Color Realism

Edited by Alex Byrne (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
About this topic
Summary Color realism is the view that physical objects like lemons and tomatoes are colored, and typically have the colors they appear to have: lemons are yellow, tomatoes are red, and so on. Color realism is opposed to color irrealism (or eliminativism), the view that physical objects are not colored.
Introductions For short overviews of the competing theories of color, see the introduction to Byrne & Hilbert 1997, Hilbert 1998 and Byrne & Hilbert 2002. For a more substantial introduction see Maund 2008. A useful annotated bibliography is Brogaard 2010.
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  1. Revelation and the Nature of Colour.Keith Allen - 2011 - Dialectica 65 (2):153-176.
    According to naïve realist (or primitivist) theories of colour, colours are sui generis mind-independent properties. The question that I consider in this paper is the relationship of naïve realism to what Mark Johnston calls Revelation, the thesis that the essential nature of colour is fully revealed in a standard visual experience. In the first part of the paper, I argue that if naïve realism is true, then Revelation is false. In the second part of the paper, I defend naïve realism (...)
  2. Locating The Unique Hues.Keith Allen - 2010 - Rivista di Estetica 43 (43):13-28.
    Variations in colour perception have featured prominently in recent attempts to argue against the view that colours are objective mind-independent properties of the perceptual environment. My aim in this paper is to defend the view that colours are mind-independent properties in response to worries arising from one type of empirically documented case of perceptual variation: variation in the perception of the «unique hues». §1 sets out the challenge raised by variation in the perception of the unique hues. I argue in (...)
  3. In Defence of Natural Daylight.Keith Allen - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (1):1-18.
    Objects appear different as the illumination under which they are perceived varies. This fact is sometimes thought to pose a problem for the view that colours are mind-independent properties: if a coloured object appears different under different illuminations, then under which illumination does the object appear the colour it really is? I argue that given the nature of natural daylight, and certain plausible assumptions about the nature of the colours it illuminates, there is a non-arbitrary reason to suppose that it (...)
  4. Being Coloured and Looking Coloured.Keith Allen - 2009 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (4):pp. 647-670.
    What is the relationship between being coloured and looking coloured? According to Alva Noë, to be coloured is to manifest a pattern of apparent colours as the perceptual conditions vary. I argue that Noë’s ‘phenomenal objectivism’ faces similar objections to attempts by traditional dispositionalist theories of colour to account for being coloured in terms of looking coloured. Instead, I suggest that to be coloured is to look coloured in a ‘non-perspectival’ sense, where non-perspectival looks transcend specific perceptual conditions.
  5. Inter-Species Variation in Colour Perception.Keith Allen - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 142 (2):197 - 220.
    Inter-species variation in colour perception poses a serious problem for the view that colours are mind-independent properties. Given that colour perception varies so drastically across species, which species perceives colours as they really are? In this paper, I argue that all do. Specifically, I argue that members of different species perceive properties that are determinates of different, mutually compatible, determinables. This is an instance of a general selectionist strategy for dealing with cases of perceptual variation. According to selectionist views, objects (...)
  6. The Mind-Independence of Colour.Keith Allen - 2007 - European Journal of Philosophy 15 (2):137–158.
    The view that the mind-dependence of colour is implicit in our ordinary thinking has a distinguished history. With its origins in Berkeley, the view has proved especially popular amongst so-called ‘Oxford’ philosophers, proponents including Cook Wilson (1904: 773-4), Pritchard (1909: 86-7), Ryle (1949: 209), Kneale (1950: 123) and McDowell (1985: 112). Gareth Evans’s discussion of secondary qualities in “Things Without the Mind” is representative of this tradition. It is his version of the view that I consider in this paper.
  7. Color Objectivism and Color Projectivism.Edward Wilson Averill & Allan Hazlett - 2011 - Philosophical Psychology 24 (6):751 - 765.
    Objectivism and projectivism are standardly taken to be incompatible theories of color. Here we argue that this incompatibility is only apparent: objectivism and projectivism, properly articulated so as to deal with basic objections, are in fundamental agreement about the ontology of color and the phenomenology of color perception.
  8. Ontology, Causality and Mind: Essays in Honour of D M Armstrong.John Bacon, Keith Campbell & Lloyd Reinhardt (eds.) - 1993 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
    D. M. Armstrong is an eminent Australian philosopher whose work over many years has dealt with such subjects as: the nature of possibility, concepts of the particular and the general, causes and laws of nature, and the nature of human consciousness. This collection of essays explores the many facets of Armstrong's work, concentrating on his more recent interests. There are four sections to the book: possibility and identity, universals, laws and causality, and philosophy of mind. The contributors comprise an international (...)
  9. Seeking the Real.Paul A. Boghossian - 2002 - Philosophical Studies 108 (1-2):223-38.
    A critical discussion of Barry Stroud's claim, in his book The Quest for Reality, that we could never rationally arrive at the conclusion that, for example, the world is not really colored.
  10. Of Colors, Kestrels, Caterpillars, and Leaves.Peter Bradley & Michael Tye - 2001 - Journal of Philosophy 98 (9):469.
    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 (...)
  11. Stroud's Quest for Reality. [REVIEW]Bill Brewer - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (2):408-414.
    Barry Stroud begins his investigation into the metaphysics of colour with a discussion of the elusiveness of the genuinely philosophical quest for reality. He insists upon a distinction between two ways in which the idea of a correspondence between perceptions or beliefs and the facts may be understood: first, as equivalent to the plain truth of the perceptions/beliefs in question; second, as conveying the metaphysical reality of the corresponding features of the world. I begin by voicing some suspicion about this (...)
  12. Colour, World and Archimedean Metaphysics: Stroud and the Quest for Reality. [REVIEW]Justin Broackes - 2007 - Erkenntnis 66 (1-2):27-71.
    Barry Stroud’s book _The Quest for Reality_1 is, I think, the most substantial study of colour realism that has yet been written. It subjects to fundamental criticism a tradition that found its classic expression in Descartes and Locke and which in many ways remains standard today; it argues to be flawed not only the traditional rejection of colours as mere ideas or features of ideas in the mind, but also the view that colours are dispositions or powers in objects to (...)
  13. The Autonomy of Colour.Justin Broackes - 1992 - In K. Lennon & D. Charles (eds.), Reduction, Explanation, and Realism. Oxford University Press. pp. 191-225.
    This essay* takes two notions of autonomy and two notions of explanation and argues that colours occur in explanations that fall under all of them. The claim that colours can be used to explain anything at all may seem to some people an outrage. But their pessimism is unjustified and the orthodox dispositional view which may seem to support it, I shall argue, itself has difficulties. In broad terms, Section 2 shows that there exist good straight scientific laws of colour, (...)
  14. Truest Blue.A. Byrne & D. R. Hilbert - 2007 - Analysis 67 (1):87-92.
    1. The “puzzle” Physical objects are coloured: roses are red, violets are blue, and so forth. In particular, physical objects have fine-grained shades of colour: a certain chip, we can suppose, is true blue (unique, or pure blue). The following sort of scenario is commonplace. The chip looks true blue to John; in the same (ordinary) viewing conditions it looks (slightly) greenish-blue to Jane. Both John and Jane are “normal” perceivers. Now, nothing can be both true blue and greenish-blue; since (...)
  15. Comments on Cohen, Mizrahi, Maund, and Levine.Alex Byrne - 2006 - Dialectica 60:223-244.
    Cohen begins by defining ‘Color Physicalism’ so that the position is incompatible with Color Relationalism (unlike Byrne and Hilbert 2003, 7, and note 18). Physicalism, in any event, is something of a distraction, since Cohen’s argument from perceptual variation is directed against any view on which minor color misperception is common (Byrne and Hilbert 2004). A typical color primitivist, for example, is equally vulnerable to the argument. Suppose that normal human observers S1 and S2 are viewing a chip C, as (...)
  16. David Armstrong and Realism About Colour.K. Campbell - 1993 - In John Bacon, K. Campbell & Lloyd Reinhardt (eds.), Ontology, Causality, and Mind. Cambridge University Press.
  17. Blue Sky Thoughts: Colour, Consciosness and Reality.Jamie Carnie - 2007 - Marion Boyars.
  18. Reflectance Realism and Colour Constancy: What Would Count as Scientific Evidence for Hilbert's Ontology of Colour?Mazviita Chirimuuta - 2008 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (4):563 – 582.
    Reflectance realism is an important position in the philosophy of colour. This paper is an examination of David R. Hilbert’s case for there being scientific support for the theory. The specific point in question is whether colour science has shown that reflectance is recovered by the human visual system. Following a discussion of possible counter-evidence in the recent scientific literature, I make the argument that conflicting interpretations of the data on reflectance recovery are informed by different theoretical assumptions about the (...)
  19. The Truth About 'The Truth About True Blue'.J. Cohen, C. L. Hardin & B. P. McLaughlin - 2007 - Analysis 67 (2):162-166.
  20. The Red and the Real: An Essay on Color Ontology.Jonathan Cohen - 2009 - Oxford University Press UK.
    Color provides an instance of a general puzzle about how to reconcile the picture of the world given to us by our ordinary experience with the picture of the world given to us by our best theoretical accounts. The Red and the Real offers a new approach to such longstanding philosophical puzzles about what colors are and how they fit into nature. It is responsive to a broad range of constraints --- both the ordinary constraints of color experience and the (...)
  21. A Relationalist's Guide to Error About Color Perception.Jonathan Cohen - 2007 - Noûs 41 (2):335–353.
    Color relationalism is the view that colors are constituted in terms of relations to perceiving subjects. Among its explanatory virtues, relation- alism provides a satisfying treatment of cases of perceptual variation. But it can seem that relationalists lack resources for saying that a representa- tion of x’s color is erroneous. Surely, though, a theory of color that makes errors of color perception impossible cannot be correct. In this paper I’ll argue that, initial appearances notwithstanding, relationalism contains the resources to account (...)
  22. Barry Stroud, the Quest for Reality: Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Colour.Jonathan Cohen - 2003 - Noûs 37 (3):537-554.
    In The Quest for Reality: Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Colour [Stroud, 2000], Barry Stroud carries out an ambitious attack on various forms of irrealism and subjectivism about color. The views he targets - those that would deny a place in objective reality to the colors - have a venerable history in philosophy. Versions of them have been defended by Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, Locke, and Hume; more recently, forms of these positions have been articulated by Williams, Smart, Mackie, Ryle, and (...)
  23. The Truth About 'the Truth About True Blue'.Jonathan Cohen, C. L. Hardin & Brian P. McLaughlin - 2007 - Analysis 67 (294):162–166.
    It can happen that a single surface S, viewed in normal conditions, looks pure blue (“true blue”) to observer John but looks blue tinged with green to a second observer, Jane, even though both are normal in the sense that they pass the standard psychophysical tests for color vision. Tye (2006a) finds this situation prima facie puzzling, and then offers two different “solutions” to the puzzle.1 The first is that at least one observer misrepresents S’s color because, though normal in (...)
  24. Color Ontology and Color Science.Jonathan Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.) - 2010 - Bradford.
    Philosophers and scientists have long speculated about the nature of color. Atomists such as Democritus thought color to be "conventional," not real; Galileo and other key figures of the Scientific Revolution thought that it was an erroneous projection of our own sensations onto external objects. More recently, philosophers have enriched the debate about color by aligning the most advanced color science with the most sophisticated methods of analytical philosophy. In this volume, leading scientists and philosophers examine new problems with new (...)
  25. Erik Palmstierna, Horizons of Immortality: A Quest for Reality. [REVIEW]C. A. F. Rhys Davids - 1937 - Hibbert Journal 36:311.
  26. Color Perception: Philosophical, Psychological, Artistic, and Computational Perspectives.Davis Steven (ed.) - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
    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 (...)
  27. Objectivism and the Evolutionary Value of Color Vision.Don Dedrick - 1995 - Dialogue 34 (1):35-44.
    In Color for Philosophers C. L. Hardin argues that chromatic objectivism?a view which identifies colour with some or other property of objects?must be false. The upshot of Hardin's argument is this: there is, in fact, no principled correlation between physical properties and perceived colours. Since that correlation is a minimal condition for objectivism, objectivism is false. Mohan Matthen, who accepts Hardin's conclusion for what can be called "simple objectivism," takes it that an adaptationist theory of biological function applied to colour (...)
  28. Invisible Disagreement: An Inverted Qualia Argument for Realism.Justin Donhauser - 2016 - Philosophical Studies:1-14.
    Scientific realists argue that a good track record of multi-agent, and multiple method, validation of empirical claims is itself evidence that those claims, at least partially and approximately, reflect ways nature actually is independent of the ways we conceptualize it. Constructivists contend that successes in validating empirical claims only suffice to establish that our ways of modelling the world, our “constructions,” are useful and adequate for beings like us. This essay presents a thought experiment in which beings like us intersubjectively (...)
  29. Colour Resemblance and Colour Realism.Fabian Dorsch - 2010 - Rivista di Estetica 50 (43):85-108.
    One prominent ambition of theories of colour is to pay full justice to how colours are subjectively given to us; and another to reconcile this first-personal perspective on colours with the third-personal one of the natural sciences. The goal of this article is to question whether we can satisfy the second ambition on the assumption that the first should and can be met. I aim to defend a negative answer to this question by arguing that the various kinds of experienced (...)
  30. Die Natur der Farben.Fabian Dorsch - 2009 - De Gruyter.
    Farben sind für uns sowohl objektive, als auch phänomenale Eigenschaften. In seinem Buch argumentiert Fabian Dorsch, daß keine ontologische Theorie der Farben diesen beiden Seiten unseres Farbbegriffes gerecht werden k ann. Statt dessen sollten wir akzeptieren, daß letzterer sich auf zwei verschiedene Arten von Eigenschaften bezieht: die repräsentierten Reflektanzeigenschaften von Gegenständen und die qualitativen Eigenschaften unserer Farbwahrnehmungen, die als sinnliche Gegebenheitsweisen ersterer fungieren. Die Natur der Farben gibt einen detaillierten Überblick über die zeitgenössischen philosophischen und naturwissenschaftlichen Theorien der Farben und (...)
  31. On the Reality of Color.Naomi M. Eilan - manuscript
    The Quest for Reality, contains, amongst much else, a sustained and deeply illuminating investigation of the thesis Barry Stroud labels ’subjectivism’ about colours. The grounds he relentlessly amasses for rejecting the thesis are, in my view, compelling. There is a sense, indeed, in which I think they are more compelling than he says he himself finds them. For as I understand his arguments, they contain the materials for delivering a positive answer to the question: are objects really coloured? As Stroud (...)
  32. Stroud's Quest for Reality. [REVIEW]Robert J. Fogelin - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (2):401-407.
  33. Color Constancy.David H. Foster - 2011 - Vision Research 51:674-700.
    A quarter of a century ago, the first systematic behavioral experiments were performed to clarify the nature of color constancy—the effect whereby the perceived color of a surface remains constant despite changes in the spectrum of the illumination. At about the same time, new models of color constancy appeared, along with physiological data on cortical mechanisms and photographic colorimetric measurements of natural scenes. Since then, as this review shows, there have been many advances. The theoretical requirements for constancy have been (...)
  34. A Realistic Colour Realism.Joshua Gert - 2006 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84 (4):565 – 589.
    Whether or not one endorses realism about colour, it is very tempting to regard realism about determinable colours such as green and yellow as standing or falling together with realism about determinate colours such as unique green or green31. Indeed some of the most prominent representatives of both sides of the colour realism debate explicitly endorse the idea that these two kinds of realism are so linked. Against such theorists, the present paper argues that one can be a realist about (...)
  35. Visible Properties of Human Interest Only.Allan F. Gibbard - 1996 - Philosophical Issues 7:199-208.
  36. Colors Without Circles?Kathrin Glüer - 2007 - Erkenntnis 66 (1-2):107--131.
    Realists about color, be they dispositionalists or physicalists, agree on the truth of the following claim: (R) x is red iff x is disposed to look red under standard conditions. The disagreement is only about whether to identify the colors with the relevant dispositions, or with their categorical bases. This is a question about the representational content of color experience: What kind of properties do color experiences ascribe to objects? It has been argued (for instance by Boghossian and Velleman, 1991) (...)
  37. Kripke on Color Words and the Primary-Secondary Quality Distinction.Mario Gomez-Torrente - 2011 - In Alan Berger (ed.), Saul Kripke. Cambridge University Press. pp. 290-323.
    An exposition of Kripke's unpublished critique of dispositionalism about color, followed by a review of some recent defenses of dispositionalism and a sketch of some objections that could be made to these defenses from a broadly Kripkean perspective.
  38. Objectivism About Color and Comparative Color Statements. Reply to Hansen.Mario Gómez‐Torrente - 2015 - Noûs 50 (4).
    Nat Hansen builds a new argument for subjectivism about the semantics of color language, based on a potential kind of intersubjective disagreements about comparative color statements. In reply, I note that the disagreements of this kind are merely hypothetical, probably few if actual, and not evidently relevant as test cases for a semantic theory. Furthermore, even if they turned out to be actual and semantically relevant, they would be intuitively unusable by the subjectivist.
  39. Perceptual Variation, Color Language, and Reference Fixing. An Objectivist Account.Mario Gómez‐Torrente - 2014 - Noûs 49 (3):3-40.
    I offer a new objectivist theory of the contents of color language and color experience, intended especially as an account of what normal intersubjective variation in color perception and classification shows about those contents. First I explain an abstract account of the contents of color and other gradable adjectives; on the account, these contents are certain objective properties constituted in part by contextually intended standards of application, which are in turn values in the dimensions of variation associated with the adjectives. (...)
  40. A New Argument From Interpersonal Variation to Subjectivism About Color: A Response to Gómez‐Torrente.Nat Hansen - 2015 - Noûs 49 (3).
    I describe a new, comparative, version of the argument from interpersonal variation to subjectivism about color. The comparative version undermines a recent objectivist response to standard versions of that argument.
  41. A Green Thought in a Green Shade.C. L. Hardin - 2004 - Harvard Review of Philosophy 12 (1):29-39.
  42. A Spectral Reflectance Doth Not A Color Make.C. L. Hardin - 2003 - Journal of Philosophy 100 (4):191-202.
  43. Color and Illusion.C. L. Hardin - 1990 - In William G. Lycan (ed.), Mind and Cognition. Blackwell.
  44. Color for Philosophers.C. L. Hardin - 1988 - Hackett.
    This expanded edition of C L Hardin's ground-breaking work on colour features a new chapter, 'Further Thoughts: 1993', in which the author revisits the dispute ...
  45. Color for Philosophers: Unweaving the Rainbow.Clyde L. Hardin - 1988 - Hackett.
    This expanded edition of C L Hardin's ground-breaking work on colour features a new chapter, 'Further Thoughts: 1993', in which the author revisits the dispute ...
  46. Objectivity and Subjectivity Revisited: Colour as a Psychobiological Property.Gary Hatfield - 2003 - In Rainer Mausfeld & Dieter Heyer (eds.), Colour Perception: Mind and the Physical World. Oxford University Press. pp. 187--202.
    This chapter focuses on the notion of color as a property of the surfaces of objects. It considers three positions on what colors are: objectivist, subjectivist, and relationalist. Examination of the arguments of the objectivists will help us understand how they seek to reduce color to a physical property of object surfaces. Subjectivists, by contrast, seek to argue that no such reduction is possible, and hence that color must be wholly subjective. This chapter argues that when functional considerations are taken (...)
  47. Color Perception and Neural Encoding: Does Metameric Matching Entail a Loss of Information?Gary Hatfield - 1992 - In David Hull & Mickey Forbes (eds.), PSA 1992: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Volume One: Contributed Papers. Philosophy of Science Association. pp. 492-504.
    It seems intuitively obvious that metameric matching of color samples entails a loss of information, for spectrophotometrically diverse materials appear the same. This intuition implicitly relies on a conception of the function of color vision and on a related conception of how color samples should be individuated. It assumes that the function of color vision is to distinguish among spectral energy distributions, and that color samples should be individuated by their physical properties. I challenge these assumptions by articulating a different (...)
  48. Hardin, Tye, and Color Physicalism.David R. Hilbert - 2004 - Journal of Philosophy 101 (1):37 - 43.
    Larry Hardin has been the most steadfast and influential critic of physicalist theories of color over the last 20 years. In their modern form these theories originated with the work of Smart and Armstrong in the 1960s and 1970s1 and Hardin appropriately concentrated on their views in his initial critique of physicalism.2 In his most recent contribution to this project3 he attacks Michael Tye’s recent attempts to defend and extend color physicalism.4 Like Byrne and Hilbert5, Tye identifies color with the (...)
  49. What is Color Vision?David R. Hilbert - 1992 - Philosophical Studies 68 (3):351-70.
    There are serious reasons for accepting each of these propositions individually but there are apparently insurmountable difficulties with accepting all three of them simultaneously if we assume that color is a single property. 1) and 2) together seem to imply that there is some property which all organisms with color vision can see and 3) seems to imply that there can be no such property. If these implications really are valid then one or more of these propositions will have to (...)
  50. Color and Color Perception: A Study in Anthropocentric Realism.David R. Hilbert - 1987 - Csli Press.
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