Physicalist theories of color

Philosophical Review 100 (January):67-106 (1991)
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The dispute between realists about color and anti-realists is actually a dispute about the nature of color properties. The disputants do not disagree over what material objects are like. Rather, they disagree over whether any of the uncontroversial facts about material objects--their powers to cause visual experiences, their dispositions to reflect incident light, their atomic makeup, and so on--amount to their having colors. The disagreement is thus about which properties colors are and, in particular, whether colors are any of the properties in a particular set that is acknowledged on both sides to exhaust the properties of material objects. In a previous paper we discussed at length one attempt to identify colors with particular properties of material objects--namely, with their dispositions to cause visual experiences. Here we shall discuss a different and perhaps more influential version of realism, which says that the colors of material objects are microphysical properties of their surfaces. We shall call this theory physicalism about color (physicalism, for short). In order to evaluate this theory, however, we shall first have to clarify some methodological issues. Our hope is that we can bring some further clarity to the question of color realism, whether or not we succeed in our critique of the physicalists' answer

Author Profiles

J. David Velleman
New York University
Paul Boghossian
New York University


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