Are colors secondary qualities?

In Lawrence Nolan (ed.), Primary and Secondary Qualities: The Historical and Ongoing Debate. Oxford University Press (2011)

Abstract

The Dangerous Book for Boys Abstract: Seventeenth and eighteenth century discussions of the senses are often thought to contain a profound truth: some perceptible properties are secondary qualities, dispositions to produce certain sorts of experiences in perceivers. In particular, colors are secondary qualities: for example, an object is green iff it is disposed to look green to standard perceivers in standard conditions. After rebutting Boghossian and Velleman’s argument that a certain kind of secondary quality theory is viciously circular, we discuss three main lines of argument for the secondary quality theory. The first is inspired by an intuitively compelling picture of perception articulated by Reid; the second is that the secondary quality theory is a conceptual truth; the third line of argument is presented in Johnston’s influential paper ‘How to speak of the colors’. We conclude that all these arguments fail, and that the secondary quality theory is unmotivated. Keywords: color, secondary quality, disposition, vision, perception..

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Author Profiles

Alex Byrne
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
David R. Hilbert
University of Illinois, Chicago

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Citations of this work

Name-Bearing, Reference, and Circularity.Aidan Gray - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 171 (2):207-231.
Color.Barry Maund - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Color Relationalism and Relativism.Alex Byrne & David R. Hilbert - 2017 - Topics in Cognitive Science 9 (1):172-192.
Colour.Laura Gow - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (11):803-813.
Quality-Space Functionalism About Color.Jacob Berger - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (3):138-164.

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