Color

Edited by Alex Byrne (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
About this topic
Summary The central issue in the philosophy of color concerns the nature of colors—for instance, whether they are physical properties of some sort—and whether ordinary objects like tomatoes and lemons really are colored. Color serves as a relatively tractable test case for a variety of issues in the philosophy of perception, epistemology, and metaphysics.
Key works Perhaps the most influential recent book on the general topic of color is Hardin 1988. Other important books are Stroud 2000 and Cohen 2009. A collection of central papers in the philosophy of color is Byrne & Hilbert 1997; Byrne & Hilbert 1997 is a companion volume on color science.
Introductions For short overviews of the competing theories of color, see the introduction to Byrne & Hilbert 1997, Byrne & Hilbert 2002 and Pautz 2009. For a more substantial introduction see Maund 2008. A useful annotated bibliography is Brogaard 2010.
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  1. Colour Relations in Form.Will Davies - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (3):574-594.
    The orthodox monadic determination thesis holds that we represent colour relations by virtue of representing colours. Against this orthodoxy, I argue that it is possible to represent colour relations without representing any colours. I present a model of iconic perceptual content that allows for such primitive relational colour representation, and provide four empirical arguments in its support. I close by surveying alternative views of the relationship between monadic and relational colour representation.
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  2. Novel Colour Experiences and Their Implications.Fiona Macpherson - 2021 - In Derek H. Brown & Fiona Macpherson (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Colour.
    This chapter explores the evidence for the existence of such new colour experiences and what their philosophical ramifications would be. I first define the notion of ‘novel colours’ and discuss why I think that this is the best name for such colours, rather than the numerous other names that they have sometimes been given in the literature. I then introduce the evidence and arguments for thinking that experiences as of novel colours exist, along with objections that people have had to (...)
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  3. Introduction to the Philosophy of Colour.Derek H. Brown & Fiona Macpherson - 2021 - In Derek H. Brown & Fiona Macpherson (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Colour.
    This essay is an introduction to the Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Colour. Why has the examination of many different aspects of colour been a prominent feature in philosophy, to such an extent that the topic is worthy of a handbook? Here are two related answers. First, colours are exceedingly familiar, seemingly simple features that become enigmatic under scrutiny, and they are difficult to capture in any familiar-sounding, unsophisticated theory. Second, through colour one can confront various problems that span the (...)
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  4. Contents of Unconscious Color Perception.Błażej Skrzypulec - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-17.
    In the contemporary discussions concerning unconscious perception it is not uncommon to postulate that content and phenomenal character are ‘orthogonal’, i.e., there is no type of content which is essentially conscious, but instead, every representational content can be either conscious or not. Furthermore, this is not merely treated as a thesis justified by theoretical investigations, but as supported by empirical considerations concerning the actual functioning of the human cognition. In this paper, I address unconscious color perception and argue for a (...)
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  5. Perception as a Multi-Stage Process: A Reidian Account.Marina Folescu - 2021 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 19 (1):57-74.
    The starting point of this paper is Thomas Reid's anti-skepticism: our knowledge of the external world is justified. The justificatory process, in his view, starts with and relies upon one of the main faculties of the human mind: perception. Reid's theory of perception has been thoroughly studied, but there are some missing links in the explanatory chain offered by the secondary literature. In particular, I will argue that we do not have a complete picture of the mechanism of perception of (...)
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  6. Synesthesia, Hallucination, and Autism.Rocco J. Gennaro - 2021 - Frontiers in Bioscience 26:797-809.
    Synesthesia literally means a “union of the senses” whereby two or more of the five senses that are normally experienced separately are involuntarily and automatically joined together in experience. For example, some synesthetes experience a color when they hear a sound, although many instances of synesthesia also occur entirely within the visual sense. In this paper, I first mainly engage critically with Sollberger’s view that there is reason to think that at least some synesthetic experiences can be viewed as truly (...)
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  7. Painting with Impossible Colours: Some Thoughts and Observations on Yellowish Blue.Michael Newall - 2021 - Perception 50 (2):129–39.
    This paper considers evidence, primarily drawn from art, that one kind of impossible colour, yellowish blue, can be experienced.
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  8. Unknowable Color Facts.Brian Cutter - forthcoming - Mind.
    It is common for an object to present different color appearances to different perceivers, even when the perceivers and viewing conditions are normal. For example, a Munsell chip might look unique green to you and yellowish green to me in normal viewing conditions. In such cases, there are three possibilities. Ecumenism: Both experiences are veridical. Nihilism: Both experiences are non-veridical. Inegalitarianism: One experience is veridical and the other is non-veridical. Perhaps the most important objection to inegalitarianism is the ignorance objection, (...)
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  9. How to Make Reflectance a Surface Property.Nicholas Danne - 2020 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 70:19-27.
    Reflectance physicalists define reflectance as the intrinsic disposition of a surface to reflect finite-duration light pulses at a given efficiency per wavelength. I criticize the received view of dispositional reflectance (David R. Hilbert’s) for failing to account for what I call “harmonic dispersion,” the inverse relationship of a light pulse's duration to its bandwidth. I argue that harmonic dispersion renders reflectance defined in terms of light pulses an extrinsic disposition. Reflectance defined as the per-wavelength efficiency to reflect the superimposed, infinite-duration, (...)
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  10. Perceptual Variation and Structuralism.John Morrison - 2020 - Noûs 54 (2):290-326.
    I use an old challenge to motivate a new view. The old challenge is due to variation in our perceptions of secondary qualities. The challenge is to say whose perceptions are accurate. The new view is about how we manage to perceive secondary qualities, and thus manage to perceive them accurately or inaccurately. I call it perceptual structuralism. I first introduce the challenge and point out drawbacks with traditional responses. I spend the rest of the paper motivating and defending a (...)
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  11. Yale Gallery Talk, Language Perception and Representation.PhD Tanya Kelley - forthcoming - Https://Drive.Google.Com/File/D/1YHzX_YR_wOWC3JUvfBcW7KucWX0Wlr_o/View.
    Yale Gallery Talk, Language Perception and Representation Tanya Kelley and James Prosek Linguist and artist Tanya Kelley, Ph.D., and artist, writer, and naturalist James Prosek, B.A. 1997, discuss color manuals used by artist-naturalists and biologists and lead visitors in close looking and drawing. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition James Prosek: Art, Artifact, Artifice. Space is limited. Open to: General Public .
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  12. Color Synesthesia.Berit Brogaard, Dimitria Gatzia & Jennifer J. Matey - 2019 - In Renzo Shamey (ed.), Encyclopedia of Color Science and Technology 2nd Edition. Springer. pp. 1-7.
    Encyclopedia entry on color synesthesia with cognitive/neurscientific focus.
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  13. Folk Core Beliefs About Color.Pendaran Roberts & Kelly Ann Schmidtke - 2019 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 10 (4):849-869.
    Johnston famously argued that the colors are, more or less inclusively speaking, dispositions to cause color experiences by arguing that this view best accommodates his five proposed core beliefs about color. Since then, Campbell, Kalderon, Gert, Benbaji, and others, have all engaged with at least some of Johnston’s proposed core beliefs in one way or another. Which propositions are core beliefs is ultimately an empirical matter. We investigate whether Johnston’s proposed core beliefs are, in fact, believed by assessing the agreement/disagreement (...)
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  14. The Science of Color and Color Vision.Alex Byrne & David R. Hilbert - 2021 - In Fiona Macpherson & Derek Brown (eds.), Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Colour. London: Routledge.
    A survey of color science and color vision.
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  15. Editorial: Sensory Categories.Yasmina Jraissati - 2019 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 10 (3):419-439.
  16. Misconceptions About Colour Categories.Christoph Witzel - 2019 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 10 (3):499-540.
    The origin of colour categories and their relationship to colour perception have been the prime example for testing the influence of language on perception and thought and more generally for investigating the biological, ecological and cultural determination of human cognition. These themes are central to a broad range of disciplines, including vision research, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, developmental science, cultural anthropology, linguistics, computer science, and philosophy. Unfortunately, though, it has been tacitly taken for granted that the conceptual assumptions and methodological practices (...)
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  17. The Evolution of Shared Concepts in Changing Populations.Jungkyu Park, Sean Tauber, Kimberly A. Jameson & Louis Narens - 2019 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 10 (3):479-498.
    The evolution of color categorization systems is investigated by simulating categorization games played by a population of artificial agents. The constraints placed on individual agent’s perception and cognition are minimal and involve limited color discriminability and learning through reinforcement. The main dynamic mechanism for population evolution is pragmatic in nature: There is a pragmatic need for communication between agents, and if the results of such communications have positive consequences in their shared world then the agents involved are positively rewarded, whereas (...)
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  18. From Eye to Machine: Shifting Authority in Color Measurement.Sean F. Johnston - 2002 - In B. Saunders & J. Van Brakel (eds.), Theories, Technologies, Instrumentalities of Color: Anthropological and Historiographic Perspectives. Lanham, MD 20706, USA: University Press of America. pp. 289-306.
    Given a subject so imbued with contention and conflicting theoretical stances, it is remarkable that automated instruments ever came to replace the human eye as sensitive arbiters of color specification. Yet, dramatic shifts in assumptions and practice did occur in the first half of the twentieth century. How and why was confidence transferred from careful observers to mechanized devices when the property being measured – color – had become so closely identified with human physiology and psychology? A fertile perspective on (...)
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  19. A History of Light and Colour Measurement: Science in the Shadows.Sean F. Johnston - 2001 - Bristol, UK: Institute of Physics Press.
    2003 Paul Bunge Prize of the Hans R. Jenemann Foundation for the History of Scientific Instruments Judging the brightness and color of light has long been contentious. Alternately described as impossible and routine, it was beset by problems both technical and social. How trustworthy could such measurements be? Was the best standard of intensity a gas lamp, an incandescent bulb, or a glowing pool of molten metal? And how much did the answers depend on the background of the specialist? A (...)
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  20. Colours in Conflict: Catullus’ Use of Colour Imagery in C.63.Jacqueline Clarke - 2001 - Classical Quarterly 51 (1):163-177.
  21. Cognitive Penetration and Memory Colour Effects.Dimitria Gatzia - 2019 - Erkenntnis 84 (1):121-143.
    Cognition can influence action. Your belief that it is raining outside, for example, may cause you to reach for the umbrella. Perception can also influence cognition. Seeing that no raindrops are falling, for example, may cause you to think that you don’t need to reach for an umbrella. The question that has fascinated philosophers and cognitive scientists for the past few decades, however, is whether cognition can influence perception. Can, for example, your desire for a rainy day cause you to (...)
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  22. Sellars' Argument for an Ontology of Absolute Processes.David Landy - 2019 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 7 (1):1-25.
    Scholars have rejected Wilfrid Sellars’ argument for an ontology of absolute processes on the grounds that it relies on a dubious and dogmatic appeal to the homogeneity of color. Borrowing from Rosenthal’s recent defense, but ultimate rejection of homogeneity, I defend this claim of on Sellarsian/Kantian transcendental grounds, and reconstruct the remainder of his argument. I argue that Sellars has good reason to suppose that homogeneity is a necessary condition of any possible experience, including indirect experience of theoretical-explanatory posits, and (...)
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  23. How Colours Matter to Philosophy.Marcos Silva (ed.) - 2017 - Springer.
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  24. Color Relationism and Enactive Ontology.Andrea Pace Giannotta - 2018 - Phenomenology and Mind 14:56-67.
    In this paper, I present the enactive theory of color that implies a form of color relationism. I argue that this view constitutes a better alternative to color subjectivism and color objectivism. I liken the enactive view to Husserl’s phenomenology of perception, arguing that both deconstruct the clear duality of subject and object, which is at the basis of the other theories of color, in order to claim the co-constitution of subject and object in the process of experience. I also (...)
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  25. What Colors Look Like.Hagit Benbaji - 2017 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 10.
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  26. Experience and Content: Consequences of a Continuum Theory.W. Martin Davies - 1993 - Dissertation,
    This thesis is about experiential content: what it is; what kind of account can be given of it. I am concerned with identifying and attacking one main view - I call it the inferentialist proposal. This account is central to the philosophy of mind, epistemology and philosophy of science and perception. I claim, however, that it needs to be recast into something far more subtle and enriched, and I attempt to provide a better alternative in these pages. The inferentialist proposal (...)
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  27. Color for Philosophers. C. L. Hardin.James Mcgilvray - 1991 - Philosophy of Science 58 (2):329-331.
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  28. Struktury Abstrakcyjne [Abstract Structures].Mariusz Stanowski (ed.) - 2005 - Warsaw: Warsaw University.
  29. Helmholtz on Perceptual Properties.R. Brian Tracz - 2018 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 6 (3).
    Hermann von Helmholtz’s work on perceptual science had a fundamental impact on Neo-Kantian movements in the late nineteenth century, and his influence continues to be felt in psychology and analytic philosophy of perception. As is widely acknowledged, Helmholtz denied that we can perceive mind-independent properties of external objects, a view I label Ignorance. Given his commitment to Ignorance, Helmholtz might seem to be committed to a subjectivism according to which we only perceive properties of our own representations. Against this, I (...)
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  30. What is It to Be Aware of Your Awareness of Red? A Review Essay of Michelle Montague’s The Given.Giulia Martina & Simon Wimmer - 2017 - Philosophical Psychology 30 (7):992-1012.
    In this review essay of Michelle Montague’s The Given we focus on the central thesis in the book: the awareness of awareness thesis. On that thesis, a state of awareness constitutively involves an awareness of itself. In Section 2, we discuss what the awareness of awareness thesis amounts to, how it contrasts with the transparency of experience, and how it might be motivated. In Section 3, we discuss one of Montague’s two theoretical arguments for the awareness of awareness thesis. A (...)
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  31. Colors From a Logical Point of View.Timm Lampert - 2011 - In Gudrun Wolfschmidt (ed.), Colors in Culture. Hamburg: Tredition. pp. 24-39.
    This paper illustrates what a philosophical and a logical investigation of colors amounts to in contrast to other kinds of color analysis such as physical, physiological, chemical, psychological or cultural analysis of colors. Neither a philosophical nor a logical analysis of colors is concerned with specific aspects of colors. Rather, these kinds of color analysis are concerned with what one might call “logical foundations of color theory”. I will illustrate this first by considering philosophical and then logical analysis of colors.
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  32. Playing Three Color Light's Out with Langton's Turmite.Crista Arangala & Michael O' Brien - 2016 - Complexity 21 (S2):243-248.
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  33. Physicalist and Dispositionalist Views on Colour: A Physiological Objection.Andraž Stožer & Janez Bregant - 2017 - Acta Analytica 32 (1):73-93.
    Using the results of the latest neurophysiological research on colour, the article rejects outright physicalism and dispositionalism as appropriate approaches to solving the problem of colour realism. Physicalism sees colour as a real property of objects, i.e. the reflectance profile, while dispositionalism takes subjects, objects and light as necessary elements for colour production. First, it briefly outlines the historical development of the theory of colour, pointing towards dispositionalism which, in some sense, considers colour as a real entity of the world, (...)
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  34. Naive Realism and the Problem of Color-Seeing in Dim Light. Arthadeva - 1960 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 21:467.
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  35. Color and Color Experience: Colors as Ways of Appearing.Joseph Levine - 2006 - Dialectica 60 (3):269-282.
    In this paper I argue that color is a relational feature of the distal objects of perception, a way of appearing. I begin by outlining three constraints any theory of color should satisfy: physicalism about the non‐mental world, consistency with what is known from color science, and transparency about color experience. Traditional positions on the ontological status of color, such as physicalist reduction of color to spectral reflectance, subjectivism, dispositionalism, and primitivism, fail, I claim, to meet all three constraints. By (...)
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  36. A Puzzle About Colors.Martine Nida-Rumelin - 2006 - Dialectica 60 (3):321-336.
    I propose a description of one aspect of the philosophical problem about the ontology of colors by formulating and motivating six plausible premises that seem to be hard to deny in isolation but that are jointly incoherent. I briefly sketch a solution and comment on the views presented in this volume from the perspective of the puzzle.
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  37. Wavelength Theory of Colour Strikes Back: The Return of the Physical.W. R. Webster - 2002 - Synthese 132 (3):303-334.
    There have been a number of criticisms, based on visual processes, of the Australian view that colour is an objective property of the world. These criticisms have led to subjective theories about colour. These visual processes have been examined and it is suggested that they do not carry their supposed critical weight against an objective theory. In particular, it is argued that metamers don't occur in nature and primate colour vision evolved without metamers. Thus normal colour vision occurs without the (...)
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  38. Color, Relativism, and Realism.John Spackman - 2002 - Philosophical Studies 108 (3):251-288.
    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 (...)
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  39. The possibility of transparent white.David H. Sanford - 1986 - Analysis 46 (4):212.
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  40. Color for Philosophers: Unweaving the Rainbow.Color and Color Perception: A Study in Anthropocentric Realism.Edward Wilson Averill - 1991 - Philosophical Review 100 (3):459-463.
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  41. Color and Armstrong's Color Realism Under the Microscope.Dale Jacquette - 1995 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 26 (3):389-406.
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  42. Newton on the Number of Colours in the Spectrum.David Topper - 1990 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 21 (2):269.
  43. Goethe's Critique of Newton: A Reconsideration.Neil M. Ribe - 1984 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 16 (4):315.
    The masses may concede that someone has talent where he has displayed a certain industry and fortune has not been unkind to him; but if he tries to enter another field and diversify his abilities, he appears to damage the claim he once had on public opinion, and therefore his efforts in a new realm are seldom accepted with favor and good will.
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  44. Altre Venezie: Il Dogado Veneziano Nei Secoli XIII E XIV. [REVIEW]Thomas F. Madden - 2011 - Speculum 86 (4):1108-1109.
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  45. The Holkham Bible Picture Book: A Facsimile. Commentary by Michelle P. Brown. London: British Library, 2007. Pp. Iv, 91 Plus 20 Color Figures and 43 Color Folios. $125. Distributed in North America by the David Brown Book Co., P.O. Box 511, 28 Main St., Oakville, CT 06779. [REVIEW]Adelaide Bennett - 2010 - Speculum 85 (1):147-149.
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  46. The Macclesfield Psalter. With a Complete Reproduction at the Original Size of This 14th-Century Prayer Book in the Collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and 95 Color Details. [REVIEW]Anne Rudloff Stanton - 2010 - Speculum 85 (1):182-184.
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  47. Descente aux Enfers Avec Guillaume de Digulleville. [REVIEW]William W. Kibler - 2010 - Speculum 85 (1):136-137.
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  48. Medieval Ivory Carvings: Early Christian to Romanesque. [REVIEW]Lawrence Nees - 2011 - Speculum 86 (3):818-820.
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  49. Tales of Arthur: Legend and Landscape of Wales. [REVIEW]Andrew Welsh - 2011 - Speculum 86 (3):730-731.
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  50. Being a Pilgrim: Art and Ritual on the Medieval Routes to Santiago. [REVIEW]Barbara Abou-El-Haj - 2011 - Speculum 86 (1):157-159.
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