Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 12, Issue 3, 2012

(John) Barry Maund
Pages 379-398

Colour Relationalism and Colour Irrealism/Eliminativism/Fictionalism

Jonathan Cohen has produced a powerful argument for Colour Relationalism: the metaphysical thesis that colours are relational properties of a certain sort—relational with respect to perceivers and circumstances. Cohen makes two important assumptions: one is that Colour Relationalism and Colour Irrealism (which include Colour Eliminativism, Fictionalism and other “error theories”) are rivals; the second is that “error theories” are theories of last resort. In this paper, I challenge both assumptions. In particular, I argue that there is good reason to think that Colour Relationalism needs to be supplemented by some version of an Error theory. In so doing, I examine, in detail, the issues raised in a paper by Janet Levin in which she engages in an instructive debate with Colin McGinn. Levin’s paper is important since Cohen places heavy reliance on her arguments, both in defending his relationalist theory against crucial objections, and in his dismissal of error theories.