, Volume 66, Issue 1–2, pp 27–71 | Cite as

Colour, world and archimedean metaphysics: stroud and the quest for reality



This paper proposes a fundamentally opposite conception of the possibility of metaphysics to that of Barry Stroud in The Quest for Reality and other writings. I discuss Stroud’s views on everyday ‚truth’ and metaphysics (Section 1), on interpretation (Section 2 – replying with a theory of ‚quasi-understanding’), and his ‚no threat’ claim (Section 3). But the main argument (Section 4) is a response to Stroud’s claim that we have no right either to affirm or to deny the metaphysical reality of colours. Stroud’s view resembles Carnap’s (1950, Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4, 20–40), that experience can in some sense never settle the metaphysical issue between e.g. materialism, idealism and phenomenalism; though we can allow everyday ‚knowledge’ e.g. that there is a fallen tree in the garden outside, as something available on all three views. (Carnap takes the undecidability as a sign that the metaphysical issue is a pseudo-question; Stroud insists it is factual, but places it beyond our ken, ‚external’.) I argue, instead, that metaphysical argument is possible from within our conceptual scheme and epistemic situation (as in Gareth Evans’s arguments for realism over phenomenalism); that ‚external’ and ‚internal’ questions cannot be separated as Stroud wishes; and that if we really were denied knowledge on ‚metaphysical’ matters, that would infect our right to claim knowledge of ‚observational’ matters too. And I sketch a theory of colour that would allow us to conclude (at once ‚metaphysically’ and ‚internally’) that things are indeed ‚really’ coloured. For all his expressions of sympathy for Wittgenstein, Stroud’s metaphysics is remarkably Cartesian.


Material Object Philosophical Question Fall Tree Epistemic Situation Normal Observer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Berkeley, G.: 1713, Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, in The Works of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, ed. by A. A. Luce and T. E. Jessop, 1948ff, Thomas Nelson, London, vol. 2, pp. 171–263Google Scholar
  2. Broackes J. (1992) The Autonomy of Colour. In: Lennon K., Charles D. (Eds) Reduction,Explanation, and Realism. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 421–465Google Scholar
  3. Broackes J. (2004) Realism, Scepticism and the Lament for an Archimedean Point: Stroud and the Quest for Reality. Phenomenology & Phenomenological Research 68:417–424Google Scholar
  4. Byrne A. (2002, Yes, Virginia, Lemons are Yellow. Philosophical Studies 108:213–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carnap, R.: 1950, ‚Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology’, Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4, 20–40; repr. in the 2nd edn. of Rudolf Carnap, 1956, Meaning and Necessity: A Study in Semantics and Modal Logic, University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  6. Cottingham J., Stoothoff R., Murdoch D. (1985) The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  7. Davidson D. (1991) Three Varieties of Knowledge. In: Griffiths A. P.(Ed), Ayer A. J.: Memorial Essays. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 153–166Google Scholar
  8. Descartes, R.: 1641, Meditationes de prima philosophia, in: C. Adam and P. Tannery (eds.), uvres de Descartes, Paris: J. Vrin/CNRS, 1964–76, vol. VII, pp. 1–90Google Scholar
  9. Dummett, M.: 1978a, ‚The Philosophical Basis of Intuitionistic Logic’, in Truth and Other Enigmas, pp. 215–247Google Scholar
  10. Dummett M. (Ed) (1978b) Truth and Other Enigmas. Duckwork, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Dummett, M.: 1993, ‹Realism and Anti-Realism’, in The Seas of Language, Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Eilan N. 2001, On the Metaphysical Reality of Colours. Philosophical Books 42: 243–252Google Scholar
  13. Evans, G.: 1980, ‚Things Without the Mind’, in Z. van Straaten (ed.), Philosophical Subjects: Essays Presented to P. F. Strawson, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 76–116. Repr. in: G. Evans (ed.): 1985, Collected Papers, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 249–290Google Scholar
  14. Evans, G.: 1982, The Varieties of Reference, ed. by J. H. McDowell, Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  15. Foster, J.: 1985, A. J. Ayer, Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  16. Frege, G.: 1884, Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik, Breslau; trans. by J. L. Austin, 1950, The Foundations of Arithmetic, Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Hume, D.: 1739–40, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, rev. P. H. Nidditch, 1978, Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  18. Hume, D.: 1748, Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, in Enquiries ..., ed. I. A. Selby-Bigge, rev. P. H. Nidditch, 1975, Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  19. McDowell J. (1987), Aesthetic Value, Objectivity, and the Fabric of the World, In: Schaper E. (Ed), Pleasure, Preference and Value. Cambridge University Press, Cambrige, pp. 1–16Google Scholar
  20. Sosa E (2003) Knowledge of Self, Others, and World In: Ludwig K. (Ed), Donald Davidson. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 163–183Google Scholar
  21. Strawson P. F. (1979) Perception and Its Objects. In: MacDonald G. F. (Ed), Perception and Identity: Essays Presented to A. J. Ayer With his Replies. Macmillan, London, pp. 41–60Google Scholar
  22. Stroud B. (1968) Transcendental Arguments. Journal of Philosophy 65:241–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stroud B. (1977) Hume. Routledge and Kegan Paul, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Stroud B. (1984) The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  25. Stroud B. (1999) Radical Interpretation and Philosophical Scepticism. In: Hahn L. (Ed ), The Philosophy of Donald Davidson. Open Court, Chicago, pp 139–161Google Scholar
  26. Stroud B. (2000) The Quest for Reality: Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Colour. Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  27. Stroud B. (2004a) Reply to Justin Broackes. Phenomenology & Phenomenological Research 68: 441–444Google Scholar
  28. Stroud B. (2004b) Reply to Bill Brewer. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68: 437–441Google Scholar
  29. Stroud B. (2004c) Reply to Robert Fogelin. Phenomenology & Phenomenological Research 68:433–437Google Scholar
  30. Wiggins D. (1987) A Sensible Subjectivism?. In: Wiggins D. (Ed) Needs, Values, Truth. Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 185–214Google Scholar
  31. Williams B. (1985) Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  32. Wright, C.: 1988, ‚Moral Values, Projectivism and Secondary Qualities’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary 62, 1–26Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

Personalised recommendations