Version: v1, Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 31, 2020, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/colour-theories-of/v-1
The world as perceived by human beings is full of colour. The world as described by physical scientists is composed of colourless particles and fields. Philosophical theories of colour since the Scientific Revolution have been driven primarily by a desire to harmonize these two apparently conflicting pictures of the world. Any adequate theory of colour has to be consistent with the characteristics of colour as perceived without contradicting the deliverances of the physical sciences.
Given this conception of the aim of a theory of colour, there are three possibilities for resolving the apparent conflict between the scientific and perceptual facts. The first is to deny that physical objects have colours. Theories of this kind admit that objects appear coloured but maintain that these appearances are misleading. The conflict is resolved by removing colour from the external world. Second, it might be that colour is a relational property. For an object to possess a particular colour it must be related in the right way to a perceiver. One common version of this view analyses colour as a disposition to cause particular kinds of perceptual experience in a human being. Since the physical sciences deal only with the intrinsic properties of physical objects and their relations to other physical objects and not their relations to perceiving subjects, the possibility of conflict is removed. A third possible response is to maintain that colour really is a property of external objects and that the conflict is merely apparent. Some theories of this form maintain that colour is identical to a physical property of objects. Others maintain that colour is a property that physical objects possess over and above all their physical properties. Philosophical discussions of colour typically take the form of either elaborating on one of these three possibilities or attempting to show more generally that one of these three types of response is to be preferred to the others.
Hilbert, David R.. Colour, theories of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q013-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/colour-theories-of/v-1.
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