Colour Vision: A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception

Colour Vision: A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception

Colour Vision: A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception

Colour Vision: A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception

Synopsis

Colour fascinates all of us, and scientists and philosophers have sought to understand the true nature of colour vision for many years. In recent times, investigations into colour vision have been one of the success stories of cognitive science, for each discipline within the field - neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, computer science and artificial intelligence, and philosophy - has contributed significantly to our understanding of colour. Evan Thompson's book is a major contribution to this interdisciplinary project. Colour Vision provides an accessible review of the current scientific and philosophical discussions of colour vision. Thompson steers a course between the subjective and objective positions on colour, arguing for a relational account. This account develops a novel 'ecological' approach to colour vision in cognitive science and the philosophy of perception. It is vital reading for all cognitive scientists and philosophers whose interests touch upon this central area.

Excerpt

In an essay written shortly before his death, Maurice Merleau-Ponty quotes Paul Cézanne as saying that colour is the 'place where our brain and the universe meet' (Merleau-Ponty 1964:180). In this remark the painter elegantly expresses why philosophers since Aristotle have been fascinated by colour-colour lies at the intersection of mind and matter, perception and the world, metaphysics and epistemology. Our time is no exception, for within the past seven years there has been a remarkable renewal of philosophical interest in colour, provoking one philosopher to comment on the 'chromatic zeitgeist' at work in contemporary philosophy (Hardin 1989). Yet with one exception (Westphal 1987), this renewed interest has not given birth to a philosophical treatment worthy of Cézanne's remark. Instead, recent philosophers have staked out extreme positions on the nature of colour. Some hold that colours are just the reflective properties of surfaces and so do not depend at all on the perceiver (Hilbert 1987; Matthen 1988); they are willing to identify colours with properties of the physical world even though there is a profound mismatch between such properties and the essential properties of colour. Others hold that there are no colours but only brain-based experiences of colour (Hardin 1988; Landesman 1989); they are willing to eliminate colour altogether as a property of the world, thus convicting colour perception of being in its very nature metaphysically mistaken.

The main aim of this book is to correct this imbalance by articulating a philosophically sensitive treatment of the world-dependence of the mind and the mind-dependence of the world evident in the perception of colour. Thus, in contrast to

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