Democritus’ Theory of Colour

Rhizomata 7 (2):269-305 (2019)
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Abstract

I argue that Democritus presents a theory of colour in which the predominance of atomic shapes and microstructural arrangements are neces- sary but not sufficient for colour vision. Focusing primarily on Democritus’ basic colours, I analyse his microstructural account, providing a new analysis of the natural and technological underpinnings of his method of explanation. I argue that the notion of predominance allows Democritus to account for both the varia- tion and the repeatable correspondence of colour perception by setting limits on possible microstructures. This account, however, is complicated by the evidence for a Democritean theory of colour transformation and distorted vision, which arise from a dynamic interplay of features at the level of microstructures and at the level of perception.

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Kelli Christine Rudolph
University of Kent