, Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 27-45
Date: 02 Sep 2010

The phenomenological character of color perception

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Abstract

When an object looks red to an observer, the visual experience of the observer has two important features. The experience visually represents the object as having a property—being red. And the experience has a phenomenological character; that is, there is something that it is like to have an experience of seeing an object as red. Let qualia be the properties that give our sensory and perceptual experiences their phenomenological character. This essay takes up two related problem for a nonreductive account of qualia. Some have argued that on such an account there is no room in a physicalist ontology for qualia. Section 1 shows how qualia might fit into a physicalist ontology. The second problem begins with the observation that there is a gap in scientific accounts of color experience; there is no explanation of why the features of the brain that determine our color experiences give those experiences their phenomenological character. Building on the results of Sect. 1, Sect. 2 develops an account of color perception that bridges this gap and shows how qualia give color perception its phenomenological character. To get a grip on the issues involved the paper begins by considering some aspects of a physicalist account of color.