After all the productive discussions on more serious topics lately, I figured it was about time to write about something much more general. Specifically: colours. You see, colours are interesting, and although you might not know it, they are extremely deceiving. Probably even more deceiving than last Monday’s topic!
So… have you ever considered that what you see as yellow might not be the same yellow as somebody else’s yellow? Since you’re reading this blog, you probably have, but it remains an interesting thing to think about. It is a question that has created unthinkable philosophical theories and one that has driven philosophers absolutely bonkers for centuries. Obviously, it’s definitely something that should be discussed on this blog!
Now, what we do actually know is that colours exist inside our heads. You might even say that they are just an illusion, because colours don’t truly exist “out there in the world.” They only exist within our mind, and although our dreams about fame or money or world peace might seem very vivid at times, we can all agree that they are nothing but an illusion. The same goes for colours.
Of course, usually, the solution humans have is to talk about it and to ask questions. We can find out whether the pool in my backyard looks the same as yours does simply by describing it, and within no time we will come to the conclusion that my pool is actually nothing but a puddle of rain because pools are too expensive, and thus they are very different. But what we cannot describe is the colour experience we get from looking at that pool (/puddle of rain) unless we actually use the word “blue.”
This is called the Explanatory Gap, and it has led philosophers to go as far as claiming that humans don’t exist at all. Naturally, that is a brilliant conclusion that only the wisest of people can come to, and as impossible as it might sound… what if? How can you know for sure that what I call an apple isn’t actually a banana to you, much the same as my red might be your yellow. And how would we know that the world is just one big illusion if the illusion keeps us thinking that it isn’t?
Right, anyway, that’s about enough praise for George Berkeley and David Hume, let’s get back to the issue of colours! There has actually been quite a lot of scientific research on the subject, and so far, nobody has been able to prove that we do see every colour in the same way. In fact, there is more evidence for the opposite!
In the end, although we probably won’t know for sure for quite another while, there is a really good chance that everyone experiences colours differently. Perhaps the difference is no more than a slightly different shade of red, or perhaps one person’s red is actually another person’s green, but what it comes down to is that probably, everyone experiences colours differently.
By now you might be wondering what the use of that information is. As with most philosophical ideas, probably not much, but at the very least, if you know someone who is really weird, just consider that they might be seeing green water and red bananas… wouldn’t that drive you nuts?
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