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Defence of the primary quality view of colour.

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The aim of this thesis is to defend what is known as the primary quality view of colour. It will do this by arguing that this view better meets our conceptual schema than either of its rivals the subjectivist view or the secondary quality view. In pursuing this project, I highlight the five core beliefs (as identified by Johnston 1992) that make up our colour conceptual schema, identifying the two strongly realist beliefs as making up our prime intuition, and on these grounds I immediately reject the subjectivist stance. I then set out the primary quality view's main rival, the secondary quality view, and show how dispositionalists have argued that this view is best able to accommodate our core beliefs. However, I identify empirical findings that raise problems for the secondary quality view, revealing its inability to satisfy our extended colour concepts as well as an inability to adequately explain certain deviant cases. The core of my argument against the secondary quality view comes from what I call problems of causation, where I argue that as dispositions are not causes they are unable to meet our prime intuition, and therefore cannot be colours. I therefore set up a version of the primary quality view of colour, identifying colours with microphysical properties (or complexes thereof) and show why this view does not face the same problems of causation as the secondary quality view. I then argue that the secondary quality view does not have the advantage over the primary quality view, when it comes to the rest of our core beliefs, as its supporters would have us believe. I show how a primary quality view is able to fit all these core beliefs into our overarching colour conceptual schema, without having to appeal to the ontological extravagances that dispositionists must bestow upon colour. Finally, I address two criticisms from commonsense that are laid against the primary quality view, and argue that the primary quality view is able to meet these conceptual demands and thereby conclude that the primary quality view is the better of the putative candidates competing for capturing the ontological status of colour.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2001.


Colour (Philosophy), Perception (Philosophy), Colour., Colour vision., Theses--Philosophy.