Philosophical Studies

, Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 27–45 | Cite as

The phenomenological character of color perception

Article

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.

Keywords

Color Color vision Visual modeling Visual categorization Cause 

References

  1. Abramov, I. (1997). Physiological mechanisms of color vision. In C. L. Maffi & L. Hardin (Eds.), Color categories in thought and language (pp. 89–117). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Byrne, A., & Hilbert, D. (1997). Colors and reflectances. In A. Byrne & Hilbert D. (Eds.), Readings on color: The philosophy of color (Vol. 1, pp. 263–288). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Byrne, A. & Hilbert, D. (2003). Color realism and color science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 26(1), 3–21, 52–63.Google Scholar
  4. Chalmers, D. (1996). The conscious mind: In search of a fundamental theory. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Chalmers, D. (2002). Consciousness and its place in nature. In: Chalmers (Ed.), Philosophy of mind: Classical and contemporary readings. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. De Valois, R. L., & De Valois, K. K. (1975). Neural coding of color. In E. C. Carterette & M. P. Friedman (Eds.), Handbook of perception: Vol. 5, Seeing (pp. 117–166). Academic Press. In A. Byrne & D. Hilbert (Eds.), (1997) Readings on color: The science of color (Vol. 2, pp. 93–140). MIT Press.Google Scholar
  7. Hardin, C. L., & Maffi, L. (Eds.). (1997). Color categories in thought and language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Johnston, M. (1992). How to speak about colors. Philosophical Studies, 68, 221–263. In A. Byrne & D. Hilbert (Eds.), (1997) Readings on color: The philosophy of color (Vol. 1, pp. 137–172m). Cambridge: MIT Press. With Postscript: Visual experience (pp. 172–176). References are to the reprint in Byrne and Hilbert (1997).Google Scholar
  9. Kim, J. (2005). Physicalism, or something near enough. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Langton, R. (1998). Kantian humility: Our ignorance of things in themselves. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  11. Langton, R. (2004). Elusive knowledge of things in themselves. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 82, 129–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Levine, J. (1993). On leaving out what it is like. In M. Davies & G. W. Humphreys (Eds.), Consciousness. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  13. Lewis, D. K. (1997). Finkish dispositions. The Philosophical Quarterly, 47, 143–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lewis, D. K. (2009). Ramseyan humility. In D. Braddon-Mitchell & R. Nola (Eds.), Conceptual analysis and philosophical naturalism. A Bradford book. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Martin, C. (1994). Dispositions and conditionals. The Philosophical Quarterly, 44, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mollon, J. D. (2009). A neural basis for the unique hues. Current Biology, 19(11), R441–R442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Palmer, S. E. (1999). Vision science: Photons to phenomenology, A Bradford Book. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Russell, B. (1927). The analysis of matter. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Sacks, O. (1995). An anthropologist on mars: seven paradoxical tales. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  20. Shoemaker, S. (1994). Phenomenal character. Noûs, 28, 21–38. In A. Byrne & D. Hilbert (Eds.), (1997). Readings on color: The philosophy of color (Vol. 1, pp. 227–245). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentTexas Tech University, MS 3092LubbockUSA

Personalised recommendations