Color in a Material World: Margaret Cavendish against the Early Modern Mechanists

Philosophical Review 128 (3):293-336 (2019)
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Abstract

Consider the distinctive qualitative property grass visually appears to have when it visually appears to be green. This property is an example of what I call sensuous color. Whereas early modern mechanists typically argue that bodies are not sensuously colored, Margaret Cavendish (1623–73) disagrees. In cases of veridical perception, she holds that grass is green in precisely the way it visually appears to be. In defense of her realist approach to sensuous colors, Cavendish argues that (i) it is impossible to conceive of colorless bodies, (ii) the very possibility of color experience requires that bodies are sensuously colored, and (iii) the attribution of sensuous colors to bodies provides the best explanation of color constancy. Although some passages might suggest that Cavendish endorses a reductive account of sensuous color, according to which sensuous color reduces to a body's microscopic surface texture (or some other mechanistically respectable property), I argue that she accepts a nonreductive account, on which sensuous color is not thus reducible.

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Author's Profile

Colin Chamberlain
University College London

Citations of this work

Margaret Cavendish on conceivability, possibility, and the case of colours.Peter West - 2021 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 30 (3):456-476.
Cartesian Clarity.Elliot Samuel Paul - 2020 - Philosophers' Imprint 20 (19):1-28.
Cavendish’s Aesthetic Realism.Daniel Whiting - 2023 - Philosophers' Imprint 23 (15):1-17.
Is Margaret Cavendish a Naïve Realist?Daniel Whiting - forthcoming - European Journal of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.John Locke - 1979 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 169 (2):221-222.
Color realism and color science.Alex Byrne & David R. Hilbert - 2003 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26 (1):3-21.
Critical Notice.Michael Tye - 2000 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (1):245-247.

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