Colour Layering and Colour Relationalism

Minds and Machines 25 (2):177-191 (2015)
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Colour Relationalism asserts that colours are non-intrinsic or inherently relational properties of objects, properties that depend not only on a target object but in addition on some relation that object bears to other objects. The most powerful argument for Relationalism infers the inherently relational character of colour from cases in which one’s experience of a colour contextually depends on one’s experience of other colours. Experienced colour layering—say looking at grass through a tinted window and experiencing opaque green through transparent grey—demands a contextual interdependency of one’s experience of one of these colours on one’s experience of the other. However, most if not all colour ontologies, and core perceptual experiential mechanisms like acquaintance and representation, can accommodate colour layering. It follows that experienced colour layering is consistent with colours being non-relational—this contextual interdependency of colours does not entail the constitutive dependency of one colour on the other. I utilize colour layering to examine the inference from the contextual to the constitutive interdependency of colours as it is employed in a well-known argument for Relationalism. I conclude that our justification for Relationalism is far weaker than Relationalists suggest. I first introduce readers to colour layering, then to Relationalism, and following this focus on the intersection of these topics



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Mazviita Chirimuuta
University of Pittsburgh

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