We percieve the world as coloured: but there are no colours in the world.
That we percieve the world as coloured is considered trivial, so in this essay I will concetrate mainly on the latter claim, “there are no colours in the world”. There are two philosophical positions which are compatible with this claim. The first one is an error thoery known as eliminativism and the second is subjectivism. There are two reasons that people give for claiming that there are no colours in the world. The first is that science has not shown that there are such things in the world - this reason is compatible with both of the above views; the second is that colours are essentially an optical illusion, caused by a systematic error in the visual processing system - this reason is put forward mainly by eliminativists. I will now turn to an analysis of these reasons to see if they are suffiicient to draw the conclusion that “there are no colours in the world”.
Because the first of these reasons supports both theories we will start there, but first I would like to clear up some terminology in order that we not confuse the concepts we are talking about. Firstly, this essay does not deal with the dualist theory of mind; in some sense the subjectivist we are talking about believes that mind is part of the world, and they are realist in the sense that they think there is an external world. And secondly, because of the above, some people might feel that subjectivism contradicts itself, because if it is the case that the mind exists in the world and the subjecitivst believes that colours are in the mind, then he believes that colours exist in the world. but the subjectivist is trying to say something more subtle, the subjectivist is trying to say that if minds did not exist then colours would not exist, so they do think that colours exist, they just don't believe colours are an objective part of the physical objects in the world, so even though I will be using the shorthand “world” it should be understood by this term that I will be using the term in this specific sense.
Subjectivism and Eliminativism state that because science has failed to find any such phenomena (as colours in the world) we should conclude that there are no colours in the world. The suggestion here is that because science studies the external world and philosophy does not, then the burden is on science to find such phenomena in the world. Subjectivism itself claims that colours are what they call Qualia (rhymes with “away”), there was also an older theory that claimed they were “sense-data”, but the concept of sense-data has since been abandoned (putnam).
Even if we grant that science has not yet found external physical phenomena that accounts for all the things we assume would be necessay for a theory of colour, this does not mean there is no such thing as those phenomena, we can only conclude, that as of yet we don't know. Furthermore, that there are other philsophical positions, which do...