legitimate referents. For example, one might argue that ‘red’ refers both to red appearances or qualia, and also to the way red objects reflect light, the spectral surface reflectance properties of red things. I argue that normal cases of perceptual relativity can be used to support a dual referent approach, yielding an understanding of colour whose natural extension includes abnormal cases of perceptual (...) relativity. This contrasts with Peacocke’s multi-referent view, according to which such abnormal cases force us to introduce a wholly distinct kind of colour experience. I also argue that the two uses of colour names, arising from their two referents, have different extensions, even in normal perceptual circumstances, a consequence which conflicts with the heart of Rosenthal’s dual referent view. (shrink)
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 (...) be rejected in spite of whatever reasons can be given for their apparent acceptability. Before going on to discuss possible resolutions of this apparent contradiction it is worth pointing out there our three propositions are not all of a kind. Proposition 1) is a metaphysical thesis about the ontological status of color and proposition 3) is an empirical thesis about what properties organisms with color vision are capable of detecting. If you accept 1) then 2) will appear to verge on the trivial, but if 1) is denied then the status of 2) will appear more problematic. In what follows I will have more to say about why we either should or should not accept all three of these propositions. (shrink)
It is plausible to think that some animals perceive the world as coloreddifferently from the way humans perceive it. I argue that the best way ofaccommodating this fact is to adopt perceiver-relativism, the view that colorpredicates express relations between objects and types of perceivers.Perceiver-relativism makes no claim as to the identity of color properties;it is compatible with both physicalism and dispositionalism. I arguehowever for a response-dependence version of it according to which an object counts as red (for a type of (...) perceiver) iff it standardly looks red to normal perceivers (of that type). Finally, I develop a notion of minimal realism on which this account counts as realist despite its subjectivist elements, in that it is committed to the objectivityof truth. (shrink)
The standard adaptationist explanation of the presence of a sensory mechanism in an organism--that it detects properties useful to the organism--cannot be given for color vision. This is because colors do not exist. After arguing for this latter claim, I consider, but reject, nonadaptationist explanations. I conclude by proposing an explanation of how color vision could have adaptive value even though it does not detect properties in the environment.
The problem of the nature of color is typically put in terms of the following question about the intentional content of visual experiences: what’s the nature of the property we attribute to physical objects in virtue of our visual experiences of color? This problem has proven to be tenacious largely because it’s not clear what the constraints are for an answer. With no clarity about constraints, the proposed solutions range widely, the most common dividing into subjectivist views which hold that (...) attributed colors are mental properties or mental events} and a variety of realist views, which hold that colors are properties of physical objects. These realist views, in turn, divide into views that hold that attributed colors are dispositions of physical objects to produce color experiences (dispositionalism),° nondispositional relations between objects and perceivers (the relational view)," physical properties of physical objects (physicalism),‘ or sui generis properties of physical objects (primitivism and impressionism).‘ I’ll examine a proposed constraint which Mark Johnston (1992) calls Revelation. According to Revelation, the appearance of color in our ordinary visual experience provides us with unqualified access to the nature of color. While every proposal about the nature of color must take a stand on how the.. (shrink)
A widely held view on color cognition is that it is structured by a set of color fundamentals. Three sorts of evidence may be invoked in favor of such a ‘foundational’ approach to color cognition: physiological, phenomenal and lexical. This paper focuses on the lexical evidence, which draws from a predominant view in color categorization, the Basic color terms theory (BCTT). It argues that the BCTT does not consist in a foundational approach to color cognition and does not provide such (...) evidence. (shrink)
The phenomenon of synesthesia has undergone an invigoration of research interest and empirical progress over the past decade. Studies investigating the cognitive mechanisms underlying synesthesia have yielded insight into neural processes behind such cognitive operations as attention, memory, spatial phenomenology and inter-modal processes. However, the structural and functional mechanisms underlying synesthesia still remain contentious and hypothetical. The first section of the present paper reviews recent research on grapheme-color synesthesia, one of the most common forms of synesthesia, and addresses the ongoing (...) debate concerning the role of selective attention in eliciting synesthetic experience. Drawing on conclusions of the first half, the paper’s second half examines the various models proposed to explain the cognitive mechanisms behind grapheme-color synesthesia, and discusses the explanatory virtues of a new model suggesting that grapheme-color synesthesia is grounded in memory. The last section offers an examination of some of the broader philosophical implications of synesthesia. (shrink)
This article addresses two questions related to colour categorization, to wit, the question what a colour category is, and the question how we identify colour categories. We reject both the relativist and universalist answers to these questions. Instead, we suggest that colour categories can be identified with the help of the criterion of psychological saliency, which can be operationalized by means of consistency and consensus measures. We further argue that colour categories can be defined as (...) well-structured entities that optimally partition colour space. We provide some empirical support for this claim by presenting experimental results, which indicate that internal structure is a better predictor of colour categories than perceptual saliency. (shrink)