The paradox of colour constancy: Plotting the lower borders of perception

Noûs 56 (4):787-813 (2021)
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This paper resolves a paradox concerning colour constancy. On the one hand, our intuitive, pre-theoretical concept holds that colour constancy involves invariance in the perceived colours of surfaces under changes in illumination. On the other, there is a robust scientific consensus that colour constancy can persist in cerebral achromatopsia, a profound impairment in the ability to perceive colours. The first stage of the solution advocates pluralism about our colour constancy capacities. The second details the close relationship between colour constancy and contrast. The third argues that achromatopsics retain a basic type of colour constancy associated with invariants in contrast processing. The fourth suggests that one person-level, conscious upshot of such processing is the visual awareness of chromatic contrasts ‘at’ the edges of surfaces, implicating the ‘colour for form’ perceptual function. This primitive type of constancy sheds new light on our most basic perceptual capacities, which mark the lower borders of representational mind.

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Will Davies
Oxford University


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