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Physicalist Theories of Color

Physicalist Theories of Color

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Published by David Velleman
Paul Boghossian and J. David Velleman, Philosophical Review 1991
Paul Boghossian and J. David Velleman, Philosophical Review 1991

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Published by: David Velleman on Apr 28, 2013
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Philosophical Review
Physicalist Theories of ColorAuthor(s): Paul A. Boghossian and J. David VellemanReviewed work(s):Source:
The Philosophical Review,
Vol. 100, No. 1 (Jan., 1991), pp. 67-106Published by:
on behalf of
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ThePhilosophicalReview,
Vol. C,No.1 (January 1991)
PhysicalistTheoriesofColor'PaulA.BoghossianJ. David Velleman
THE PROBLEMOF COLORREALISM
The
dispute betweenrealists aboutcolor andanti-realists sac-
tuallyadisputeaboutthe natureofcolorproperties.Thedisputantsdo notdisagreeover what materialobjectsare like.Rather, they disagreeover whetheranyoftheuncontroversialfacts about material objects-their powerstocause visualexperi-ences,theirdispositionstoreflect incident light,their atomicmakeup,and so on-amountto theirhavingcolors. Thedisagree-mentisthusaboutwhichpropertiescolors are and,inparticular,whethercolorsareanyof thepropertiesin aparticularsetthatisacknowledgedon both sidestoexhaust the propertiesofmaterialobjects.Ina previous paperwediscussedatlengthoneattemptto iden-tifycolors withparticularpropertiesofmaterial objects-namely,with theirdispositionsto cause visualexperiences.2Here weshalldiscuss adifferent and perhapsmoreinfluential versionof real-ism,whichsaysthat the colors of material objects are micro-physical propertiesof their surfaces.3Weshall call thistheoryphysicalismabout color (physicalism,forshort).In ordertoeval-uatethistheory,however, weshall firsthavetoclarifysomemeth-odologicalissues. Ourhopeis that wecanbringsomefurtherclaritytothequestionofcolorrealism,whetheror notwesucceedin ourcritiqueof the physicalists' answer.
'For comments on earlier drafts of this paper, we are grateful to DavidArmstrong, C. L. Hardin, David Hills,Sydney Shoemaker, and SteveYablo.2"Colour asaSecondary Quality," Mind98 (1989), pp. 81-103.30ur earlier paper containeda brief discussion of this theory, pp.82-83. The present paper can be regardedas expandingonthat passage.67
 
BOGHOSSIAN&VELLEMANMetaphysicsandSemanticsTo say that thequestion of colorrealism is reallyabout the na-ture of colorproperties is not yetto define thequestion suffi-ciently.One istemptedtoask,Whichare theproperties whosenature is at issue?Ofcourse,the latterquestion mayseem likean invitationtobegtheformer. Forinordertosaywhichproperties are atissueinthedebate about thenatureofcolors,onewouldhave tosay whichproperties colorsare-which wouldseemtorequiresettling thedebate beforedefiningit.How,indeed,canone ever debatethenature of aproperty? Until oneknows whichpropertyisat issue,thedebate cannotget started;but assoon as one knows whichproperty is at issue, itwould seem,thedebate is over.Well,notquite.Onecanpickout aproperty bymeans ofacon-tingentfactaboutit.Andonecanthereby specifythepropertywhosenatureis tobedebatedwithoutpreemptingthedebate.Such indirectspecificationsarewhat motivatequestionsabout thenatureofproperties.One knows orsuspects that thereis a prop-erty playingaparticularrole, say,oroccupyingaparticularrela-tion,andonewants to know whichpropertyitis,given thatplayingtheroleoroccupyingthe relation isn't thepropertyinquestion.The role in which colorscommandattention,ofcourse,is theirroleas the properties attributed toobjects byaparticularaspectofvisualexperience.Theyare thepropertiesthatobjectsappeartohave whentheylook colored.Whatphilosopherswant toknowiswhethertheproperties thatobjectsthusappearto have areamongthe ones thattheyaregenerally agreedtohaveinreality.Yetifthequestioniswhethersomeagreed-uponset ofproper-ties includesthe ones thatobjectsappeartohaveinlookingcol-ored,thenitispartlyaquestionabout the contentofvisualap-pearances.Whenphilosophersaskwhethercolors arereal, theyareaskingwhetheranyof thepropertiesacknowledgedtobe realare the ones attributed to anobjectbytheexperienceofitslookingcolored;and sotheyareasking,inpart,whichpropertiesarerep-resentedinthatexperience-whichisaquestionofitscontent.What isLookingColored?Theforegoingattempttodefinewhichpropertiesare at issue inthequestionofcolorrealismmayseemviciouslycircular.Forwe68

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