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Reconsidering the Case for Colour Relativism

Stefan Reining EMAIL logo
From the journal Metaphysica


The central aim of this paper is to argue that the main motivation for endorsing colour relativism – namely, the occurrence of so-called standard variation phenomena – constitutes, in the end, a problem for the view itself which is not significantly smaller than the problem these phenomena constitute for most of the view’s competitors. Section 1 provides a brief characterization of the relativist position in question. In Section 2, I provide a prima facie case for colour relativism in the light of the occurrence of standard variation phenomena, and I argue that a certain version of the view can be defended against certain objections that have been raised against colour relativism. Section 3 provides an argument for the central claim of this paper, that is, an argument to the conclusion that standard variation phenomena do, in the end, not at all favour colour relativism over its main competitors. Finally, in Section 4, I suggest and tentatively defend a hitherto neglected account of the meaning of colour terms that accommodates the phenomena in question.


I am indebted to Wolfgang Barz, Lars Dänzer, Thomas Spitzley, Anna-Maria Asunta Eder, and Philipp Kahlert for helpful comments and discussions on earlier drafts of this paper, as well as all those who have commented on the chapter of my PhD thesis from which this paper has emerged – especially Manuel García-Carpintero, Kathrin Glüer-Pagin, Dan López de Sa, Genoveva Martí, and Timothy Williamson.


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Published Online: 2017-12-16
Published in Print: 2018-3-26

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