Colour vision and seeing colours

Will Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
273 Downloads (Pure)


Colour vision plays a foundational explanatory role in the philosophy of colour, and serves as perennial quarry in the wider philosophy of perception. I present two contributions to our understanding of this notion. The first is to develop a constitutive approach to characterizing colour vision. This approach seeks to comprehend the nature of colour vision qua psychological kind, as contrasted with traditional experiential approaches, which prioritize descriptions of our ordinary visual experience of colour. The second contribution is to argue that colour vision does not constitutively involve the ability to see colours, in a natural and categorically committed sense. I argue that two subjects exactly alike in respect of their constitutive colour vision abilities could differ in respect of whether or not they have categorical perception of colour. The argument is supported by thought experiment and dissociations observed in cognitive neuropsychology. The argument also bears connections to recent neo-Whorfian accounts of colour categorization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657–690
JournalThe British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


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