Philosophy 285
Seminar on Special Topics: Color

Autumn 2006

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Where: Philosophy seminar room (H&SS 7077)
When: Friday 1-3:50

Instructor: Jonathan Cohen
joncohen AT aardvark DOT ucsd DOT edu
office: (858) 534 6812

Office hours: Friday 10-11:30 in H&SS 8072 (and by appointment; please feel free to call)

This graduate seminar in philosophy will be devoted to color. There has been a veritable explosion of philosophical interest in color in recent years; we'll aim to cover some of the most central ontological and epistemological issues about color, highlighting connections to allied areas of philosophy (and color science!) as they come up.

We'll organize discussion around the papers in Alex Byrne's and David Hilbert's Readings on Color, Volume 1: The Philosophy of Color, supplemented by additional readings as time and interest allow.


As noted, the readings for the seminar will come mainly from Byrne's and Hilbert's anthology (volume 1) and some more recent materials that I'll make available on a tray in the department library. I also recommend highly Larry Hardin's classic book Color for Philosophers: Unweaving the Rainbow.

For those who are interested in the relevant color science, I've also ordered as a recommended text Byrne's and Hilbert's Readings on Color, Volume 2: The Science of Color. Two other useful and reasonably recent anthologies on color science are Backhuas et. al., Color Vision: Perspectives From Different Disciplines and Gegenfurtner and Sharpe, Color Vision: From Genes to Perception.


The seminar requirements are of two main kinds: presentations, and a medium length (15 page) final paper.

Presentation: All attendees (including auditors) will be required to lead a seminar discussion (or maybe more than one, depending on our numbers). A presentation should be a critical discussion rather than a summary or book report (the presenter can assume that other participants have done the reading, and the other participants will make it the case that such an assumption is correct!), and should contain a thesis and arguments for that thesis. It can concern any topic connected with the week's reading that is of interest to the presenter. You must discuss your presentation with me sometime before the session in which you present, just to make sure we're on the same page. Seminar presentations may be given using notes or overheads, but they may not be read aloud from a pre-written paper.

Final Paper: Students taking the course for credit will pass in a single 15 page paper by the end of the quarter (extensions will be granted only in cases of extreme emergency), on a topic of their own choosing that relates to the subject matter of the course. All such papers must be pre-approved in conversation with me. I mean it. Really.


I will determine your grade based on the following breakdown:
25% seminar presentations and participation
75% final paper

Tentative Schedule

Readings marked with an asterisk are NOT found in the Byrne and Hilbert book but will be made available in the department library (and/or through links below).
1Introduction, planningByrne and Hilbert, "Introduction" Jonathan Cohen
2Color PhysicalismSmart "On Some Criticisms of a Physicalist Theory of Colors"; Boghossian and Velleman, "Physicalist Theories of Color"; Byrne and Hilbert, "Colors and Reflectances"; Lewis, "Naming the Colors"*; Byrne and Hilbert, "Color Realism and Color Science"* Liberty
3Dispositionalism Boghossian and Velleman, "Color as a Secondary Quality"; Peacocke, "Colour Concepts and Colour Experience"; Johnston, "How to Speak of the Colors"; McGinn, "Another Look At Color"* Charlie, Tarun
4Relationalism Cohen, "Color Properties and Color Ascriptions: A Relationalist Manifesto"*; "A Relationalist's Guide to Errors About Color Perception"* Jonathan
5 Color Functionalism McLaughlin, "The Place of Color in Nature"*; Jackson and Pargetter, "An Objectivist's Guide to Subjectivism About Colour"; Cohen "Color: A Functionalist Proposal"* Charlie
6 Selectionism Matthen, "The Disunity of Color"*; "Our Knowledge of Colour"* Tim
7 Eliminativism Hardin, Color For Philosophers, chapter 2*; Maund, Colours: Their Nature and Representation, chapter 2*; Chalmers, "Perception and the Fall From Eden"* Liberty
8 Primitivism Byrne and Hilbert, "Color Primitivism"*; Campbell, "A Simple View of Colour"; Watkins, "Seeing Red: The Metaphysics of Colours Without the Physics"*; Yablo, "Singling Out Properties"* Tarun
9 Color Constancy Thompson, "Colour Constancy and Russellian Representationalism"*; Cohen, "Color Constancy as Counterfactual"*; Hilbert, "Color Constancy and the Complexity of Color"* Tim
10 Catchup