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Is it at all a possibility for everyone in this world to see different colors

Is it at all a possibility for everyone in this world to see different colors but call them the same name? For example, if someone sees yellow, they call it yellow but another person sees the same color but to them it's green but since we've defined that it's yellow, they go along calling it yellow when really they see green.

This is a wonderful (and classic) question, sometimes referred to as the 'inverted spectrum' thought experiment -- but it turns out that the philosophy of color (and color perception) are far more complicated than one might intuitively think, given our everyday familiarity with and intuitions about colors ... The short, easy answer to your question is of course yes: it certainly seems conceivable that different individuals label different color perceptions with the same name (no need to insist on the stronger thesis, as you actually phrase it, that each individual's color perception is different from every other's, is there?). Moreover I believe that, on a simple level, the 'yes' answer has been empirically demonstrated, more or less: different people will identify rather different wavelengths as 'yellow' say (which is strictly neutral on what's going on inside them, but at least suggestive of the 'yes' answer). But one can get very sophisticated here and perhaps build one's way to a 'no' answer, so the best thing to do is get more familiar with the science and philosophy of color. The starting point probably should be C. L. Hardin's famous book "Color for Philosophers" ....

hope that's a useful start ....

ap

This is a wonderful (and classic) question, sometimes referred to as the 'inverted spectrum' thought experiment -- but it turns out that the philosophy of color (and color perception) are far more complicated than one might intuitively think, given our everyday familiarity with and intuitions about colors ... The short, easy answer to your question is of course yes: it certainly seems conceivable that different individuals label different color perceptions with the same name (no need to insist on the stronger thesis, as you actually phrase it, that each individual's color perception is different from every other's, is there?). Moreover I believe that, on a simple level, the 'yes' answer has been empirically demonstrated, more or less: different people will identify rather different wavelengths as 'yellow' say (which is strictly neutral on what's going on inside them, but at least suggestive of the 'yes' answer). But one can get very sophisticated here and perhaps build one's way to a 'no' answer, so the...

Asking this as a self-described masochist: Is pain purely physical, or is there

Asking this as a self-described masochist: Is pain purely physical, or is there a psychological component, too. And is it inherent in pain that it is avoided/disliked? Is it possible for a person to truly enjoy pain, or is a masochist's experience with pain transformed by the fact that they enjoy it that the experience can't really be called "pain" at all?

great question -- though it's not like there is 'an' answer here, though there is much to be debated as you formulate your own anwer. For one thing one must try to separate 'the 'experience from the language we use to speak about it and focuse on the experience. And anecdotal (incl medical) evidence seems to suggest it's no uncommon for people to report things, under anesthetics of various sorts, that they are having terrible pains but somehow don't mind them. That prima facie suggests that that very experience, the painful one, doesn't have to be a cause of pain, so to speak -- which suggests it is NOT inherent in pain to be avoided/disliked. (Lnguage complicates this b/c we might choose to use the word pain in that restrictive manner and thus claim those un-minded experiences do not earn the label 'pain' -- that's a semantic choice but it doesnt seem to effect the ontological conclusion.)

hope that is helpful ...

great question -- though it's not like there is 'an' answer here, though there is much to be debated as you formulate your own anwer. For one thing one must try to separate 'the 'experience from the language we use to speak about it and focuse on the experience. And anecdotal (incl medical) evidence seems to suggest it's no uncommon for people to report things, under anesthetics of various sorts, that they are having terrible pains but somehow don't mind them. That prima facie suggests that that very experience, the painful one, doesn't have to be a cause of pain, so to speak -- which suggests it is NOT inherent in pain to be avoided/disliked. (Lnguage complicates this b/c we might choose to use the word pain in that restrictive manner and thus claim those un-minded experiences do not earn the label 'pain' -- that's a semantic choice but it doesnt seem to effect the ontological conclusion.) hope that is helpful ...

Hi my question is about what we know about things we know because they are what

Hi my question is about what we know about things we know because they are what they are or we know because they are what we perceive them to be. I came to thinking about this when I was thinking of spinning a cube fast enough to appear to be a sphere. The problem I had was that if what we know about things is gathered by how we perceive them, i.e. through empirical investigation, then the sphere/cube problem would lead to a contradiction in conclusions as one group of people (those that see the cube in motion) would say that it is a sphere whilst another group of people (those that see the stationary cube) would say that it is a cube. So our knowledge of things cannot have come from how we perceive them as our perceptions are obviously misleading and can lead to contradictions. This leads me to think that what is is separate to what our minds perceive or what our minds think is but then I come across the problem of the gap between reality and our minds. How do our minds detect what actually is in reality...

Wow, fantastic email -- getting at the heart of some major philosophical ideas and movements. Empiricists tend to stress the role of perception/experience in producing knowledge, while rationalists tend to promoe the role of reason, often arguing on the basis of such considerations as those you mention. A couple of quick thoughts about the specifics of your message. Your example of a problematic perception (spinning cube looks like sphere) doesn't quite/fully show that perception is problematic, partly because some other perception is relevant to getting at the truth, ie seeing the cube not spinning. The rationalist might say that reason is needed to process these otherwise conflicting perceptions, but even if this so, it does seem that perception is playing a key role in generating our knowledge of the world (that a cube exists, and that, when spun, it looks spherical) -- so what you've raised is a kind of problem for perception, but not one which obviously (to me anyway) undermines the importance of eprception in generation knowledge. Second, you mention the 'gap' between reality and minds -- and probably need to say more there. Even if everything we come to know about the empirical world were ultimately, in some way, derived from perception, it remains possible that perception is 'veridical' -- gives us true information about the world -- so the sheer fact that our access is mediated via perception does not entail that perception isn't veridical, or even direct .... This doesn't fully answer your excellent question -- how do we know we have knowledge not just perception? but aims to suggest that perception may well play important roles in generating knowledge despite the two kinds of worries you raise ....

hope that helps!

best,

Andrew

Wow, fantastic email -- getting at the heart of some major philosophical ideas and movements. Empiricists tend to stress the role of perception/experience in producing knowledge, while rationalists tend to promoe the role of reason, often arguing on the basis of such considerations as those you mention. A couple of quick thoughts about the specifics of your message. Your example of a problematic perception (spinning cube looks like sphere) doesn't quite/fully show that perception is problematic, partly because some other perception is relevant to getting at the truth, ie seeing the cube not spinning. The rationalist might say that reason is needed to process these otherwise conflicting perceptions, but even if this so, it does seem that perception is playing a key role in generating our knowledge of the world (that a cube exists, and that, when spun, it looks spherical) -- so what you've raised is a kind of problem for perception, but not one which obviously (to me anyway) undermines the importance...

This is more of a scientific question perhaps -- not sure -- but how is it

This is more of a scientific question perhaps -- not sure -- but how is it possible that we can close our eyes and still see light i.e. how is it possible we close our eyes and think of images or memories in which the sun is shining and objects can be seen as if the real sun were shining? To see a postcard or a picture with our eyes open requires an outside light source, the sun or a lamp. But then I can close my eyes and see the same postcard and picture without any outside light source. How is that possible? Erik

Great question -- and in fact you have your finger on a version of what is ultimately perhaps the strongest argument for a mind-body dualism -- ie the view that mind and body/matter are completely distinct sorts of things. One way to put it is this way: with eyes closed I am seeing (say) a shining sun; but it isn't the real physical shining sun I am seeing (b/c my eyes are closed); therefore I am seeing some non-physical thing, a mental thing, a mental image or representation OF the physical shining sun. Therefore there exist mental things which are distinct from all physical things .... So the phenomenon you invoke is at least strongly suggestive that there are two kinds of seeing, or two kinds fo things seen: mental and physical .... Now, having said that, there are various ways phlosophers have resisted these kinds of arguments -- you might want to look up a philosohper named JJC Smart, and his work on the "identity theory" (denying dualism) to see how he resists these arguments .... Also one other point to make: the way you frame the question is that "I close my eyes and see the SAME postcard and picture ..." You might want to think about what you mean by "same" here -- the argument I just presented suggests that what we see with eyes closed is not literally the SAME things we see with eyes open (the former are mental in nature the latter are physical) -- so do you think these are literally the 'same', or merely (say) 'similar' or 'resembling'?

best,

Andrew Pessin

Great question -- and in fact you have your finger on a version of what is ultimately perhaps the strongest argument for a mind-body dualism -- ie the view that mind and body/matter are completely distinct sorts of things. One way to put it is this way: with eyes closed I am seeing (say) a shining sun; but it isn't the real physical shining sun I am seeing (b/c my eyes are closed); therefore I am seeing some non-physical thing, a mental thing, a mental image or representation OF the physical shining sun. Therefore there exist mental things which are distinct from all physical things .... So the phenomenon you invoke is at least strongly suggestive that there are two kinds of seeing, or two kinds fo things seen: mental and physical .... Now, having said that, there are various ways phlosophers have resisted these kinds of arguments -- you might want to look up a philosohper named JJC Smart, and his work on the "identity theory" (denying dualism) to see how he resists these arguments .... Also one...