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Why Colour Primitivism?

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Primitivism is the view that colors are sui generis properties of physical objects. The basic insight underlying primitivism is that colours are as we see them, i.e. they are categorical properties of physical objects—simple, monadic, constant, etc.—just like shapes. As such, they determine the content of colour experience. Accepting the premise that colours are sui generis properties of physical objects, this paper seeks to show that ascribing primitive properties to objects is, ipso facto, ascribing to objects irreducible dispositions to look coloured, and that anything that primitive redness can do, the non-reductive disposition to look red can do just as well. What makes primitivism suspect is not the commitment to sui generis properties, but instead the claim that colours are more than dispositions. Since, as I show, whatever primitivism appeals to for the purpose of arguing that colours are more than dispositions—objectivity, explanation, causation, phenomenology, constancy, etc.—can also be invoked by non-reductive dispositionalism, the feature that purportedly renders colours more than dispositions remains mysterious.
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Keywords: colours; inheritance; non-reductive dispositionalism; phenomenal properties; primitivism; relational properties

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Ben-Gurion University,

Publication date: 02 April 2016

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