Kevin Berger interviews Mazviita Chirimuuta in Nautilus:

What is your theory of color?

Going back to that problem about this dichotomy between the inner and outer, there’s been this tendency to say, “well, anything that’s subjective in our knowledge or in our experience isn’t on the same footing as things that we know about as being completely objective.” I say that this sort of difficulty that people have of accepting subjective aspects of experience and knowledge then leaves people to say well, “if color’s not part of physics, then it must be a complete illusion”; and I’m saying well, actually we need a way of theorizing subjectivity in such a way that we’ll just acknowledge that there are parts of our experience and our perceptual knowledge of things that are generated by the particular ways that we interact with the world.

As humans who have three kinds of photoreceptors, or two, or sometimes one kind of photoreceptor for daylight vision—that means we interact with the world in a particular way that informs our experience of the world. If our visual systems were built differently, our whole visual experience, and probably our knowledge of the world, would be quite different; but there’s nothing inherently problematic about that. So I think of color as a property, or something that can only be understood in terms of the particular ways that we interact with the world. That’s my way of saying that we should try and see those inner and outer domains as not as separate from each other as we think. Really, there’s this constant back and forth between the two and that’s how visual experience is generated, and knowledge maybe more generally.

How have you changed the debate about color?

The way the debate has standardly gone is to say, “well, if color is anything, if color exists, then it’s a property of objects.” So if you’re a realist, you’ll say “yeah, the maroon property belongs to this seat; the whiteness property belongs to that wall.” If you’re an anti-realist, you’ll just say “no, no objects have those properties; color doesn’t exist.” What I’ve done is say that actually, a better way of thinking about color is not as a property of objects, but as a property of interactions that perceivers have with objects. In my view, which is the view I call color adverbialism, there are perceptual processes that are going on all the time. Every time we look around a room, light’s bouncing off the walls into my eyes and my brain’s processing this information and I’m saying that that whole extended interaction between myself and my surroundings, that’s the thing that has color, not the objects that I see. So when I talk about what’s there in my surroundings, I say that color is my way of seeing those things, so I see that wall in a white way, so really the whiteness is modifying that perceptual experience. It’s more a property of the experience or that process, that activity I’m doing, rather than the wall itself.

More here.