Volume 12, Issue 3, 2012
Reflectance Physicalism About Color
The Story Continues
A stubborn problem for reflectance physicalism about color is to account for individual differences in normal trichromat color perception. The identification of determinate colors with physical properties of visible surfaces in a universal, perceiver-independent way is challenged by the observation that the same surfaces in identical viewing conditions often look different in color to different human subjects with normal color vision. Recently, leading representatives of reflectance physicalism have offered some arguments to defend their view against the individual differences challenge. In this paper I challenge their defense. I argue that
even though individual differences are present in shape perception as well as in color perception, the mechanisms of shape perception and those of color perception differ in ways which make them completely different regarding their evidential status for certain identity claims. Thus comparing color perception to shape perception offers no support for identifying hues with reflectances. On the other hand, drawing a parallel between the temperature-mean kinetic energy of molecules (MKE) identification and the proposed hue-reflectance identities is no support for reflectance physicalism either, since there is an important disanalogy
between the two cases. While individual differences obtain in color perception, the effects of temperature (e.g., melting, thermal expansion) do not exhibit analogous variation, which makes the temperature-MKE identification unproblematic compared to the hue-reflectance identification. One motivation for this ongoing debate is that the success or failure of reflectance physicalism has far-reaching consequences regarding externalist theories of phenomenal consciousness.