Are Colors Secondary Qualities?<sup>*</sup>

Alex Byrne and David R. Hilbert

in Primary and Secondary Qualities

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199556151
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725548 | DOI:
Are Colors Secondary Qualities?*

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • History of Western Philosophy


Show Summary Details


Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century discussions of the senses are often thought to contain a profound truth: some perceptible properties are secondary qualities, dispositions to produce certain sorts of experiences in perceivers. In particular, colors are secondary qualities: for example, an object is green if, and only if, it is disposed to look green to standard perceivers in standard conditions. After rebutting Boghossian and Velleman's argument that a certain kind of secondary quality theory is viciously circular, we discuss three main lines of argument for the secondary quality theory. The first is inspired by an intuitively compelling picture of perception articulated by Reid; the second is that the secondary quality theory is a conceptual truth; the third line of argument is presented in Johnston's influential paper ‘How to speak of the colors’. This chapter concludes that all these arguments fail, and that the secondary quality theory is unmotivated.

Keywords: color; secondary qualities; dispositions; vision; perception; Reid; Natural Sign Theory

Chapter.  12352 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.