Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Mr Gabriel Dupre

Email: g.g.dupre@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module introduces students to philosophical puzzles about colour: How does the language we speak affect the way we perceive colour? How do colours fit into the natural world—are they simply wavelengths of light? If so, why do we describe objects as having colours that remain constant in different lighting conditions? Does the fact that people disagree in the way they classify certain colours mean that there is no objective answer to the question what colour something is? Is “spectrum inversion” possible? That is, is it possible for something to be red for you, and green for me? How could we tell if that was the case?

Exploring the questions raised in this module will take us into debates in philosophy of language, theory of perception, metaphysics, cognitive science, and history. You will learn to use theoretical tools involved in the interdisciplinary study of colour. We will read work by Daniel Dennett, William Gladstone, C.L. Hardin, Frank Jackson, Hans Reichenbach, Debi Roberson, Eleanor Rosch, Moritz Schlick, and others.


In this module, you will acquire the ability to pursue philosophical questions from an interdisciplinary perspective, and gain a comprehensive understanding of central issues in the philosophical study of colour. You will relate comparative studies of linguistic variation to underlying facts about human physiology in order to understand the complexities of colour perception and classification. The module builds on your studies at Part 2, by drawing on your knowledge of metaphysics and mind, epistemology, and comparative approaches to philosophy.

Assessable learning outcomes:

You will gain knowledge of a topic that spans several central areas in philosophy (metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language), and that draws on extensive research in the cognitive sciences and humanities (linguistics, linguistic anthropology, psychology, psychophysics, history). You will become acquainted with various interdisciplinary approaches to colour, which will enable you to relate your philosophy research to neighbouring fields. Your essay will give you the opportunity to hone your research skills in depth, and will allow you to polish your analytical writing skills acquired in Part 1 and 2 of the philosophy degree. You will also develop your ability to communicate complex ideas in a variety of formats, including in-class presentations and short writing assignments, summaries of readings, and writing and answering discussion questions.

Additional outcomes:

This module will emphasize independent learning, personal effectiveness and self-awareness as well as the ability to reflect effectively on your progress and strengths and on the goals you wish to achieve. It will enhance your global engagement and multi-cultural awareness, convey the significance of philosophical thinking in dealing with modern problems, help you appreciate multiple perspectives and the values of diversity, and encourage you to compare and contrast very different ways of doing philosophy. The module will improve your personal effectiveness through the adoption of a graduated, supervised programme for developing independent-learning skills.

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include: The relation of colour language to colour perception; the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis; universalism vs. relativism in colour naming; cognitive penetration of colour perception; the possibility of inverted spectra; colour “qualia”; colour realism and eliminativism.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 10 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars during the term in which the module’s lecture and seminar classes take place. All students are required to write two essays from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor. The first essay assignment will be due on Friday of week 5 of the term, and the second essay will be due on Friday of week 11. In addition, students are required to present on one topic in class. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and sample questions will be given out at the start of the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 15
Seminars 20
Guided independent study: 165
Total hours by term 0 200 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 90
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

2 x essays: essay 1 worth 30%, essay 2 worth 60% of final module mark.

1 x oral presentation worth 10% of final module mark.

Formative assessment methods:

Students will be asked to write discussion questions before each class on a module Q&A forum document available electronically.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Written assignment, to be completed in August/September.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 11 November 2019


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