Teleosemantics and color

Date of Completion

January 2009






This dissertation is a teleosemantic approach to color. Teleosemantic theories aim to understand intentional phenomena, e.g. representations, in terms of the (biological) purpose or function of the mechanisms that produce and use them. Color vision is a comparatively well-understood perceptual system, so it provides a good test case for the teleosemantic program. Looking at recent studies in psychology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology, I argue for a teleosemantic theory of color. Moreover, I argue that this teleosemantic approach to color perception makes better sense of some of the puzzling aspects of color, including metamerism and misperception, than rival theories. One particularly vexing aspect of color, the similarities and differences among colors gets special attention. The Similarities and Differences objection is that color objectivism cannot identify any, properties of purportedly colored objects that bear the same relations of similarity and difference as color experiences do to each other. I develop a response to this objection that appeals to the distinction between the content and vehicle of a representation. The relations of similarity and difference are non-representational aspects of the vehicles of color experiences. Recognizing a role for vehicular properties promises similar applications to recent work done on color categorization and other sensory qualities. ^