Color and Consciousness: An Essay in Metaphysics

Color and Consciousness: An Essay in Metaphysics

Color and Consciousness: An Essay in Metaphysics

Color and Consciousness: An Essay in Metaphysics

Synopsis

Charles Landesman deals with the philosophical problems of perception and with the status of color properties and he comes to the surprising conclusion that nothing at all has any color, that colors do not exist. In making the case for his "color skepticism," Landesman discusses and rejects historically influential accounts of the nature of secondary qualities-such as those of Locke, Reid, Galileo, and Hobbes-as well as the more recent work of Kripke, Grice, and others. Philosophers have debated whether colors are real qualities of bodies, merely dispositional properties, or mental entities caused by the impact of light upon the visual system. The author argues that none of these alternatives can be adequately defended and that they all assume that a correct theory of color must preserve, to some extent, our commonsense beliefs. Instead, Landesman defends a view called color skepticism, that nothing has any color, neither bodies nor appearances. Since this view is based upon an argument that includes certain empirical premises, he distinguishes it from the radical skepticisms about the external world identified with the thought of Descartes and Hume. Color and Consciousness treats an area of philosophy that is currently of great interest to those concerned with the theory of knowledge, metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, and the psychological theory of perception. Author note: Charles Landesman is Professor of Philosophy at Hunter College and at the Graduate School of the City University of New York.

Excerpt

The subject of this book is the status of secondary qualities, particularly colors. It attempts to establish a rather surprising conclusion, namely that nothing has any color. I call this conclusion color skepticism, and I try to defend it in the eighth and final chapter. I arrive at color skepticism as a result of discussing in Chapters One through Seven various philosophical accounts of the nature of color and finding them all wanting. Three accounts in particular are discussed in detail: first, that secondary qualities are dispositional properties of bodies; second, that they are physical microstates of bodies; and, third, that they reside in consciousness. These accounts share the assumption that any adequate theory must 'save' our common sense beliefs about secondary qualities. This means that an account is acceptable only if it implies that most of our ascriptions of secondary qualities are true. Color skepticism rejects that assumption. In the course of discussing the third view, which is called subjectivism, I am led, in Chapter Six, to make some remarks about the mind-body problem in general as well as to argue . . .

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