The Semantic Theory of Colour Experience<sup>1</sup>

Mohan Matthen

in Seeing, Doing, and Knowing

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780199268504
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602283 | DOI:
The Semantic Theory of Colour Experience1

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A standard philosophical approach to defining colour associates it with a ‘colour look‘ in standard circumstances. All extant plausible versions of this theory violate the condition that we should possess instinctive knowledge of colour. A more promising approach is a ‘semantic‘specification of the meaning of colour experiences, elaborated along the lines of Tarski=s semantic theory of truth: something is a particular colour if it really is the colour something looks to be when it presents the associated look. The semantic theory is elaborated by means of an analogy between sensory systems and measuring instruments. The proposal is that sensory systems provide measurements in an ‘auto-calibrated‘ scale: in terms, that is, of something like a re-identifiable pointer position that is not specified by reference to an independently defined scale.

Keywords: Alfred Tarski; colour looks; colour properties; colour relativism; dispositional theories of colour; Mark Johnston; measurement; musical harmony; sensation; sensation as symbol; sensory knowledge

Chapter.  10621 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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