Outside Color

Outside Color

Perceptual Science and the Puzzle of Color in Philosophy

By M. Chirimuuta

An integrated study of the history, philosophy, and science of color that offers a novel theory of the metaphysics of color.





An integrated study of the history, philosophy, and science of color that offers a novel theory of the metaphysics of color.

Is color real or illusory, mind independent or mind dependent? Does seeing in color give us a true picture of external reality? The metaphysical debate over color has gone on at least since the seventeenth century. In this book, M. Chirimuuta draws on contemporary perceptual science to address these questions. Her account integrates historical philosophical debates, contemporary work in the philosophy of color, and recent findings in neuroscience and vision science to propose a novel theory of the relationship between color and physical reality.

Chirimuuta offers an overview of philosophy's approach to the problem of color, finds the origins of much of the familiar conception of color in Aristotelian theories of perception, and describes the assumptions that have shaped contemporary philosophy of color. She then reviews recent work in perceptual science that challenges philosophers' accounts of color experience. Finally, she offers a pragmatic alternative whereby perceptual states are understood primarily as action-guiding interactions between a perceiver and the environment. The fact that perceptual states are shaped in idiosyncratic ways by the needs and interests of the perceiver does not render the states illusory. Colors are perceiver-dependent properties, and yet our awareness of them does not mislead us about the world. Colors force us to reconsider what we mean by accurately presenting external reality, and, as this book demonstrates, thinking about color has important consequences for the philosophy of perception and, more generally, for the philosophy of mind.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262029087 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 5 color illus., 5 b&w illus.


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262534574 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 5 color illus., 5 b&w illus.


  • The most important work on the philosophy of color and philosophy of perception published in recent decades...



  • A profound rethinking of the philosophy of color vision, using historical diagnosis to identify unconfronted assumptions inherited from Aristotle and drawing on recent science and philosophy to develop its own philosophical synthesis, in the spirit of ecological functionalism, which shows how colors can be real and yet be perceiver relative ways of perceiving things.

    Gary Hatfield

    Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania; author of Perception and Cognition: Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology; and coeditor of Visual Experience: Sensation, Cognition, and Constancy

  • What Patricia Churchland did for the philosophy of mind, Chirimuuta does for the philosophy of color. By redefining the central question of what color is, Chirimuuta restores philosophy to a central place in science. She stays true to the beauty of color, with lyrical, lucid writing. Chirimuuta rejuvenates the ancient philosophical problem of color by siting it firmly in the contemporary science of vision. Scientists, philosophers, and anyone who loves a good metaphor will take pleasure from this book.

    Anya Hurlbert

    Professor of Visual Neuroscience, Newcastle University

  • Outside Color is a dazzling synthesis of philosophy, history, and vision science. Chirimuuta offers a heroic defense of adverbalism, rescuing this unfashionable theory of color perception from linguistically oriented philosophers and placing it on firm scientific footing. Essential reading for anyone interested in what colors are and where they are located.

    Jesse Prinz

    Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Graduate Center of the City University of New York

  • Chirimuuta's book is everything a history and philosophy of science book should be. The historical analysis informs the philosophical arguments and the philosophy elucidates the history. And all this with close attention to the details of scientific methodology. It is for anyone interested in color, philosophers, historians, and scientists alike.

    Bence Nanay

    Professor of Philosophy and BOF Research Professor, Centre for Philosophical Psychology, University of Antwerp; Senior Research Associate, Peterhouse, Cambridge University; and author of Between Perception and Action


  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2015