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Ways of coloring: Comparative color vision as a case study for cognitive science

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2011

Evan Thompson
Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S1A1
Adrian Palacios
Department of Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511; Institut des Neurosciences (CNRS-Paris VI), 75005 Paris, France, Electronic mail: apalac@yalevm.bitnet
Francisco J. Varela
Institut des Neurosciences (CNRS-Paris VI) and CREA, Ecole Polytechnique, 75005 Paris, France, Electronic mail: fv@frunip62.bitnet


Different explanations of color vision favor different philosophical positions: Computational vision is more compatible with objectivism (the color is in the object), psychophysics and neurophysiology with subjectivism (the color is in the head). Comparative research suggests that an explanation of color must be both experientialist (unlike objectivism) and ecological (unlike subjectivism). Computational vision's emphasis on optimally “recovering” prespecified features of the environment (i.e., distal properties, independent of the sensory-motor capacities of the animal) is unsatisfactory. Conceiving of visual perception instead as the visual guidance of activity in an environment that is determined largely by that very activity suggests new directions for research.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1992

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