Colours and Appearances as Powers and Manifestations

Humans have only finite discriminatory capacities. This simple fact seems to be incompatible with the existence of appearances. As many authors have noted, the hypothesis that appearances exist seems to be refuted by reductio: Let A, B, C be three uniformly coloured surfaces presented to a subject in optimal viewing conditions, such that A, B, and C resemble one another perfectly except with respect to their colours. Their colours differ slightly in the following way: the difference between A and B and the difference between B and C are below the discrimination threshold, but the difference between A and C is above this threshold. According to an intuitive construal of what an appearance is, given that A and B appear (to the subject) identical in colour, A and B have the same (colour1) appearance P1; likewise, B and C have the same appearance P2. B's appearance is both P1 and P2. This seems to imply that P1=P2. But then, A and C also have the same appearance, which contradicts the hypothesis that A and C are discriminable. If A and C are discriminable with respect to their colour, they do not have the same appearance with respect to colour. The paradox arising from such a series of judgments of sameness or difference between pairs of coloured surfaces seems to belong to the class of sorites paradoxes. I will show that there is a way to construe colours and their appearances in a way that does not fall prey to the reduction just sketched
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