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The Quest for Reality: Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Colour.

STROUD, Barry. The Quest for Reality: Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Colour. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. xv + 228 pp. Cloth, $29.95--In this book, Stroud argues that we have no good reason for subjectivism about colors--for believing that colors are not part of the objective, mind-independent, real world. The book is not succinctly argued, nor is it intended to be, given its epigraph from Wittgenstein: "This is how philosophers should salute each other. `Take your time!'" The book's leisurely, discursive, and explicitly undogmatic treatment makes for a fascinating and pleasant read.

The first three chapters explore the difficulties in understanding exactly what it means to affirm or deny that something, like color, is real or objective. After not coming to any acceptable general understanding, Stroud simply proposes to consider the modern grounds for denying the objectivity of color, science does not require color qualities.

In chapter 4, Stroud notes that "What reveals that colour and other `secondary' qualities are not part of `reality' is not simply that they are not mentioned in the austere scientific account. It is that objects do not have to be thought of as having such qualities to explain why the world appears to all of us as it does" (p. 72). Such explanations, then, supposedly "unmask," as Stroud says, our perceptions of and beliefs about color and justify the denial of objective color.

Rejecting any kind of reduction of the psychological to the physical, Stroud devotes most of the remainder of the book to arguing that there cannot be any such unmasking explanations. Subjectivism requires that we not understand color-perceptions, produced by colorless objects, as involving qualities of physical objects. Yet our everyday color-beliefs all ascribe color qualities to physical objects. If those beliefs are understood as involving color in the same sense as our color-perceptions, then all our color-beliefs are false. A traditional way of avoiding this result is to analyze the color qualities involved in such beliefs as dispositions of colorless physical objects to produce color-perceptions. In chapter 5, Stroud argues that such an analysis is unavailable, since for an analysis to be successful it must be impossible for the analysandum to occur without the analysands. Yet because the dispositional analysis must (as Stroud argues) differentiate the disposition and the perceived color, it is always possible that, given a change in the human constitution or the laws of nature, a yellow object not produce the requisite color-perception. Thus the unmasking falls because it does not explain the connection between color-perception and color-beliefs. In chapter 7, Stroud considers closing the belief-perception gap by identifying what we understand by the color quality involved in both. If there are no objective colors, this entails the falsity of all color-beliefs. This falsity, Stroud argues, makes the unmasking task impossible. His argument relies on the Wittgensteinian point that ascriptions of belief to others require a public or objective context. If color-beliefs are about private or subjective qualities, we cannot meaningfully ascribe color-beliefs to people. Consequently, it is impossible for the subjectivist to use the unmasking strategy, because people's color-beliefs, what he proposes to explain, are unavailable; and if they are made available, the unmasker must grant what he seeks to deny, the objectivity of color. Showing, however, that it is impossible for the subjectivist to provide an unmasking explanation is not the same as showing that it is impossible for there not to be objectively real colors. So in chapter 9, Stroud recognizes that although, if he has been successful, he has shown that we have no reason to deny the objective reality of colors, and indeed that since we see colored objects all around, we have good evidence that there are objectively real colors, we nevertheless have no deductive, metaphysical proof of their objective reality. Thus Stroud holds that his arguments leave our "metaphysical urge" (p. 209) unsatisfied.

Finally, in chapter 10, Stroud briefly and tentatively suggests that one might argue as he has about the objectivity of colors against arguments purporting to show the unreality of objective causal necessity, metaphysical necessity, and moral values.--Raymond Woller, University of Georgia.
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Author:Woller, Raymond
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2001
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