Friday, November 24, 2006

Colors vs Values

Andrew Howat is using the following quotation as the epigraph to the final chapter of his thesis on response-dependence:

Philosophy has dwelt nearly exclusively on differences between ‘good’ and ‘red’ or ‘yellow’. I have long marvelled at this. For there resides in the combined objectivity and anthropocentricity of colour a striking analogy to illuminate not only the externality that human beings attribute to the properties by whose ascription they evaluate things, people, and actions, but also the way in which the quality by which the thing qualifies as good and the desire for the thing are equals—are, ‘made for one another’ so to speak.

David Wiggins

As Esa Díaz-León has observed, this is in striking sharp contrast with the one opening my thesis on response-dependence:

There is a longstanding attempt to make dispositional theories of value and of colour run in parallel. But the analogy is none too good, and I doubt that it improves our understanding either of colour or of value.

David Lewis



Esa said...

"David vs. David; Andrew vs. Dan":
I think that there is a beautiful (a)symmetry in the fact that you started your PhD with such a quote, and Andrew will finish his with such another. I was also perplexed by the fact that Wiggings and Lewis seem to have differing views not only about the metaphysics of colours and values, but also about the very philosophical debate on that: whereas Wiggins says that "Philosophy has dwelt nearly exclusively on differences between ‘good’ and ‘red’ or ‘yellow’", Lewis contends that "[t]here is a longstanding attempt to make dispositional theories of value and of colour run in parallel." It's interesting to notice that the seem to have diverging views about the philosophical consense on those issues...

Dan López de Sa said...

I agree with the first issue :-)!

As to the second, Wiggins' seems to have been originally published in Proceedings of the British Academy LXII (1976), and I take it that it can be fairly regarded as one of those originating the "longstanding attempt" Lewis refers to, so both Davids might be right as to philosophical "received views" at their respective contexts, no?

Drew said...

Thanks for the pointer Dan! I think you are right about both Davids being right in their own context. Wiggins' universe of discourse is probably all philosophical writing since Locke (perhaps even before then), whereas Lewis' frame of reference is likely to be a lot shorter, say the mid-1970s onwards. So both claims are right when we fill out their contents. (It's funny, this a is a key point the pragmatist wants to make, which I develop in my thesis. It concerns the normative stance we take up to a proposition when we assert it... The pragmatist suggests we commit ourselves not to its strict or exact truth - as the deflationist might think - but to the truth of a suitably precisified version of it. Mind you, I haven't been able to make this claim sound altogether plausible so far). Anyway, thanks for the post!