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

By Evan Thompson | Go to book overview

1

THE RECEIVED VIEW

Newton's laws and their later scientific corrections were used to impose on the disputed and heterogeneous phenomenon of the scattering of light, observed since the Greek physicists, the authority of the new sciences, which showed the possibility of reducing to analysis and measurement a multiple variable like the emission of light, and this with the most simple instrument in the world: a glass prism. Consequently, the individuality and the materiality of colour no longer belong to painting, or to the literature about colouring and chiaroscuro… Colours are no longer a 'figure' of pictorial production, but a transmission of light.

(Manlio Brusatin 1986:68-9. My translation)

Since the time of Newton and Locke, the received view among philosophers has been that colours are not found among the fundamental properties of things. Things as they are in themselves do not have colours; they have colours only by virtue of how they appear to us. Thus being coloured consists simply in being the kind of thing that looks or would look coloured to us in normal perceptual circumstances. In other words, things do not look coloured because they really are coloured; they are coloured only because they look to be so.

This view can be stated with a good deal more philosophical precision. According to Locke (1690/1975) and those who have developed his analysis (for example, Jackson 1968), colour consists in a power or disposition of something to produce sensory experiences of colour in a perceiver. The fundamental

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures x
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xiv
  • 1 - The Received View 1
  • 2 - Colour Vision: Recent Theories and Results 38
  • 3 - Naturalistic Ontologies 106
  • 4 - The Comparative Argument 141
  • 5 - The Ecological View 215
  • 6 - Visual Experience and the Ecological View 251
  • Notes 304
  • References 319
  • Index 345
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