This week’s journal topic: Color
Last week’s questions were on clutter and this week’s questions are on color. Has this turned into a homemaking blog? Well maybe, if what you want is to feel at home within your own mind!
Unless you’re colorblind, you likely take color for granted. Human perception of color is quite uniform. What is red to me is red to you. The same goes for yellow, orange and all the rest. Many women seem able to differentiate between colors more easily than men, but this is easily explicable by women’s interest in fashion. Creating matching outfits can be considered color training. In case you didn’t realize, even black does not always match black!
Back to philosophy. Color is overlooked as a subject of philosophical debate because it is quite uniformly perceived and easy to take for granted. But color is quite a dubious thing.
Red is not a “thing”
If I ask you to show me the color red, what would you show me? An apple, a pen, the Canadian flag?
“Great,” I’d say, “but those are all particular things: a red apple, a red pen, the maple leaf.” What I mean is that those are not ‘the color red’, but things that are red. If I just asked you to show me just the thing called red on it’s own, you could not do it. Why?
You couldn’t do it because red is not something you can isolate from an object. Red is a property of a object. It is in a sense contained by the other object, a description of another object. Red does not exist alone in the world. (Go on – try to imagine ‘red’ without it being a red square, or a red blotch, or a red piece of fuzz. In philosophy we would say that red, like all other colors, is a property.
Why does this matter? Read on.
Absolute color? Maybe not…
Pantone begs to differ, but colors are not a stable part of reality.
A colorblind person can see a red apple without seeing the redness of it. The object remains, but the property of redness is absent. (Now that I write this, I wonder if I’d have had more confidence in university if I was colorblind – there would not have been red pen on my papers, but black. I could have seen the positive and negative comments in the same light, not immediately distinguishing between criticism and praise.)
Anyways, back to color. Some people see color and some people do not. Some animals are said to see many more colors than human beings. As these facts stand to our discussion, it seems questionable that color exists as an absolute part of objects. It really can appear one way to one person, and another way to another person, and differently to other creatures. In other words, color is not a stable part of reality, as you might have thought before reading this post.
So where is color? What we know from the discussion so far is that
- Color cannot be abstracted from objects – it is a property of
- Color is not an absolute property – a stable feature of reality
We know that objects are colored, but we do not know what colors are. Nor do we know if we are seeing them the way they really are. Food for thought: I asked a red-green colorblind person to take some unlabeled pencil crayons and draw me a rainbow. His rainbow went brown-brown-yellow-green-purple-purple-purple. Presumably we have the same idea of what a rainbow is, and yet, we have never seen the same rainbow.
Makes you think about what you really see when you think you see color.
- How well do you distinguish colors and shades?
- Is color an important part of your life?
- Can you use color to affect your mood?
- Do you feel drawn to or averse to objects because of their color?
- Perhaps color is just an illusion. Do you agree?
- What do you think a color is? (i.e. where does it exist: the world, in your eye, in the human mind, etc.)
- Consider the properties: ‘big’ and ‘painful’. If seeing ‘red’ requires that the observer is not colorblind, how do ‘big’ and ‘painful’ also rely on the observer?
How to Get the most out of Know Thyself 2019:
Don’t rush through the questions. Do one question every day, leaving space to add thoughts later as you learn and evolve. The journal is designed to help you develop a consistent, daily practice of self-reflection.
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