Are there colours in things?

Democritus argued that if seeing is dependent on our psychological and physiological condition, there are no colours in things, since colours exist by virtue of our faculties of perception. The Kanizsa triangle supports his argument. There is no triangle overlapping the entire image, but it appears to us that there is one. So the existence of the triangle shape depends on our perception of it and not on the nature of the image. Yet, Aristotle would argue that this neglects that we perceive the triangle also because there is a certain disposition of the image to appear to us as having an overlapping triangle. Similarly, there is a sense in which things are disposed to appear to us as having particular colours rather than others, or none at all. The nature of things themselves and not just our faculties determine what we see.

If colours are said to be the appearance of things as dependent on our faculties, then there are no colours in things. But if colours are said to be dispositions to appear in certain ways, then there are colours in things. The philosophical debate on whether or not there are colours in things rests upon an equivocation.

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