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Title: An eco-dispositional theory of colour
Author: Brenner, S. D.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2007
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My thesis develops a novel theory of colours as real properties: ‘eco-dispositionalism’.  This view construes colour-properties as response-dependent dispositions, but not as simple dispositions to cause colour-experiences. Instead, I hold that at least certain basic colour categories are ‘affordances’ or opportunities for environmental exploitation. Eco-disposition about the colours assumes a causal theory of properties that analyses a property as something that either is (or is individuated by) a set of causal powers. I argue for the existence of a special set of ‘contextual’ powers. These powers are functional properties of cybernetic systems. Because they are highly sensitive to initial conditions, systemic properties have a narrower modal extension than the basic physical properties from which they are constructed. Nevertheless, contextual powers qualify as genuine scientific properties. I claim that colours are external powers that, nevertheless, owe their individuations to the responses of perceiving organisms. Organisms are self-organising systems that depend on their ongoing engagements with the external environment: this process might well include representation. Because I take all biological representation to involve dynamic interactions between organisms and their environments, I claim that even human colour-representation involves certain, well-defined, consistent, responses to colours. This is somewhat controversial: on the face of it, our perceptual interactions with environmental colours do not appear to involve any particular patterns of response. In dealing with this objection, I argue that although most human exploitation of colour involves significant epistemic mediation, it is possible to demonstrate the existence of some, non-epistemic, ‘coercive’, human responses to colours. Coercive colour-responses depend on what I term ‘psychological’ saliencies; while these, in turn, ground plausibly universal judgements that some hue classes (i.e. yellow-orange-reds) are warm and advancing while others (i.e. blue-greens) are cool and receding.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available