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 nature of
colour, and of perception. If this is so, there cannot be neutral empirical
evidence on this point, and this does seem to undermine Hilbert’s claim for
empirical support. In the end, I suggest alternative ways of thinking about the relationship between colour ontology and empirical work on colour.