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Colour, dispositions and the Argument from Physics

Allen, Keith Malcolm; (2002) Colour, dispositions and the Argument from Physics. Masters thesis (M.Phil), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis is an investigation into eliminativism about colour, the counter-intuitive thesis that the objects that surround us are not, despite appearances, coloured. A popular argument for this view - "The Argument from Physics" - is that because colours are not mentioned in a physical description of the world, a description which is assumed to be of ontological significance, then colours do not exist. One response to this argument is physicalism. Physicalists reject the eliminativist's claim that colours have no place within a physical description of the world, identifying colours either with disjunctions of physically describable properties or with physically specified dispositions. Because neither version of physicalism is pitched at the right explanatory level, however, neither is able to satisfactorily account for the similarity judgements about colour we make on the basis of visual experience. Dispositionalism represents a different way of rejecting the eliminativist's claim that colours have no place within a physical description of the world. According to the dispositionalist, colours are logical constructions out of properties mentioned in the physical description of the world and the experiences these properties dispose their bearers to produce. As a response to the Argument from Physics, dispositionalism presupposes a metaphysical dispositional- categorical distinction. The only evident dispositional-categorical distinction, however, is conceptual. The real problem with the Argument from Physics is the deference to physical theory that it presupposes. The only understanding of 'objectivity' strong enough to sustain the conclusion that describability in terms of physical vocabulary is of ontological significance, is too strong to support the eliminativist's conclusion. Rejecting eliminativism, we should conclude that colours are simple non-physical properties whose nature is entirely transparent to us.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil
Title: Colour, dispositions and the Argument from Physics
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Philosophy, religion and theology; Eliminativism; Physicalism
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10105644
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