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(2017) How colours matter to philosophy, Dordrecht, Springer.

Dasein is the animal that sorts out colors

Bernardo Ainbinder

pp. 175-193

In this paper, I will tackle a question that has been absent in the literature, namely, what is Heidegger's conception of colour-perception. Heidegger himself, who discusses at length other kinds of experiences, is silent about the topic. There may a be a good reason for that: since he insists on the primacy of meaningful holistic coping with the world, considering colours as an isolated topic may well be the result of adopting a theoretical privative point of view on experience that Heidegger rejects. I think this approach to the problem is wrongheaded. Heidegger's description of experience does not privilege some phenomena (say tools or meanings) vis-à-vis others (things, colours and the like) but a way of understanding experience in general (as organized in terms of a whole of meaningful relations where each single thing is defined by its normative import for the whole) vis-à-vis a way of understanding it in terms of atomic items and stratified properties. I will call Heidegger's conception of experience a normative conceptual one (see Golob S, Heidegger on concepts, freedom and normativity. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2014). Against this background, in this paper I will explore what Heidegger has to say about colours. In particular, I will claim: (1). that Heidegger's description of Umsicht, i.e. the way of coping with the world as a meaningful whole, is not limited to the typical forms of practical coping he explicitly mentions but can be extended to the analysis of basic cases such as colour-perception. (2). that such analyses provides some new and interesting insights into what perceiving colours means (some surprising points of contact with Sellars' analysis in Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind may be drawn here). (3). that colours provide a prime example of Heidegger's normative conceptual conception of experience. (4). that some Heidegger-inspired approaches to the topic such as Kelly's are misguided. Kelly (The Philos Rev 110(3):397–420, 2001a; Philos Phenomenol Res 62(3):601–608, 2001b) claimed that colour perception is a very good candidate to deny conceptualism, i.e. the thesis that contents of experience involve a form of articulation that is at least similar to the one expressed in judgment. I will claim, on the contrary, that colour perception is an excellent candidate to show in which sense conceptualism is true, precisely by analyzing Kelly's examples of colour sorting.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-67398-1_10

Full citation:

Ainbinder, B. (2017)., Dasein is the animal that sorts out colors, in M. Silva (ed.), How colours matter to philosophy, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 175-193.

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