Wednesday 30 June 2010

Sydney Shoemaker on Colour and Phenomenal Character

This is one of my recent MA Essays, on Sydney Shoemaker's theory of the role of colour perception in the constitution of the phenomenal character of perception.

For those of you who don't speak jargon, this is an essay about the manner in which we visually perceive colours as a particular part of the way we perceive the external world.

Colour perception has been a major subject of discussion in modern philosophy, as it gives a clear and accessible starting point to discussions about human perception and the extent to which we can say we know our perception of the external world to reflect objective external features and to what degree it may reflect the structure of

Most terms are explained in the essay.  There are two that just bare some explanation.
Philosophers divide perception up into two types of content: Representational content and Phenomenal character.
The Phenomenal Character of experience is the qualitative features of it, the things that you individually experience, the way hot and cold feels, the way blue looks etc, but are not necessarily comparable between people. We all call the same objects blue, hot, cold etc, but how that feature actually feels to us is almost impossible to compare between people (at least in theory). It is the qualitative featurs that we can't measure.
Representational content of experience, is the objects we experience and their properties that are comparable between people, things like size, shape. Things we can measure and give a quantity to.

Roughly with visual perception representational content is like a pencil drawing of what you see, shape, size, position, etc. and phenomenal character is the colour, the colouring in of those objects.

All other terms should be explained within the essay.