Color realism and color science

Alex Byrne, David R. Hilbert
2003 Behavioral and Brain Sciences  
Color is the subject of a vast and impressive body of empirical research and theory. A lot is known about the physical properties of objects that are responsible for the appearance of color: photoreceptors in the eye; color processing in the visual system; the genetics of color vision; the various defects of color vision; the variations in color vocabulary and categories across cultures; color constancy; the variation in apparent color with viewing conditions; color vision in animals; and about
more » ... the evolution of color vision. 1 Unsurprisingly, the fine details are often subject to vigorous dispute, for example, whether or not macaque cortical area V4 is a color center (Heywood et al. 1995; Schiller 1996; Zeki 1990) ; and sometimes the fundamental assumptions of a particular subfield are questioned (e.g., Saunders & van Brakel 1997 on color categories). But, by and large, the field of color science commands a broad consensus. Rather strikingly, however, there are some basic and important issues missing from this agreeable picture. What is redness? A physical property of some sort -for example, a certain way of reflecting light? Or is it a disposition to produce certain sensations in certain perceivers? Or is redness a sui generis property about which not much can be said? Further, do those objects like tomatoes, strawberries, and radishes that appear to have this property really have it? In other words, are objects, like tomatoes, red? Color scientists, philosophers, and other cognitive scientists with opinions on the matter strongly disagree about the answers to these questions. 2 In fact, the most popular opinion, at any rate among color scientists, may well be the view that nothing is colored -at least not physical objects in the perceiver's environment, like tomatoes. For example: We know from psychophysical and neurophysiological investigations that color is created somewhere in the brain, although the exact location of this process is still unknown, and we even have no idea what entities the sensations called color are. . . . In short, colors appear only at a first naïve glance to be located in objects.
doi:10.1017/s0140525x03000013 fatcat:hlxvlnryubfo3ojrcc557g3r54