About this topic
Summary Primitivist theories of color hold that the colors are primitive properties, not susceptible of further analysis. In particular, they cannot be identified with physical properties or dispositions to produce effects in perceivers. Primitivism is thus incompatible with physicalist and dispositionalist theories of color. Primitivism comes in two main varieties, realist and irrealist (or eliminativist). Realist primitivism holds that physical objects possess the primitive colors; irrealist primitivism hold that they do not. One objection to realist primitivism is that it leaves the colors with no causal role to play, since other properties of objects explain why they look colored.
Key works For defenses of realist primitivism, see Campbell 1993 and Yablo 1995. For irrealist primitivism see Chalmers 2006. Criticisms of both varieties of primitivism are in Byrne & Hilbert 2006.
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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31 found
  1. Colour Physicalism, Naïve Realism, and the Argument From Structure.Keith Allen - 2015 - Minds and Machines 25 (2):193-212.
    Colours appear to instantiate a number of structural properties: for instance, they stand in distinctive relations of similarity and difference, and admit of a fundamental distinction into unique and binary. Accounting for these structural properties is often taken to present a serious problem for physicalist theories of colour. This paper argues that a prominent attempt by Byrne and Hilbert to account for the structural properties of the colours, consistent with the claim that colours are types of surface spectral reflectance, is (...)
  2. 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 (...)
  3. The Quest for Reality: Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Colour, by Barry Stroud.Keith Allen - 2011 - Mind 120 (480):1306-1309.
  4. Color, Externalism and Switch Cases.David Bain - unknown
    I defend externalism about color experiences and color thoughts, which I argue color objectivism requires. Externalists face the following question: would a subject's wearing inverting lenses eventually change the color content of, for instance, those visual experiences the subject reports with “red”? From the work of Ned Block, David Velleman, Paul Boghossian, Michael Tye, and Fiona Macpherson, I extract problems facing those who answer “Yes” and problems facing those who answer “No.” I show how these problems can be overcome, leaving (...)
  5. Naive Color.Clare Batty - manuscript
  6. 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, (...)
  7. Perspectival Truth and Color Primitivism.Berit Brogaard - 2010 - In Cory D. Wright & Nikolaj J. L. L. Pedersen (eds.), New Waves in Truth. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 1--34.
    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, assessor, 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 a). The main aim of this paper is to defend perspectivalism about color perception and color (...)
  8. Color Primitivism.Alex Byrne & David R. Hilbert - 2006 - In Ralph Schumacher (ed.), Erkenntnis. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 73 - 105.
    The realist preference for reductive theories of color over the last few decades is particularly striking in light of the generally anti-reductionist mood of recent philosophy of mind. The parallels between the mind-body problem and the case of color are substantial enough that the difference in trajectory is surprising. While dualism and non-.
  9. The Simple View of Colour.John Campbell - 1997 - In Alex Byrne & David Hilbert (eds.), Readings on Color, Volume 1: The Philosophy of Color. MIT Press. pp. 177-90.
    Physics tells us what is objectively there. It has no place for the colours of things. So colours are not objectively there. Hence, if there is such a thing at all, colour is mind-dependent. This argument forms the background to disputes over whether common sense makes a mistake about colours. It is assumed that..
  10. A Simple View of Colour.John Campbell - 1993 - In John J. Haldane & C. Wright (eds.), Reality: Representation and Projection. Oxford University Press. pp. 257-268.
    Physics tells us what is objectively there. It has no place for the colours of things. So colours are not objectively there. Hence, if there is such a thing at all, colour is mind-dependent. This argument forms the background to disputes over whether common sense makes a mistake about colours. It is assumed that..
  11. Color in a Material World: Margaret Cavendish Against the Early Modern Mechanists.Colin Chamberlain - forthcoming - The Philosophical Review.
    Consider the distinctive qualitative property grass visually appears to have when it visually appears to be green. This property is an example of what I call sensuous color. Whereas early modern mechanists typically argue that bodies are not sensuously colored, Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) disagrees. In cases of veridical perception, she holds that grass is green in precisely the way it visually appears to be. In defense of her realist approach to sensuous colors, Cavendish argues that (i) it is impossible to (...)
  12. It's Not Easy Being Green : Hardin and Color Relationalism.Jonathan Cohen - 2010 - In Jonathan Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. MIT Press.
    But Hardin hasn’t contented himself with reframing traditional philosoph- ical issues about color in a way that is sensitive to relevant empirical con- straints. In addition, he has been a staunch defender of color eliminativism — the view that there are no colors, qua properties of tables, chairs, and other mind-external objects, and a vociferous critic of several varieties of re- alism about color that have been defended by others (e.g., [Hardin, 2003], [Hardin, 2005]). These other views include the so-called (...)
  13. 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 (...)
  14. Paradise Regained: A Non-Reductive Realist Account of the Sensible Qualities.Brian Cutter - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (1):38-52.
    This paper defends a non-reductive realist view of the sensible qualities—roughly, the view that the sensible qualities are really instantiated by the external objects of perception, and not reducible to response-independent physical properties or response-dependent relational properties. I begin by clarifying and motivating the non-reductive realist view. I then consider some familiar difficulties for the view. Addressing these difficulties leads to the development and defence of a general theory, inspired by Russellian Monist theories of consciousness, of how the sensible qualities (...)
  15. The Simple View of Colour and the Reference of Perceptual Terms.G. de Anna - 2002 - Philosophy 77 (299):87-108.
    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 (...)
  16. 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 (...)
  17. A Reply to de Anna on the Simple View of Colour.J. Edwards - 2003 - Philosophy 78 (303):99-114.
    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 (...)
  18. What It is Like to Perceive Colour.John Gardner - manuscript
    I argue that the knowledge argument is best understood as an argument for the existence of non-physical properties of material objects, or colours. I suggest that the knowledge argument is standardly presented as an argument for the existence of qualia because it is implicitly assumed that physics “tell us” that what it is like to perceive colour is determined, not by properties of material objects, but by properties of perceiving subjects; hence any gaps in Mary’s knowledge must be gaps in (...)
  19. Reality, Representation and Projection.John Haldane & Crispin Wright (eds.) - 1993 - Oxford University Press.
    This book is an important collection of new essays on various topics relating to realism and its rivals in metaphysics, logic, metaethics, and epistemology. The contributors include some of the leading authors in these fields and in several cases their essays constitute definitive statements of their views. In some cases authors write in response to the essays of other contributors, in other cases they proceed independently. Although not primarily historical this collection includes discussions of philosophers from the middle ages to (...)
  20. Color Primitivism.David R. Hilbert & Alex Byrne - 2007 - Erkenntnis 66 (1-2):73 - 105.
    The typical kind of color realism is reductive: the color properties are identified with properties specified in other terms (as ways of altering light, for instance). If no reductive analysis is available — if the colors are primitive sui generis properties — this is often taken to be a convincing argument for eliminativism. That is, realist primitivism is usually thought to be untenable. The realist preference for reductive theories of color over the last few decades is particularly striking in light (...)
  21. World to Word: Nomenclature Systems of Color and Species.Tanya Kelley - 2017 - Dissertation, University Of Missouri
    As the digitization of information accelerates, the push to encode our surrounding numerically instead of linguistically increases. The role that language has traditionally played in the nomenclature of an integrative taxonomy is being replaced by the numeric identification of one or few quantitative characteristics. Nineteenth-century scientific systems of color identification divided, grouped, and named colors according to multiple characteristics. Now color identification relies on numeric values applied to spectrographic readings. This means of identification of color lacks the taxonomic rigor of (...)
  22. Reduction, Explanation, and Realism.K. Lennon & D. Charles (eds.) - 1992 - Oxford University Press.
    Reduction has long been a favourite method of analysis in all areas of philosophy, but in recent years there has been a reaction against it. The contributors to this volume examine the motivations for such anti-reductionist views and assess their coherence and success in a number of fields.
  23. Color Experience: A Semantic Theory.Mohan Matthen - 2010 - In Jonathan Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. MIT Press. pp. 67--90.
    What is the relationship between color experience and color? Here, I defend the view that it is semantic: color experience denotes color in a code innately known by the perceiver. This semantic theory contrasts with a variety of theories according to which color is defined as the cause of color experience (in a special set of circumstances). It also contrasts with primary quality theories of color, which treat color as a physical quantity. I argue that the semantic theory better accounts (...)
  24. Visual Acquaintance, Action & The Explanatory Gap.Thomas Raleigh - forthcoming - Synthese:1-26.
    Much attention has recently been paid to the idea, which I label ‘External World Acquaintance’ (EWA), that the phenomenal character of perceptual experience is partially constituted by external features. One motivation for EWA which has received relatively little discussion is its alleged ability to help deal with the ‘Explanatory Gap’ (e.g. Fish 2008, 2009, Langsam 2011, Allen 2016). I provide a reformulation of this general line of thought, which makes clearer how and when EWA could help to explain the specific (...)
  25. Another Look at Color Primitivism.Pendaran Roberts - forthcoming - Synthese.
    This article is on a precise kind of color primitivism,‘ ostensivism.’ This is the view that it is in the nature of the colors that they are phenomenal, non-reductive, structural, categorical properties. First, I differentiate ostensivism from other precise forms of primitivism. Next, I examine the core belief ‘Revelation,’ and propose a revised version, which, unlike standard statements, is compatible with a yet unstated but plausible core belief: roughly, that there are interesting things to be discovered about the nature of (...)
  26. Parsing the Rainbow.Pendaran Roberts - 2014 - Synthese 191 (8):1793-1811.
    Navigating the ontology of color used to be a simple affair. There was the naive view that colors really are in objects the way they appear, and the view that they are secondary qualities to cause certain experiences in us. Today, there are myriad well-developed views but no satisfactory taxonomy of philosophical theories on color. In this article, I first examine the two newest taxonomies on offer and argue that they are inadequate. In particular, I look at Brogaard’s taxonomy and (...)
  27. Perception and Status of Secondary Qualities.Ralph Schumacher (ed.) - forthcoming - Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  28. Relativity and Degrees of Relationality.Jack Spencer - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (2):432-459.
    Some well-known metaphysical arguments against relativism rest on the claim that relativity somehow must be accompanied by relationality. I argue otherwise, and trace the consequences for some prominent disputes between relativists and absolutists.
  29. The Naive Theory of Color.Clive Stroud-Drinkwater - 1994 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 54 (2):345-54.
  30. A Posteriori Primitivism.Michael Watkins - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 150 (1):123 - 137.
    Recent criticisms of non-reductive accounts of color assume that the only arguments for such accounts are a priori arguments. I put forward a posteriori arguments for a non-reductive account of colors which avoids those criticisms.
  31. Colour: A Philosophical Introduction.Jonathan Westphal - 1991 - Blackwell.