The Harvard Review of Philosophy


published on July 27, 2020

Frank Jackson

Learning from What Color Experiences Are Good For

Color is an incredibly controversial topic. Here is a sample of views taken seriously: colors are dispositions to look coloured; colors are physical properties of surfaces or of light; colors are properties of certain mental states, which get projected onto the surfaces of objects or onto reflected or transmitted light; colors are an illusion; colors are sui generis. One hopes to break the impasse by finding a compelling starting point—one drawing on obvious points that are common ground—which naturally evolves into the theory of color one likes. I start with remarks about the utility of having mental states with a phenomenology, remarks which are, I urge, non-controversial. I develop them into the theory of color I favor. According to it, colors are properties of objects as objective as their shapes. The final section explains how the theory handles the best argument for subjectivism about color.