Timaeus on Color Mixture

Abstract

Now with extra footnotes, by editorial demand! Final version accepted by Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy. This essay consists in a trick and a potential insight. The trick consists in a minimalist interpretation of color mixture. The account of color mixture is minimalist in the sense that, given certain background assumptions, there is no more to Timaeus’ account of color mixture than the list of the chromatic pathēmata and the list of how these combine to elicit perceptions of all the colors. The only potential controversial elements of the minimalist interpretation are the relevant background assumptions and the interpretation of the chromatic pathēmata. The potential insight concerns a motive that Plato, in the guise of Timaeus, may have for presenting an account of color mixture. Specifically, I shall argue that on the minimalist interpretation, Plato may be read as reconciling the Democritrean four color scheme with an older tradi- tion where white and black are the fundamental chromatic opposition. As we shall see, this bears on the interpretation of the chromatic pathēmata.

Author's Profile

Mark Eli Kalderon
University College London

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