Last updated 11/14/2023 — accessed:

PHIL 150D/250D — Advanced Philosophy of Mind: Color Perception — Fall 2023

Fall 2023 Syllabus and Schedule


Meets 11:00-12:15 Tu/Th ELLSN 2626 (+ extra hour for 250D)

(Prof.) Colin Allen <>
Office: South Hall 5719
Office hours: Tue 10-10:50, Fri 1-2, and by appointment
Canvas site:

Course Description

Illusion demonstrated by Prof. Akiyoshi KITAOKA

Are colors real, or subjective inventions of our minds? And are these the only alternative views? In this course we will work through a monograph in the philosophy of color perception written by philosopher/neuroscientist Mazviita Chirimuuta. Her book will introduce you to philosophy of perception (a subarea of philosophy of mind) and philosophy of neuroscience, with an approach that proposes a solution to the philosophical puzzles raised by color perception, while simultaneously addressing conceptual and methodological questions about the relevance of science to questions in the philosophy of mind.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course you should be able to explain why color perception raises particular problems for a realist understanding of properties that our minds seem to present as "out there" in the world. You will work on developing a clear thesis of your own about the nature of color and color perception, and you will develop arguments to support your thesis.

Required Materials

The book for the course is Mazviita Chirimuuta's Outside Color: Perceptual Science and the Puzzle of Color in Philosophy which is available online through UCSB library. [Note: reaching the chapters requires (a) that you are either on campus or using the campus VPN, and (b) selecting the PDF icons once you reach the MIT Press site (not the DOI links which are broken).]

The book is available in paperback from Amazon for $29.99 and from MIT Press and Barnes & Noble for one cent more.

The reading schedule will be updated below as we work through it at whatever pace is appropriate. Additional readings may occasionally be assigned and supplied as PDFs through Canvas.

Grading Basis

Undergraduates: A midterm on Nov 7, a 5-7 page paper due Dec 5 (optional but recommended draft due by Nov 27), and a final exam on Wed Dec 13 (12-3pm), each worth 30% of your grade, and class participation worth 10%.

Graduate students: An annotated bibliography of supplemental reading, a term paper due Dec 12, attendance and engaegment in class, as well as attendance of an additional section (to be scheduled). Paper proposals due by beginning of November and a draft that is shareable with your peers is due by Dec 7.

Course Format, Assessments, and Attendance

Classes will be primarily discussion-based. I will occasionally use presentation slides for class, but mostly not — some material lends itself better to more structured presentation, some lends itself to a more free-flowing Q&A-driven classroom style. When I do use slides, they will be made available through the class Canvas site after class, but they will not reflect the full content of the class that day. So, you may use them for later study, but they are not a substitute for attendance, and taking your own notes if that's your style. Concerning note-taking and studying, you are advised to read the following two articles from the cognitive science of learning:

Attendance will not be formally monitored but some in-class activities will be collected for the purpose of determining participation scores, and will not be available for outside of class except in cases of excused absence. Lecture slides will be used intermittently during the semester and will only be made available after class, if they are used.

Schedule of Readings, Topics, and Major Assignments

The reading schedule is approximate. We will work through the book at a pace that ensures proper comprehension. Graduate students will also be expected to read a selection of relevant papers of their choosing beyond the book and report on these via the annotated bibliography and during the supplemental meetings.

DateTopicReadings / Assignments
Week 0.5
Thu Sep 28Intro to the courseLocke's porphyry argument in Bk 2 Chapter 8 of Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Locke's original words or paragraph 19 Jonathan Bennett's modern rendition).
Week 1.5
Tue Oct 03Color and its QuestionsCh1
Thu Oct 05^^continued
Week 2.5
Tue Oct 10What Everyone Thinks about Color and WhyCh2
Thu Oct 12^^continued
Week 3.5
Tue Oct 17Realism, Antirealism, RelationismCh3
Thu Oct 19^^continued
Week 4.5
Tue Oct 24Coloring In, and Coloring ForCh4
Thu Oct 26^^continued
Week 5.5
Tue Oct 31Review/catchup
Thu Nov 02Review
Week 6.5
Tue Nov 07Midterm
Thu Nov 09Perceptual PragmatismCh5
Week 7.5
Tue Nov 14^^continued
Thu Nov 16Active ColorCh6
Week 8
Tue Nov 21True ColorsCh7
No meeting
Week 9
Tue Nov 28True Colors continued
Thu Nov 30Outerness without Ontological CommitmentCh8
Week 10
Tue Dec 05^^continued
Thu Dec 07Review
Finals Week
Wed Dec 13Final Exam for 150D students 12-3 pm in ELLSN 2626

The following items are generic to any class.

Missed Assignments

You may request to make up for missed exams or other assignments only for University-recognized officially excused absences: