Advanced Search

What would happen to ones mind if they were to experience the sight of an

What would happen to ones mind if they were to experience the sight of an entirely new color never before seen through human eyes?

I don't think anything too spectacular would necessarily happen. One reason is that one might not even notice it when it happens. For example, at some point in history, we can imagine that no one had experienced the sight of the color of coca cola in a green glass being hit by a sunset in the Mediterranean at some specific angle, on a specific day of the year, at a specific time. We can imagine that this specific color cannot be achieved by any natural process, so that until this point in history, no one had experienced this color. However, the color is just barely noticeably different from lava seen through polarized 3-D sunglasses in Hawaii, in certain specific viewing conditions. And, we can imagine, the lava had been seen before in such a way. So, now: what happens to viewer, on a yacht in the Mediterranean, when she sees the coke? Nothing much, I think. She may make a note of the odd color, but why think that anything else would happen?
I think at some point in history, someone was the first to see neon colors (such as glowing neon pink). I think they must have thought it was cool, but I doubt anything truly mind-blowing happened. And neon hues probably should count as entirely new, since they really are distinct from other experienced colors. I might be wrong about that...that's a question for historians.
Now, you're thinking: this panelist has missed my point! I meant, what would happen if it is an ENTIRELY different sort of color, not just barely different from what anyone has happened to see before? I'm not sure I can imagine it (though I can imagine, if David Hume was right, a new shade of a familiar color that I have seen before). I suppose it would be a bit like a blind person seeing colors for the first time. I would, I suppose, thereby acquire new abilities to imagine things in the color. But, again, I don't see a reason to think anything much more than that would happen.

I've read a few philosophers write that color theorists typically divide into

I've read a few philosophers write that color theorists typically divide into two camps of those who say colors are scientific properties of objects and those who say that color only exists in the mind and are therefor subjective and illusory. These philosophers often offer some alternative to this dichotomy like the idea that colors should be thought of in more relational terms between subject and object. But can't colors be entirely mental or dependent on mental processes but not be illusory?

Clearly what is dependent on the existence of mental processes is not therefore illusory. Unlike many things, the existence of mental processes is dependent on the existence of mental processes. It does not follow that mental processes are illusory. But I think it should be said that there is little or nothing that philosophers have provided that could help us to understand what it means to say that a colour, the colour pink, for example, exists, or exists only, in the mind, or outside of it, for that matter. The mantis shrimp has at least eight colour receptors - it can also perceive circularly polarized light and its direction of rotation! - but the poor old thing does not have an awful lot in the way of a mind. Mind you, it can deliver a punch (with one hand!) at 10,000 g, enough to boil the water in front of it.

Are colors subjective or objective or both?

Are colors subjective or objective or both?

A deep rich complicated question! A short (too short) answer would go with both, depending what you mean by 'color.' There are subjective aspects to color (perceived color), and there are objective aspects (physical properties, light properties, etc.). The big question of course is just how these two aspects are related. Are they independent in some sense, or intimately related, and if so how? Can perceived color, the perception of color, be identified with or reduced to objective properties, and if so which? There is a ton of literature on this, but you might start with the classic Larry Hardin's "Color for Philosophers."

hope that's useful -- to start

ap

According to Kant intuitions without concepts are blind. I'm not sure I

According to Kant intuitions without concepts are blind. I'm not sure I understand this but suppose the color red is an intuition and the awareness of the color as red or a more rudimentary awareness of the color red is the the concept. Couldn't it be argued that Kant is wrong because without a rudimentary awareness of the color red there would no red at all? Or was that Kants point? It seems to me that the "concept" of red is a precondition of red as much as the intuition and that Kant seems to suppose that they are at least theoretically seperable.

It seems to me that your interpretation of Kant is spot on. By 'blind' he means that we would have eyes (or ears or noses) but cannot see (or hear or smell), unless concepts were operative. However, this 'would have' is quite hypothetical. Kant certainly does not mean to imply that there is ever mere sensory input without a concept. (There certainly may be pure concepts without any associated sensory input, or even any possible sensory input -- Kant analyses the problems that this raises in the Dialectic.) If I see a colour, I see the colour red, or lemon, or ochre. And if I don't recognise the particular colour, I still know it is a colour, so a concept is still operative. Likewise, if I hear a sound, I hear the sound of traffic, or of a violin, or of a creaking floorboard. If I don't recognise the sound, then I still know it is a sound.

Nevertheless, you are right that he is asserting some kind of difference between intuition and concept. But this difference is not one that I experience. Rather, Kant argues, it is possible to analyse a given experience into the intuitive and the conceptual parts. For example, I hear the sound of a violin. Now, if I were to abstract from this all the concepts I employ in experiencing it, what is left should be the pure sound, located in space and time. Maybe it is impossible for me to experience this pure sound as pure sound – because intuitions without concepts are deaf – but it makes sense philosophically to consider it as something fundamentally different from the concepts that I use to identify that sound. (Analogously, I can never experience my child as not specifically my child; however, intellectually, I am perfectly aware that others do not experience her in that way.) In the 'Transcendental Aesthetic' especially, Kant discusses all these fundamental differences between intuitions and concepts.

I have read that subjectivity means something which is unique to a person's

I have read that subjectivity means something which is unique to a person's perspective. An example of something subjective might be color, but is that really something unique to a perspective? If a person is aware of a color isn't the "perspective" the awareness of that color, and isn't the awareness of the color separate from color proper? If that is the case isn't there a sense in which colors are just as external to our being and as objective as primary properties? The attitude of a child is to not distinguish between the secondary and primary properties so that colors are real features of the world but isn't this seeming mistake a product of the fact that awareness is in a sense fundamentally distinct from that which it is aware of? Of course on the other hand it seems hard to imagine colors not existing without a perceiver so I don't know, I'm guessing that philosophers have discussed this issue.

One of my friends recently stated: "black is not a colour. It is the entire

One of my friends recently stated: "black is not a colour. It is the entire absence of it, both physically and neurochemically." But can this be right? I understand what my friend is saying in that things appear black when they don't emit or reflect any photons of light, and that, as a result, there is nothing for the light sensitive cells in our eyes to detect. However, in everyday life we still view black as a colour, just as we do red or green. I should probably mention that my friend is a scientist and tends to take a strictly empirical and sometimes rather reductionist view of things. Consequently, I'm keen to get a broader perspective on this question from a philosopher. So, my question then is: is black a colour? Or, perhaps more accurately, does it even make sense for us not to consider black a colour?

Here is an answer I gave on February 10 2010. For your reductionist friend I would answer that the perception of black is positive - it is not a null perception, in some sense, but nor is it the perception of nothing, so that nothing (or Nothing, rather) looks black - presumably It doesn't look any colour. I also want to add that black is not in the spectrum, obviously, for what that is worth (nothing, actually) and that "black" and "dark" have different meanings. If you take a dimmer switch and gradually increase the light in a completely dark room, as the illumination goes up, the reds get redder, the greens greener, and amzaingly the blacks get blacker! What does this tell us?

From Feb 10 2012 This is a fairly frequent concern. The correct answer is that there is a sense of "colours" in which black and white are not colours (they are not chromatic colours) and a sense in which they are colours (they are achromatic colours). So if we count the achromatic colours (black, white and grey) as colours, then black and white are colours. (Brown is an interesting case, as it is a colour which is partially achromatic.) In the same way, we can ask whether zero and infinity are numbers. Usually they are treated as numbers, and they have their own mathematical symbols. We can manipulate them in calculations and so forth. But in another sense "zero" denotes the absence of a number, and so does the symbol for an infinite number. Q: "How many chickens were there in the kitchen?" A: "A number." Q: "What is the number?" A: "Zero"! Aristotle's view was that the smallest number is two, as one of something is not a number of somethings. "There were a number of people there." How many?" "One." In this sense two is the first crowd-like or milling number. One won't mill around. Logicians face the same difficulty in explaining that in their sense "some" means only "at least one".

The situation is that colours arrange themselves into three dimensions: saturation, hue, and brightness. Hue is colourfulness, the colourfulness of red, yellow, blue, green and so on, and colourfulness does not include black, white and grey. Colourfulness is the circling hue dimension at maximum saturation, and the achromatic colours lie in their own vertical dimension at the center of the solid whose surface is this colourfulness or saturation. White has zero saturation, and we make other pigments of various chromatic colours less saturated - paler - by mixing in white pigment. (It is an interesting question why this concept - paleness - has a "special relationship" only with white.)

So at the end of the day the fact is that in one way black and white behave as colours, and in another way they work to create diminutions and absences of colour. Wittgenstein was right (in his Remarks on Colour) to see a puzzling element of necessity, a necessity as hard as logical necessity, in these striking facts.

Red seems exciting but blue seems calming. That is not the only thing that could

Red seems exciting but blue seems calming. That is not the only thing that could be said about those colors. But is the reason those colors have the effects that they have because of something about the color themselves or because of the culture we are in?

As with many other questions about color, you might find the discussion of emotional responses to colors in Hardin's classic book to be of interest:

Hardin, C.L. (1993), Color for Philosophers: Unweaving the Rainbow, expanded edition (Indianapolis: Hackett)

why do we associate different colors with different things? for example, blue is

why do we associate different colors with different things? for example, blue is consistently associated with either feeling 'down' or 'relaxed'. black, while considered fashionable is generally considered a morose color. so, why do we feel a need to attribute certain colors to certain states of mind? if color is just a question of wavelengths, (etc) then why does society do this? - Farris, age 26

This is largely an empirical and psychological rather than a philosophical or conceptual question. I suspect that there are both natural and social reasons for the association. I can think of how some cultures use white for mourning while others black, how some associate red with luck and good fortune while others associate it with vice and anger. On the other hand, there seems a biological link between seasonal affect/exposure to bright/intense/full spectrum/natural light and therefore between dark/gray/blue environments and depression. I suppose one philosophically interesting bit would be whether it's possible to have an experience of color that's not conditioned by emotional and conceptual matters. The conditions for the possibility of color experience and the possibility of color experience independent of other experiences would be interesting to investigate not only empirically but also conceptually. We might argue that the very concepts of color (red, blue, yellow, etc.) are more and must be more than designators of hue.

When I see a pink ice cube, then I see a coloured three-dimensional material

When I see a pink ice cube, then I see a coloured three-dimensional material object; and it seems to me that its colour is equally spatially extended. But isn't it a category mistake to speak of three-dimensional colours rather than only of three-dimensional coloured objects? Aren't all properties simple and adimensional entities? The ice cube's pinkness isn't like a gas that can fill up a volume of space, is it? Is its seeming three-dimensionality a phenomenal illusion?

You are absolutely right. Neither colour nor a colour is spatially extended, and a colour like pink is exactly not like a gas that fills up a volume or spreads itself, perhaps very very thinly, over a surface. That is a category mistake. Nor do colours have thicknesses. I am delighted to see a recognition of this important point, to which I have found very little attention paid in the literature on the philosophy of colour. Though I tried to get started sorting out the tricky logic of "pure" colours, as Wittgenstein calls them (to be contrasted not with impure colours but with things coloured the colours), in Chapter 7 of Colour: a Philosophical Introduction, published in 1987 and 1991, but that was only a beginning.

Consider two patches of the same red, patch A surrounded by green and patch B surrounded by red. We can say that the colour of patch A is identical with the colour of patch B. But then as G.E. Moore pointed out (in his early paper on "Identity") it follows, or seems to, that the colour of patch A is surrounded by red as well as by green. The right conclusion is that the patches do not have the same "surrounds", but that the colours they are coloured do not in logical grammar have surrounds at all. This means of course that the way that we describe simultaneous contrast (just for example) will not be as one colour being affected by the surrounding colour. Quine's conclusion was that a colour is a scattered object, like water, and that the colour of patch A is surround by red here, and green there, just as these waters are in France and those in England.

You are also right to say it seems to us that colour is spread out in space, and colour scientists have incautiously spoken about surface and volume colours. What we are talking about when we talk about volume colours are strictly not colours, I think, but the way colours look. The inky blue has the look of something into which one could reach, like a volume. Or "the colour" looks "spongy", say, when the ability to see surface colours is lost. And sponges are three-dimensional.

Perhaps there is nothing to worry about here. Numbers obviously are non-spatial, but one can have an impression that it is wrong not to describe as one of numerousness or multiplicity or something. If I see a lot of cows in a fiedl, I can see that there is more than one, though I may have to count them to see exactly how many. Before I do that, I might have the impression that - it looks (in the phenomenological sense) as though - there are a number of cows around the field. But the number itself is not spread out around the field, like slurry, for example. Appearances can be deceiving. It may be though that all that is needed is a sensitive treatment of the problem of universals as it applies to colours, and a recognition of the differences that exist among the characters of universals in different sensory modalities. Colours do not have origins, like sounds, for example, and so their relationship to space is not the same as the relationship of sounds to space.

I would hesitate to call the impression that the colour is in space any sort of illusion. It is something that the way colours manifest themselves gives us some temptation to believe, but I am Wittgensteinian enough to believe that such temptations should be thoughtfully resisted. Colours have only three dimensions, and they are not spatial. If something is scaled in some other dimension, then it is not a colour.

About philosophy of color: It's very interesting but I'm having trouble

About philosophy of color: It's very interesting but I'm having trouble understanding it because most of the works I encountered aren't "beginner-friendly". My question is, what exactly is color relationalism and what does this have to do with phenomenology? Thank you!

Colour relationalism tells us that colours are relations between perceivers and the objects that they perceive. (This gets a bit tricky of course if what they perceive is a colour, because then what they perceive is a relation between themselves and a relation between themselves and a colour, or rather, a relation between themselves and a relation between themselves and a relation between themselves and a colour.) "Colour phenomenology" doesn't mean an awful lot: just the (apparently) obvious facts about colour and classifications of things having to do with colour based on these facts. Phenomenology in this sense has seemed to oppose colour relationalism. We don't seem to see relations between ourselves and tomatoes when we see red tomatoes. What we see is a property flattened on to the surface of the tomato! So colour relationalists have to work a bit to square their view with the phenomenology. Without meaning to be rude, might I inquire whether this is an essay topic you have been set? Why are you interested in this question at all if the works you have read are not user-friendly? I mean why are you interested in the question if you don't know what it means?

Pages