The Disunity of Colour

Mohan Matthen

in Seeing, Doing, and Knowing

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780199268504
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602283 | DOI:
The Disunity of Colour

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Colour vision has evolved independently in a variety of species. It is widely assumed that this is a case of convergence, of the same function appearing in separated phylogenetic paths. It is much more likely to be an instance of Darwin=s Principle of Divergence, that is, of a specialized function that enables a species to exploit an environmental resource unavailable to its less specialized ancestor. On this account, colour vision has a different function in phylogenetically unrelated occurrences. Moreover, it is much more closely integrated with its predecessor, that is, black-and-white vision, than we might intuitively think, the latter carrying a good deal of the burden in colour discrimination.

Keywords: colour mosaic theory; convergence and divergence; Darwin; evolution; function; J. D. Mollon; phylogeny; sensory specialization

Chapter.  5139 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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