This paper aims to provide an empirical explanation of the relation between color perception and representation. Tracking theories of mental representation posit content-determining conditions (such as causal or disjunctive) to explain how we detect or carry information about the environment. With respect to color perception, tracking theorists posit that our visual system is akin to a more sophisticated thermometer or speedometer: just as thermometers or speedometers ‘represent’ temperature or speed respectively, our visual system represents color properties.
It has been argued that tracking theories of mental states have a major flaw: they deem it impossible to misrepresent in ideal conditions since activations of representations in ideal conditions determine the contents of representations. This is problematic because color representations can reliably misrepresent even when they are not triggered by color properties such as surface reflectance properties (that is, even when they are not veridical).
In this paper, I argue that reliable misrepresentation can be explained by an empirical theory of color perception, according to which the relative frequency of occurrence of a parameter such as the luminance in relation to all the other instances of it that have been experienced in the same context can be used to predict which visual percepts will be elicited by proximal stimuli. On this view, the associations between proximal stimuli (e.g., luminance) and successful behavior (e.g., finding a ripe banana) is instantiated in neural circuitry and is determined by trial and error over an organism’s development as well as the evolution of its species.
Thursday, June 10, 2021, 3pm CEST