IRCS Conference Room
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
University of Pittsburgh
The Irreducibility of Colour
The fact that we have special sciences of colour (e.g. psychophysics, colorimetry) is the premise of an indispensability argument for colour realism (Johnson and Wright, 2006). Colour science exists, therefore colours exist. Yet whereas most accounts of special science properties (e.g. in biology, psychology and economics) hold them to be sui generis and irreducible to properties of “lower level” or fundamental sciences, naturalistic theories of colour have tended to treat them as reducible to physical (Byrne and Hilbert, 2003) or neurophysiological (Hardin, 1993) properties, or both (Johnson and Wright, 2006).
In this talk I argue that colours, like other terms in the theories and models of special sciences (e.g. species, working memory, GDP), should be considered irreducible to lower level sciences. But that is not the end of the story. I also present a positive account of the emergence of chromatic properties, and draw comparisons with accounts of emergence in the philosophy of biology (Wimsatt 2007, Dupré 2008, Mitchell 2012).