Skip to main content

Democritus’ Theory of Colour

Rudolph, Kelli (2020) Democritus’ Theory of Colour. Rhizomata, 7 (2). pp. 269-305. ISSN 2196-5110. (doi:10.1515/rhiz-2019-0012) (KAR id:75553)

PDF Author's Accepted Manuscript
Language: English
Download (845kB) Preview
[thumbnail of Democritus' Colours 070919 (1).pdf]
This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format
Microsoft Word Author's Accepted Manuscript
Language: English

Restricted to Repository staff only
Contact us about this Publication
[thumbnail of Democritus' Colours 070919.docx]
Official URL


I argue that Democritus presents a theory of colour in which the predominance of atomic shapes and microstructural arrangements are necessary but not sufficient for colour vision. Focusing primarily on Democritus’ basic colours, I analyse his microstructural account, providing a new analysis of the natural and technological underpinnings of his method of explanation. I argue that the notion of predominance allows Democritus to account for both the variation and the repeatable correspondence of colour perception by setting limits on possible microstructures. This account, however, is complicated by the evidence for a Democritean theory of colour transformation and distorted vision, which arise from a dynamic interplay of features at the level of microstructures and at the level of perception.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1515/rhiz-2019-0012
Uncontrolled keywords: Democritus, Colour, Ancient, Greek, Presocratic, Vision, Senses, Sensation, Phantasia, White, Black, Red, Green, Abdera
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
D History General and Old World > DE The Greco-Roman World
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Kelli Rudolph
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2019 08:40 UTC
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2021 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Rudolph, Kelli:
  • Depositors only (login required):