The adverbialist theory of color


EXCERPT: . . . All these questions point us to the idea that colors are, despite first appearances, subjective and transitory. Color is one of the longstanding puzzles in philosophy, raising doubts about the truthfulness of our sensory grasp on things, and provoking concerns as to the metaphysical compatibility of scientific, perceptual, and common sense representations of the world. Most philosophers have argued that colors are either real or not real, physical or psychological. The greater challenge is to theorize the subtle way that color stands between our understanding of the physical and the psychological.

[...] The view espoused by Galileo has come to be known as subjectivism or anti-realism. The concern is that color perception lands us with an erroneous view of the world and that humans fall victim to a systematic illusion in perceiving external objects as colored.

[...] Other philosophers have taken up the challenge of finding a place in the material world for these mysterious chromatic qualities. This realism about color comes in many varieties.

[...] The problem with these realist and anti-realist proposals is that they each only focus on either the objective or subjective aspects of color. An alternative position can best be described as “relationist.” [...] For the adverbialist, there is no color-in-the-object on the one hand, and color-in-the-mind on the other. Color is the property of a perceptual process. Because color cannot be reduced either to physics or to psychology, we are left with a blue sky that is not simply inner or outer but somehow in between. [Alva] Noe claims that consciousness is not confined to the brain but is somehow “in between” the mind and our ordinary physical surroundings, and that consciousness must be understood in terms of activities. By themselves these ideas are quite perplexing....


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