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Where in the World Is Color? February 24, 2008

Posted by melindalucampbell in Uncategorized.

The red light ahead signals you to come to a stop; the light changes, and you notice that the shiny strip of red on the road ahead has turned green. The evening’s rain has left shallow pools of color here and there, turning stretches of the dark pavement into nearly perfect reflectors. What for a moment appeared to be a gleaming red strip of light shining up from the road now becomes a glowing green. Past experience has shown, however, that this whole show of colors is just an illusion—they will disappear when the water evaporates or the signal light stops working. Common sense enjoins reason; no part of the road, you tell yourself, is really red or green. The color of the road is the same as that of most paved surfaces: an indeterminate, composite shade of gray-to-black. Parts of it only look red or green because they are reflecting first the red, then the green light from the signal. But, we might go on to ask, what is it in the signal light that really is red? It is not the light generated by the lamp itself, for the same (broad-band) light is used in the green signal. The red signal lamp is made with a filter through which only long-wave light can pass, while middle- and short-wave light is trapped or absorbed, so the filter might be said to be the source of the redness present in the above situation.

            So the red color seen reflected on the wet road is neither a property of that which is  reflecting, nor of that which is generating, the light. But is it really a property of the filtering material? There are reasons to think not, because if we were to shine only short-wave light, or a mixture of short- and middle-wave light through it, if any light at all makes it through the filter, it would appear dark amber, not red. So the color of the filter seems to be relative to the composition of the light it transmits. Running out of objects or energy sources outside the perceiver to serve as logical candidates for bearers of color properties, at least in any determinate or absolute sense, we turn next to an examination of the perceiver. We are again to be disappointed, however, since if the perceiver is not equipped with a particular set visual mechanisms that contain certain sorts of photo-reactive pigments, the light may not appear to have any color at all; or, it may look some color other than red. So what or where is the redness that is so commonly taken to be a regular feature of the natural and artifactual worlds we inhabit? If it is not in the world of objects external to minds, and it is not internal to minds, where could it be?  Commonsense notwithstanding, considerations such as these have led both philosophers and scientists to say that colors are instantiated neither by reflective surfaces, refractive objects, nor by illuminant sources of electromagnetic energy; nor are they properties of retinas, ganglion cells, cortices of the brain, or some combination thereof. Many insist that colors are illusions; the way we human perceivers see the world is not the way the world really is. But can we leave things here? Is such a fundamental component of our experience a “false, imaginary glare”? Is there an account of color properties that gives them the ontological status deserving of the mainstay of human-environment relations and aesthetic sensibilities that colors are? For some possible answers, take a look at the slide show “The Reality of Color.”

The Color of Reality-Slide Show



1. Nina Rosenstand - February 25, 2008

Thanks for posting this! For those of you who missed Melinda Campbell’s talk Feb.8 at Mesa College, “The Color of Reality,” or who would like to revisit the visual part of her presentation, check out the link to her slide show. It was a memorable event, and I’m happy to see this ultra-compact version of the key questions in current theories of the color experience. Melinda is not only a philosopher, but also an artist, which means that her approach to the question of the nature of color is not “merely” abstract. Merleau-Ponty would have enjoyed this slide show!

2. Jon Abelian - February 27, 2008

Although I was not able to attend the lecture on the 8th I was interested to know what was going to be discussed. While it is true that color is a sense of perception I believe that for most it is a fairly universal experience (excluding the color blind). At the same time it is difficult to account for images in the slideshow and illusions in general. I am very interested to know how all of those work or if we even know how they work. Ultimately color is completely open to interpretation for human beings, decided in the retina with a mixed composition of rods and cones. Since light is measurable and is refracted into color we can measure the wavelength of each color creating a standard. So even if people have a different make up of rods and cones they can both accurately identify color. Being as objective as possible it is hard for me to deny the existence of color but I think its possible for it to be altered or changed from person to person. So maybe it would be easier to say that color wave lengths are real but subjective interpretations only lead to disagreement.

3. Melinda Campbell - February 27, 2008

In response to Jon’s note, one point I made in the lecture and which really drives the debate is in complete agreement with your comment that it is hard to deny the existence of color; yes, in fact, it goes against so much of our basic purchase on reality that clearly anyone who maintains an anti-realist stance must be wrong or confused. But here’s where the issue gets thorny: Everyone is more or less is agreement that light energy is real and that is comes in various frequencies or different wavelengths. However, although humans do tend to see certain wavelengths “in color,” there is nothing that forces an identity between wavelengths and colors. To do so would be like identifying an effect with its cause; for example, like identifying being full with being a sandwich. There are many, many ways to satisfy hunger, just as there are many different wavelength combinations that result in the same color appearance—light waves/colors is a many: one kind of relationship. Moreover, the quality of color and the geometry of color space is dependent on more than what can be found in light alone. That being said, though, there are contemporary commentators on color who do identify color with light, with whom, you may imagine, I disagree. On my view, color is a way of seeing, a mode of presentation. Colors DO exist, but they are properties of events (color appearances), not of objects or of light alone.

4. Dwight Furrow - March 1, 2008


Thank you for posting your slideshow–it is fascinating and very useful. As I said to you after your talk, I find “color relationalism” plausible. But I’m not sure how your view handles phenomena such as after images or straightforward color hallucinations (I see a red tomato that in fact does not exist). If qualia are not narrow, functional properties (as you suggest in your comments) then it would seem that they contain monadic properties–not necessarily related to anything. I take it that this is what inverted spectrum and twin earth examples show. In what sense are such qualia “presentational” rather mistaken representations?

Your talk also got me thinking about conceptual content. I have only minimal background in the visual arts but I have considerable background in music. In my experience, the ability to discern certain timbres requires extensive listening experience that enables fine-grained categorization of experience. (Analogous to recognizing colors such as magenta, fuschia, etc.) And in my current obsession with wine, linking aromatic and flavor notes with familiar fruits and vegetables helps discern aspects of the wine. But this often involves mentally sorting through various categories and using rudimentary logical inferences (either A or B, not B, then A) to arrive at conclusions. Isn’t this more easily handled on a representationalist view?

5. susan - March 3, 2008

It is amazing how things come together at the same time, and it teaches us so many things. I read your post yesterday and it got me thinking, what is it that we all see the same color, what is it that makes every human see red, red, green-green and so on. Today while I was sitting in Bio. My teacher was explaining how that happens and the explanation you give and she gave made sense. I don’t know a lot about these things, but it excites and fascinates me to see and learn new things that prove existence of things differently than always presumed. Thank you for the insightful information.

6. Huan - March 3, 2008

The relationalism view is extremely interesting. If I’ve understood correctly it’s a view that attributes color to both the physical workings of a man perceiving color, and what it’s like to be the man perceiving color, without heavily separating the two. After reading some of the slide show, it seems to me that what is known as objective reality is heavily reliant of causes and effects, and that the end result of what we perceive is attributed to these causes and effects. Our heads are supposedly caused by various factors to categorize incremental differences of objective reality(which are results of causes and effects) and in turn manifests subjective experiences of being the brain that categorizes so much. That was a mouthful, but the weird part to me is that we attribute our ability to categorize reality to causes and effects that we have categorically perceived. Seems a bit circular, like a mathematician attempting to prove math with math itself.(I’m under the impression that this is something that simply can not be done)

This seems to leave room for a question that makes my head hurt. Taking the discussion of color to a step further, are we categorizing different waves of light because theres something objectively different about them, or are we categorizing different waves of light because our perception simply has ability to categorize a giant block of godknowswhat into colors, tastes, time and space?

Seems to me that quantum mechanics has reached an edge of what we call objective reality, disproving local realism with experiments on bell’s inequality. Basically experiments were set up to either prove that there are deterministic forces guiding particles, or that theres no such forces and that our perception is what brings about the idea of categorical, precise realistic determinism. It just so happens that quantum uncertainty won that one, which brings me into further doubt about this whole objective reality thing. Taking science back a couple of decades, special relativity made sure that the idea of absolutely objective time and space got destroyed, illustrating that the observer’s frame of reference is crucial to what is seen as reality, even showing that causality itself is dependent on the frame of reference. What if I could build an advanced intelligent robot that categorizes 4 dimensions of time and space, and adding onto that it also categorizes three additional dimensions of Slargan? It would inevitably come up with new perceptions and theories that are simply beyond our comprehension, what is objective reality to this robot will seem quite subjective to us because after all we created it.

Of course theres the matter of practicality. From a practical point of view objective reality really needs no further debate. The attempt to find the true nature of reality doesn’t seem to be that practical at all, scientific innovations aside. We see this world in categories, in causes and effects, like Professor Campbell has said, theres no point in denying the reality of color. The difference between that red tomato that is an illusion and the one that isn’t would become the causes leading to those perceptions. This difference will actually cause others to differentiate between the illusion and the real tomato, and in many occasions you will be able to tell also. (Say if you were on drugs, you will most likely deduce that the tomato you saw wasn’t real. )

7. Melinda Campbell - March 4, 2008

In response to Dwight:
Dwight, thanks for your insightful questions. You have a knack for always putting your finger on the important issues. In response to your question about how my view handles phenomena such as afterimages or straightforward color hallucinations any better than an objectivist, representationalist view that takes such phenomena to be simple cases of mistaken perception or error in representation, I offer the following considerations:

The varieties of color experience seem to me to be most usefully thought of as lying along an ontological continuum (or spectrum, if you will) rather than divided into two distinct ontological classes: real and not real (illusory, delusional). Hence we have normal or standard (let’s say trichromatic) color perception at one pole and dreams or imagined or remembered color at the other, with hallucinations, illusions, and non-standard color appearances in between.

Memories—Dreams—Hallucinations—Illusions—Non-standard color appearances—Normal/Standard color appearances

Now let’s do some phenomenology: I suppose that someone has at some time hallucinated seeing a red tomato—most likely it was a philosopher who has been working too long and too hard on analyzing philosophical arguments about the ontology of color—but I can envision another possible case. The Mexican immigrant fieldworker who has had too much vodka too early on a hot San Bernardino summer day has also attempted to ease the agony of another backbreaking day of picking tomatoes from early morning until dusk by ingesting or inhaling a few other mind-altering substances. By midday, he has begun hallucinating, and he sees a ripe tomato ready for picking where, in reality, there is no tomato present. In fact, he has his eyes closed at this moment, but in his drug-and-alcohol-addled state, he has an experience as of seeing a ripe, red tomato hanging on the vine, ready to be picked.

The objectivist (and we’ll assume throughout that this objectivist says that color experiences or color qualia represent objective colors) will simply say that since there is no tomato instantiated in this little scenario, there is no color either. Yet our hallucinating bracero, who, although his consciousness is temporarily altered, is nevertheless conscious, and his experience is similar enough to other conscious experiences he has had of seeing red tomatoes that he extends his hand and reaches for the tomato that he believes is really there. What are we to say about the qualitative character of the content of his hallucinatory experience? Is redness instantiated in some sense? An error theorist or anti-realist about color will insist, pace the objectivist, that the experiential qualitative content is all that really counts in order for color to be present. In this case: same qualitative content as cases of seeing a real tomato, same color quality instantiated.

My view rides a middle line between the objectivist and the error theorist (for whom all colors are illusory): The experiential, (subjective) consciousness-dependent component of typical color-property instantiation is present, but the typical or standard (objective) causal component—a surface reflecting light of a particular spectral power distribution—is missing. On my view, all colors are color appearances, conceived as real events in space and time (hence legitimately termed objective), so what we have here is simply a (relatively uncommon) kind of (real) color appearance. Because this type of appearance event is, as hypothesized, a case of mistaken perception or some type of cognitive error (thinking that a thing exists when it does not), the color experienced does not play its typical functional role of guiding the perceiver in achieving life-enhancing goals or in gathering accurate information about his environment. The causal chain in this case has a major kink: the internal mechanisms that normally produce color experience have been set in motion in non-standard ways—here likely by deviant stimulation of parts of the brain that, in the course of nature, have evolved in perceivers in relation to environmental stimuli such as reflected or refracted light.

How is this account an advance over the objectivist account? For one thing, it is a richer, more complete account of the phenomenon than just classifying the experience as a “figment of the imagination” and leaving it at that because the event-account motivates us to investigate the specific physiological mechanisms that figure into color perception and the various ways that these structures may be affected or put in motion. On the one hand, we are not just dismissing this sort of experience as a case of complete fantasy or imagination; there is something that a hallucination of red has in common with seeing red. On the other hand, we are not collapsing all distinctions between the hallucination case and seeing the real tomato as red—there are very real differences not just in the causal chain, but also, I submit, in the qualitative aspect of the color experience. The case of afterimages illustrates offers a more salient illustration of the second point.

Take the case of the “Union Jack” afterimage (see slide show). As is typical of afterimage color, the quality of the color is quite distinct from surface-reflectance or light-emittance colors (as seen in the “inducing” slide in this case—the aqua-blue and yellow design). Afterimage colors are usually very desaturated, diaphanous, and fleeting, moving across the visual field with saccadic movements of the eye. Contrary to what some commentators claim, it is unlikely that anyone would mistake an afterimage for a light-reflecting object. The colors in afterimages are real colors, but just as in the hallucination case, they are a different kind of color appearance from the standard cases of surface spectral reflectance, and indeed, are uniquely characteristic of afterimages (or successive contrast phenomena). The quality of the color in the Union Jack afterimage is, like any case of perceived color, determined by antecedent causal factors as well as the types of responses that take place within the visual system. Two points are worth mentioning here: (1) The special, predictable, qualities that we come to recognize in afterimage colors are the result of the type of visual experience we identify as successive contrast phenomena, and it has to do with the opponent-processing functions in the neurons leading from the retina to higher areas in the brain. These processes are not unique to afterimages; it’s just that in the afterimage the opponency is operating in “high gear,” and if other perceptual conditions are in place, the color impression we get is most directly a result of the neural processing, and indirectly a causal effect of the inducing light display (plus relevant surrounding conditions). So, just as object color, like that of ripe tomatoes or other surface colors, or like that of emitted light, or atmospheric color (like the sky), or volume color (colored liquids), has a very particular determinate character, so does afterimage color. A tomato, a drop of blood or wine, a laser beam, or a sunset sky may all be red in color, but each has a distinctive kind of red appearance that is attributable in part to the physical structure of the stimulus in question. All reds are not the same, just as all soundings of high C are not the same (timbre differs with type of instrument—I know this is your area of expertise, so I tread lightly). This brings us to the second point: (2) Color experience (or color qualia) are presentational in the sense that the causal stimuli do not themselves have the property of being colored—they must be part of the relational event in order to be colored—but in an important way, color qualia have a representational function because they are reliable indicators of certain types of substances or classes of stimuli.

So what do the reddish-orange and pale purple of the Union Jack afterimage represent? They are reliable indicators of a particular type of physiological state of the visual system, specifically of the photoreceptor-to-bipolar cell-to-amacrine cell-to-ganglion cell complex. We tend to call this sort of color experience an illusion because there is no external (to the body) object in the vicinity to which we can readily attribute the color. In more typical cases of ordinary color vision, the red, orange, and yellow colors seen in fruits and vegetables indicate the presence of beta carotene. Lycopene, also a carotenoid, contributes to the characteristic red color seen in tomatoes. The deep purple or blue in grapes and blueberries may be an indicator of certain antioxidant substances (anthocyanins, pterostilbene, resveratrol). Color appearances represent the presence of other properties, which are not colors. Hence, color qualia are not representations of color, but they do represent properties of interest to color perceivers.

More later on wine and music…

8. Huan - March 4, 2008

Looking back to philosophy of art and music last semester, this reminds me a lot of the debate over the affects of music on our emotions. The same way that emotions aroused through music have no standard emotional context, visual illusions have no “external (to the body) object in the vicinity to which we can readily attribute the color”. Even without the context though, I wouldn’t want to deny the reality of emotions aroused from music, nor would I want to deny the reality of the sound waves that caused such emotions. Same idea as the relationist theory right? Can’t deny the color of that apple when you’re in the matrix, and the tubes connected to your body sending you signals of that apple can’t be denied either. I guess in the case of the matrix, there wouldn’t be much differences from the color of objective reality.

Actually that just gave me a thought. Taking the matrix as an example, some sort of virtual reality fed straight to your head, not a very far-fetched idea. What if in the near future, virtual reality becomes a lot more common? If as Professor Campbell’s theory suggests, the aside from the visual differences(which in this case there is none) the only difference between reality and illusions would be how common the causal factors are, then would virtual reality eventuality be considered objective reality? It has actually crossed my mind often that it’s quite strange that those in the movie Matrix places such high values on “unplugged” reality. Are those simply traditional values that have no real foundations if the matrix becomes just as common or more common than “unplugged” reality? Is this what a relationist would say? I think I’d have to agree.

9. Michael Mussachia - March 6, 2008

The external-to-our-bodies VR system that stimulates the VR experience in us would be objective, both as a type of physical object/process and as something external to us. It’s basically the same with our normal physical environment – both the VR system and our physical environment are objective in this traditional sense. Of course, our normal physical environment (the earth, etc.) contains the VR system (and us), so it would be part of our objective physical environment. The most significant difference between our normal physical environment and any VR system is that ontological status of individual entities like, say, trees – trees in the VR system would be data patterns in one or another code format that represent trees, rather like the neuroelectrical signals in our brains that represent things, rather than actual trees with their molecular composition, biological activity and physical location.

10. Michael Mussachia - March 6, 2008

…. and, consequently, our bodies can’t derive nourishment from virtual food. That’s a pretty big difference when your hungry!

11. Melinda Campbell - March 6, 2008

Reply to Huan: My view attributes color to the appearance event, which supervenes on the perceiver (and his conscious state that is a response to environmental stimuli) and the environmental situation (including the object to which we attribute color and other environmental conditions such as illumination). So I am not sure how this squares with your comment that my view attributes color to both the “physical workings” of the perceiver and his experience (“what it’s like” to be the perceiver). This seems to say that the color is “in the head” of the perceiver, viewed from either an objective or subjective point of view. I disagree with this view of color (see Slide 62/70 in the show posted above). What makes my account a relational view is that both sides of the causal event must be included in what we say, strictly speaking, is colored. Your comment, “the end result of what we perceive is attributed to these causes and effects” lines up with this idea. You end this part of your comment with the claim: “We attribute our ability to categorize reality to causes and effects that we have categorically perceived.” This seems to be precisely what Kant theorized in his CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. It was a radical claim the 18th century, and still strikes us that way today. Nevertheless, I do agree with it.

You then ask: “Are we categorizing different waves of light because there’s something objectively different about them, or are we categorizing different waves of light because our perception simply has ability to categorize a giant block of godknowswhat into colors, tastes, time and space?” It seems to me that both sides of the disjunction are true—and we can look to evolutionary explanations to understand why we categorize “the manifold” in ways that we do. You close out this comment with “The difference between that red tomato that is an illusion and the one that isn’t would become the causes leading to those perceptions.” I believe I address this point in my response to Dwight.

In your second comment, you ask,“If…the only difference between reality and illusions would be how common the causal factors are, then would virtual reality eventually be considered objective reality?” Causal factors do enter into the explanation of how illusions differ from veridical perception—yes, of course. But when you say “the only difference,” I think you are assuming too much. This is the only difference with respect to our attribution of being real or objective, as Michael points out in his comment below, but there remain other vital differences within the ontological homogeny; Michael addresses this point when suggests in his comment that “our bodies can’t derive nourishment from virtual food.” The fieldworker in my story above is not going to get paid for his bushel of hallucinated tomatoes; nevertheless, he did have an experience of (a kind of) redness when he thought he was picking them. Colors come much cheaper than do trees and the nutritious fruit they produce; and on the same note, cheap thrills in VR can be every bit as real as those gotten “on the street.” That’s because the subjective component is such an essential part of the event. I guess the real question here is whether a virtual perceiver, a computerized robot programmed to respond differentially (but, let’s say, in a way similar to human perceivers) to different frequencies of light, sound, etc. can have real experience. That’s the next question I hope to answer.

12. Huan - March 6, 2008

Well I guess what I was getting at is our common sense ideas of “what is really there”. Combining the critique of pure reason and some scientific discoveries, wouldn’t the objective ontological existence of that tree be questioned the same way that Virtual tree can be questioned? I mean hasn’t quantum physics shown that if all perceivers in the universe died, reality as we know it would mean nearly nothing? There wouldn’t be molecules or anything since those are just names and ideas given to certain perceptions. So in turn perceiving some type of unknown being and translating it into space/time and a tree, comparing to perceiving a bunch of electric signals and translating it into space/time and a tree doesn’t really seem that different ontologically to me.

I’m not saying that both trees don’t exist, on the other hand I’m saying they both exist, and it’d be weird to say that one does and the other doesn’t. However, the thing with hunger seems to throw a monkey wrench into what I just said. I can’t seem to think how electric signals would give rise to the fulfillment of hunger. I guess it’s just that electric signals are only able to partially copy our reality, since we can’t possibly know what is making us perceive things without utilizing what we perceive.

I think this actually leads to Professor Campbell’s question of whether robots programmed to categorize things can really perceive what we perceive. I think short of duplication of human biology, it’d probably be impossible to program something to see what we see. Even if we fully map out the nerves in our brains and see which one fires when we see something, we’ll still be unable to know why those firings translate into certain things to us, therefore we can only duplicate.

Back to my earlier claim of the unity of the physical event of the nerves firing and the person seeing something being the same thing, I was also referring to the necessity of both of them. I guess I’m referring to the philosophical zombie, the creature that has all the physique of a human being but does not experience qualia. I was implying that it is impossible to have a philosophical zombie, since the physical event of nerves firing and the subjective phenomenon of seeing is two sides of the same coin, so you can’t have one without the other. I think this does go well with the relationist theory right?

Anyways that was a little sidetrack, relating that to the robot thing, the problem is we can’t know why they are two sides of the same coin. We don’t know what this coin is, and I don’t think we could ever know, therefore the only way for a robot to see what we see is duplication. Programming it to categorize wavelengths to the same extent we do won’t really do any good I’d say, unless its whole processor is similar to our processor, similar meaning duplicated.

13. silencio bouche - March 13, 2008

What do you mean by “Illusion”? Assuming a split between mind and light—where does one end and the other begin? — Attempt to find the authentic light from just the bogus light?
Why need to split the business into two things in the first place?— why perpetuate Descartes mistake? You insist that there are two separate things and then are puzzled that you can’t reconcile them–while holding them to be two separate and distinct things? You set yourself up.
Is there anything that can solve this –reconcile the mind vs light split— once you have rent them asunder? What would it be?

IF BY “ILLUSION” you mean that the colors you speak of do not exist at all that is patently false—you see them, so in some way they exist.
You mean they don’t exist in a particular way , right? What is that particular way?
Do you mean colors don’t exist independently of any person?
So, what color exists independently of any person? How would you find out?
If you used some kind of light meter you could get a reading from the
light reflected by the puddle—-would this show that the light exists independently?—objectively in some way?
But then, of course, the meter is read by us through the medium of light— so , this does not really answer the question of objectivity.
Seems you are reaching for a concept of light which is the same across all circumstances—-well why not just say that light does x under such and such circumstances and this and that under another set of circumstances. The circumstances being part of what light is and does. What is light? It is seen in puddles at stoplights, it is released in quanta in black body experiments, it is split into a rainbow by a prism——if you do certain procedures light looks like a wave–or a particle. If you take LSD you might see something
that others don’t— and this may be light or not. what is light and what is mind? How would you tell?
The hangup is that you think these are somehow incompatible–and all must come down to one conception — and one result or observation must dictate the one conception. Do tell me why this must be so?
If you take light experience is a subcategory of experience—then you have
different types of light experience in different contexts. Which is the
authentic one? So the colorblind can’t see distinctions others make–
— does this mean others see colors that are not there?
If the drunk sees an elephant, he sees an elephant. You can’t see the elephant —so, the man is crazed. You see the color, the colorblind man doesn’t see it–so, to him you are crazed.
The assumption that there is only a limited set of contexts to be considered proper for determining the nature of light-all others being irrelevant—pray tell wherein lies the proof for this? It seems rather an assumption.

14. Huan - March 13, 2008

I’m not sure who that response was meant for, but I don’t think anyone here is attempting to claim that either qualia or the physical light is an illusion. There seems to be a consensus within the responses that both are actually real, and to say that they simply don’t exist is in fact wrong. I may have given a response that seems to defend idealism, but I do not think that the physical world is then some kind of giant illusion, such thoughts are quite meaningless because then there’d be no reality at all. Whether objective reality would remain unchanged or not if all perceivers disappeared doesn’t affect the reality of the physical world that we perceive.

However, given the reality of what we see, we can not assume their objectivity. This means we can’t assume that they are actually there when we do not perceive them, I believe this is fundamental to theories of quantum mechanics. With the fall of the EPR paradox, the fall of the idea that something is there guiding particles even if we can’t see it, I believe objectivity has taken a fall as well. Like I said this isn’t to devalue what we perceive, but simply to address assumptions that are possibly incorrect.

Of course theres relative objectivity. Compared to our varying personal experiences, the rather universal perceptions can be deemed quite objective. Yet it is also obvious that taking this relative objectivity too far can result in false theories such as the “aether” theories, suggesting some kind of absolute objective reference frame.

To conclude, it just intrigues me that physics of all things end up somehow assuring idealism.

15. Melinda Campbell - March 14, 2008

Response to silencio bouche:
Thanks so much for your lengthy and rather impassioned comment. Unfortunately, you have not understood my view; you see, I am on your side in the debate. Classifying certain phenomena involving light, or at bottom, some form of energy (even a mental hallucination involves energy cycling through a brain), as illusions, delusions, or hallucinations certainly does not originate with me. Indeed, I am attempting to do the very thing you suggest, which is to show that the distinction between appearance and reality, between illusion and veridical perception is NOT an ontological one. Nevertheless, we can still make distinctions within that ontological realm. You begin with the query of where we might be able to make a logical, if not ontological, distinction between the mind and light. At the most fundamental level of physical reality, as I conceive it, there is indeed a continuum of “same stuff.” But there are important and interesting distinctions between different kinds of stuff—at least we as humans make much of such distinctions: between my mind and your mind, between one’s body and a bullet speeding toward it, between one’s brain and incoming environmental stimuli.

The color debate in which I am engaged is between those who think that the colors I see are properties of objects that exist quite independently of me or my brain and those who believe that the colors I see are nothing more than products of my brain as I perceive those objects. You ask: “Do you mean colors don’t exist independently of any person? So, what color exists independently of any person?” Yes, I claim that colors are dependent on perceivers, and no, they do not exist apart from perception. It may be that in part, the debate involves a semantic dispute. What sort of phenomenon deserves the title of “color”? Must it involve light? Must it involve matter? Must it involve retinal-response activity? The position you seem to be taking dissolves all distinctions between these categories of existents; fine, we can see the world as the Eleatics did. But this doesn’t really give science anywhere to go or philosophy anything to talk about. I think the issue of color ontology is interesting because it brings to the surface a number of longstanding philosophical puzzles and “stand-offs”; notably the “hard problem” that in part results from an adherence to a kind of psychological atomism and mental-physical dualism that philosophers have inherited from their Modern forebears. I agree with you: Descartes was wrong—there are not separate ontological realms separating minds and mental states from unthinking objects and their spatio-temporal properties. Colors are as real as the objects to which we attribute them; my account is a way of trying to understand how they are part of the same ontology while having a distinctive and determinate nature through the investigation of which we can come to understand the role they play in our experience and successful interaction with our environment. In so doing, we arrive at a greater understanding of both human nature and the physical world at large.

16. Forrest Noble - March 14, 2008

The above is a philosopher’s take on reality, not a scientist’s take. Not that a philosopher’s view of reality is less valuable, but it can be debated. On the other hand, in this case the scientific explanation would be difficult to debate, I think, and few would want to.

The arguments above have similarities to the old conundrum “If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” The scientific answer for that question would be to require a single definition of the word sound to accompany the question. If the definition requires an observer for the sound then there would be no sound without the observer. If, however, your definition just described a frequency of air vibrations within the audible range then there would be a sound. Not too difficult.

In the above example we are instead inquiring about light which is made up of frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum within the visible range. This is the general science definition of light. But if you wish to include in your definition that there must be an observer then again there would be no light without the observer. Reflected, refracted, or radiated light are still either light or not depending on your singular definition. In the above example the filter has nothing to do with the emitted light, only the source of the radiated light controls that. The filter absorbs the unwanted frequencies so that only a specific frequency range can pass through it. As to color, it is also a simple definition of a particular wave length that is being radiated, whether it is perceived or not. If one likes a different definition – that’s great. There could be no debate regarding the answer, either it meets the criteria of the definition or it doesn’t. If the definition given was nebulous then there could be no absolute scientific answer.

So what is color? If you give me a complete unambiguous definition, there would be no discussion. The answer would be self evident.

respectfully, forrest

17. Huan - March 15, 2008

I guess I personally don’t see the line between physics and philosophy all that clearly, if there is one at all. I don’t deem to truly understand the experiments regarding bell’s inequality, but I do know that because theres some kind of “faster than light” communication between entangled particles, there are said to be no local communication between them. All this does is throw a giant monkey wrench into the whole idea of deterministic domino effects guiding the natural world. It shows that the deterministic part of particles traveling only come into play when perceived.

I’m sure you could give a better explanation of this stuff having read some of your previous posts, I don’t think I understand it all that well. (I’m making this comment partly because I secretly want some clearer understanding 😀 )However if the particle level of reality is so counter intuitive, what does that say about our reality?

Of course I realize a scientist is not necessarily concerned with this kind of stuff, but I can’t help but think these scientific discoveries inevitably affect these debates on metaphysics and epistemology. Also wouldn’t the scientists in the highly theoretical fields be thinking about this stuff all the time? I was always under the impression that those highly theoretical scientists are just philosophers that utilize math. I mean Einstein was hell of a philosopher wasn’t he?

Anyways, back on topic. It’s not really my argument that the nothing is objective until perceived, it’s just the conclusion from the experiments on bell’s inequality as far as I know. It seems to me that Professor Campbell has picked color because it is something that’s right in the middle of some opposing arguments, making it more controversial, and having the ability to stir more things up. I’m just attempting to add some spice with some quantum “spooky action from a distance” I guess. Not really here to scientifically define color, but to use science as a medium to gain greater understanding of “both human nature and the physical world at large” like the topic is intended for.

18. Forrest Noble - March 16, 2008


Very good points above. Concerning no clear distinction between perspectives of today’s theories in physics, and philosophy, I agree with you. But in this case my answer on “color” was not based on physics in general, I was talking about the subject of Logic involving physics which, granted, is a rare commodity.

Bell’s theorem that: “No physical theory of local hidden variables can ever reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics”, and Bell’s inequalities have been criticized for a number of reasons as being invalid. Of course it is widely accepted by most physicists in general, especially within Quantum Mechanics. The point that Quantum theory is just verbalized assertions, where Quantum Mechanics is a mathematical system of predictions with probability tolerances, no verbal or mathematical logic is needed. This is what Bell’s inequalities attempted to do, show mathematical logic that could show “how illogical quantum mechanics is” i.e. that no system of logic can explain it. This is true, no system of logic can explain it because physicists have made many wrong turns in logic and simply don’t understand quantum theory or the quantum world in general.

The faster-than-light interpretation of quantum entanglement for example, I believe, is simply wrong; as well as every other illogical interpretation in physics and all sciences are incorrect. But because one does not understand the results doesn’t mean that the system or equations need to be changed; only the understandings of them, which of course is much easier said than done. “It shows that the deterministic part of particles traveling only come into play when perceived”, this view by quantum mechanics would also accordingly be completely wrong.

According to your quest for clarity, e-mail me at forrest_forrest@netzero.net.

“I was always under the impression that those highly theoretical scientists are just philosophers that utilize math. I mean Einstein was a hell of a philosopher wasn’t he?”

Again I agree with you. Theorists must form a mental image first before they can develop/ translate equations to mathematical simulations. These theoretical mental images can only be a perspective of reality which are the same kind of images philosophers create. The very best of these equations come close to the mental image and perspective; a few show some validity when tested against observation. Few hold up in all cases over time where it may be difficult to test more extreme conditions, such as Einstein initially did with his concept of gravity – showing an exception to Newton’s gravity. And yes, Einstein was a great writer, poet, philosopher, humanist, and humorist. Just Google his quotes for example.

Back on topic, Color. To arrive at any clear perception of reality, and to some extent an understanding of any subject, ambiguities must be removed as much as possible and the perspective should be explained with detailed clarity. It is seemingly difficult for most philosophers, as well as scientists, to realize their view point as only one of many possible perspectives of reality. This is more the task and understanding of a logician. After all, the transmission of understanding, I think, is more productive than unanswerable debate or controversy, even though suppositions are often mental entertainment; as apposed to 1+ some number between 0 and 2 is equal to 2, pretty boring. But the understanding of varying perspectives of reality, is not boring, dare I call it the study of philosophy.

your friend forrest

19. Huan - March 16, 2008

Very enlightening response! I guess I got a little too caught up in all the fascinating philosophical implications of scientific theories, when they are not all meant to be applied to reality like you suggest. I guess I have too much interest in the nature of reality to just go for the equations. I will indeed contact you when I have time to try to clear up some of these theories and their validity.

Regarding the getting down to clarity, I definitely agree this is quite helpful in many debates in order to actually get somewhere. However it seems to me that in some debates, defining a word will almost immediately end the debate. In other words, defining a word a certain way would in fact be the same as taking a side. As you have said in your previous response, if we define color a certain way, the question of whether an apple is red if no one is observing it will be extremely easy to answer. Yet the definition will also decide which one of the opposing theories are correct, so it’s really the same as picking a side and sticking to it.

I suppose I see the controversy as being unable to arrive at a certain conclusion, therefore being forced to consider all sides all the time. I don’t see it as some kind of entertainment, though it is very entertaining. I definitely see the need for science to “move on” and “get somewhere”, perhaps this is connected to the whole concepts being inaccurate but equations being worthy part. In other words, perhaps science “got somewhere” at the cost of some inaccurate concepts on reality, is this the case in your opinion? Anyways I guess it’s kind of different in these philosophical debates, since getting somewhere would defeat the whole point, just like these interesting, extremely useful, but wrong quantum theories.

From what you’re suggesting it seems like quantum mechanics has not done very much to clarify the nature of reality. It saddens me to think that my interest in physics is based on the rather disposable part of physics.

20. Forrest Noble - March 17, 2008

Yeah Huan,

“Science “got somewhere” at the cost of some inaccurate concepts of reality” Definitely that is my opinion.

It goes something like this. Hey, these equations really work, but this seems to imply that x, y, and z ………………..It doesn’t seem to make any sense unless the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. OK that will be our explanation. If it works, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. Let the philosophers figure it out!

Science must progress regardless of a lack of logic. It will eventually all come out in the wash anyway.

Quantum mechanics is based upon many years of experience observing particle behavior and interactions in the atomic realm. From this long history many invaluable equations and probability insights have been developed which collectively is a good system of prediction concerning quantum behavior. The implications of these continuing discoveries will eventually evolve into a better theory containing more logical perspectives and understandings of these interactions, I believe. Quantum Mechanics, especially the verbalized part of the theory, is a work in progress. It is not alone. Some other theories in science also appear to me to have similar failings.

your friend forrest

21. silencio bouche - March 18, 2008

Thankyou for your reply— which showed also some passion.

There are points of view—there is no monolithic truth, is my point.
And if your “debate” is an attempt to settle on one set of statements
that will be indubitable by any and all universally for all time-( no such thing)–then this is a hopeless enterprise. You will only sustain that there are points of view.
I m saying accept that the Split —Descartes’ split—is your premise, your basic point of view, despite any proto or ersatz ontological setting you wish to place your debate in–your premise is the same.
And accept that this Cartesian point of view is not necessary –but only one of the possible. You needn’t start with this split. You needn’t
posit two things and make them mutually exclusive in this Cartesian way and then wonder why your presumed irreconcilable entities are not reconcilable. You are simply churning over and over–as has been done for the last 400 years–this narrow point of view.
Why not start fresh? Start with the idea that not positing this Cartesian split is a valid approach.
Start with the idea that there are points of view.
Einstein replaced Newton but Newton is still valid–not because
Newton is the monolithic and unalterable truth but because still valid from the Newtonian point of view. Thus–from the view I am advocating- points of view are more central and valid as concerns what is the case.
I also advocate that one needn’t divide what the world is from what you think of the world— because in saying something like: ‘it is correct to divide the world itself from what I think of the world”—so saying is to presume that this statement says exactly what the world is–in other words–to posit a world separate from
words or concepts–you assume that there is no difference–that such a distinction does in fact not hold.

The essence of making a statement is that there is no difference between the statement and what the world is— words and reality
may be just as easily seen as a piece. The words are separate from the world– but the whole world includes them. Could say that mind and world — are separate worlds–a la Descartes –but could counter that they are part of a larger world– or a larger experience, sub-categories of a larger thing.
It is rather like saying that a vase is made up of color and shape—
which are mutually exclusive–and can certainly be seen as constituting the vase— but the vase also can easily be seen as one indivisible thing and the color and shape abstracted from that
thing. Something similar holds with the Cartesian point of view–yes one can split the world into two a la Descartes, but just as easily the
world can be seen as two aspects of the same thing– l
One of them isn’t correct indubitably and the other incorrect–rather
correct from their points of view—the truth from their point of view.
You may prefer one point of view—this will arise as the truth to you–ok– but from this compelling idea how can you conclude that there must be one correct compelling idea?

22. Huan - March 18, 2008

Once again I don’t think anyone is attempting to conclude that there is one correct compelling idea. I think we all agree with you that to pick one side would be inevitably mistaken. I personally think what is known as the physical is an abstraction of our perception, its rather universality and stability has given it the status of objective reality even though it may not be truly objective. Furthermore, a lot of our understanding of the mind is based on this objective reality we call the physical world, therefore it doesn’t matter if it’s an extension of perception it’s still undeniably real.

In other words, Kant’s critique of pure reason can’t deny physical reality. At the same time we can’t take it lightly, no matter how you look at it our knowledge of the physical world was ultimately obtained from perception.

I totally agree that it’s two sides of the same coin, Cartesian division definitely has its flaws, as well as picking a side. The category of perceptions known as physical reality is the only way we have of studying our very perceptions, and our perceptions definitely include the category of physical reality. This is the intertwined nature of the Cartesian split, as I’ve previously concluded theres no split at all. That the firing of a neuron is the same as qualia, that the process of light with a certain wavelength being translated into perception is the same as seeing a green tree.

How do I say this without it being confusing? I think it comes down to physical reality being the most reinforced perceptions of them all, being focused on to formulate a stable understanding of all perceptions. It is so reinforced that it has obtained objective status, and being the only method we have of understanding perception it has often been recognized as a realm separate from perception.

Color lies exactly on all of this controversy, it points out that physical reality isn’t something to be separated from perceptions like we often do. It also points out the necessity of the category of physical reality, without which we’d have no understanding of colors or anything at all really. So I mean I think this shows that the question of “where is color?” is a confusion that we arrive to because of the separation of the physical world from perception. (When there really shouldn’t be a split since the physical world is just a category within our perceptions.)

Is this an idealist approach? Am I saying that only the mind exists and the physical world is an illusion? No and no, the physical world is anything but an illusion. It’s a mistake to overestimate its objectivity, but like I’ve said it’s simply renaming the reinforced perceptions something else to distinguish between the two. How can a category be an illusion? In other words challenging the objectivity of the physical world does not challenge its ontological potency.

23. Huan - March 18, 2008

Oh just to connect the dots I believe much of what I’ve said goes together with what Professor Campbell have said, neither of us are talking about Cartesian dualism.

24. silencio bouche - March 20, 2008

Melinda’s statment:
“The color debate in which I am engaged is between those who think that the colors I see are properties of objects that exist quite independently of me or my brain and those who believe that the colors I see are nothing more than products of my brain as I perceive those objects.”

This statement mostly reduces mental to physical—but the use of “me” and “I see” and “my brain” seems to hint at a non-reducible mental–and entity separate from the physical otherwise why
wouldn’t the “I” and the “me” also be reduced to the physical? and if so reduced omitted–since superfluous?
The physical could be reduced to the mental–a la Berkeley. Why not say, “colors present to mind”?

Your description of the apparent parameters of the debate places very conventional conceptual limits on that debate–it is a very narrow debate. I apologize for not understanding this earlier.
But why limit the debate so?– is it necessary to posit a a world which gives impressions to the brain and the brain either shows what is there or doesn’t— this is just seems like another churning of Kant’s thing-in=itself that the mind (you use brain) can’t show versus a mind(brain) that is a what you see is what is there tack.
This is a variation on a 400 year old debate with a Cartesian source.

I realize as you say, that you want to shed light on Chalmers’ “hard problem” among other issues—but why would limiting the debate
conceptually add to the light?

Huan, I insist that you can’t help but choose the compelling idea and that compelling idea is whatever arises as being the case to you—including the idea that “to pick one side would be inevitably mistaken”. That state of affairs is certainly the case to you along with many others in your post.
So, to you some things are the case while others are not—and that my friend has an ontological import. And if you were to say “oh I don’t think that one thing is any more real than another–they all have the same ontological potency”—well this scheme would be declared because you favor it over another scheme you find does not have as much “potency”–you find one to be the case and another not to be the case. It will come down to your ontological commitment — to something which arises as the case, as the state of affairs to you.
Saying “oh no, I have no commitment to anything being the case”
is to say that something is the case. Unavoidable.

Whether the context of the debate is a posited hypothetical world or
real world—-you are deciding which theory is better— it will be based upon what is the case to you.

The world is what comes to you as what is the case, as the state of affairs. There is no other world whether you posit a world separate from what is thought of it or not, or whether hypothetical or actual, or whatever configuration.

25. Huan - March 20, 2008

Interesting points. First I’ll have to say I agree that it’s incredibly hard to debate philosophy without forming some kind of “compelling” structure or idea, and I don’t think it’s very helpful to avoid it. Though the important thing to me lies on whether one explains the “compelling” structure or idea and whether it has any flaws. Now analyzing different arguments on color like Professor Campbell has done in her powerpoint, there are many objections that has been raised for them. Given these different viewpoints and various objections, confusion arises regarding the question of “where in the world is color?” I’d say what one should do at this point is analyze each argument and its objections, in order to put something together that would make sense of all the objections and all the different views. I’d say this is where the relationist view comes in.

What I posted was just a little side track on the nature of the physical world, in order to clear up the arguments a little. Yes stating pretty much anything about color is a statement or an idea that is “compelling” as you have put it.(Even defining it) However, the important thing is creating a structure that explains the argument, and refutes the flaws and objections to other relating arguments. With this kind of “compelling” argument we gain a greater understanding over color don’t we? It’s not that stating a “compelling” idea means that one ignores all other ideas, well explained/structured “compelling” ideas include the other ideas and their downfalls, and possible objections to the “compelling” idea itself. So in essence it’s no longer being ignorantly stubborn with one idea, it’s analyzing all existing ideas and somehow sorting them out to have little to no loose ends. (In turn creating a “new” idea)

Secondly, this is an interesting argument I use occasionally. “Saying “oh no, I have no commitment to anything being the case”
is to say that something is the case. Unavoidable.” Is indeed a powerful argument, but it could be countered with: The stance of no commitments is as much of a commitment as black is a really dark white. Not a perfect counter but since we mostly see meaning in things in relation to other things, no commitment would indeed be the opposite of commitment. I doubt anyone would argue that black is just a really dark white, it may be true but would defeat the point of the distinction between the two words right?

26. silencio bouche - March 27, 2008

I admit that my tack is tangential to the main purpose of the post
—alternative ways to pin down, or not, “where in the world” color is.
I guess I just wanted to give my own overarching perspective on the
I really have no objection to your last point about commitment—since it is what you hold to be the case—which is my point.
I ask you though, are you learning about color or are you learning about opinions about color— or is there really a difference?
I also ask Why would what is the case require a commitment — in the sense
of a deliberate act of decision, of affirming or concluding something? All I am saying is that something will be the case to you, just as it is to me.
And, one certainly could say that it is not necessarily so that
holding something to be the case means one also holds that something is not the case—one might not consider what is not the case at all.
And in considering several alternatives–if one scenario seems to be the case to you—it is not necessarily the case that therefore the others are not the case. Unless one thinks that it is the case that it is necessary that the others not be the case.
One could define “is the case” as requiring a deliberative
process that results in an “is the case”, though I don’t define it this way.
One also could define any “is the case” as a commitment preceded by a deliberative process. I don’t define is as such, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t,or define it in any way you like.
A reply to this would be that if it is the case that chocolate ice cream tastes good to you, then it is the case whether there is some deliberative process or not.

In any event, there will be something that is the case to you—some state of affairs or other will be the case to you.
Of course, “is the case” is a category–applied in arrears–“Ice cream tastes good to me” doesn’t need to be put into the “is the case” category—there are lots of categories possible or it is possible not
to categorize it and just state that I cream tastes to me.
It just seems like an interesting universal sort of category to me—it is akin to saying, whatever is, is–and something is.
One can reply that the category is boring and that another is better.
That’s ok too. Not really much mystery to “is the case” —it just points in an interesting way to being–and being I find a mystery.
As to “where in the world is color”, one could argue that whether one point of view is better than another–depends on the definition of
better or appropriate, or useful or whatever criteria you wish to introduce. In a fundamental sense, all that is true is true by definition.
If some criteria or definition seems correct to you — it will do so because arises as the case to you. Now one could argue that saying that something “is the case” really doesn’t add more to just saying that one thing is correct and another is not.

I ask you though, are you learning about color in this debate or are you learning about opinions about color— or is there a difference?
There are points of view and there are colors–where–if they are held to be separate— is the interface and how?
If they are separate from the objective point of view—why should they not be separate from the subjective point of view? What is the difference between subjective and objective– or is there a difference–since subjective must be objectively true and objective must subjectively true.
Anyway, I hope I haven’t distracted you too much from the debate– It is a lovely question “where in the world is color”–but it really does provoke some very fundamental questions, which I cannot
help but be fascinated by.
How about this posit: everything that is true is true only by virtue of its definition.

27. Huan - March 27, 2008

My statement about commitment was just for fun, I’m not trying to say you must commit to ideas, it was merely a response to your previous post about commitment. Well if you’ve read my last post, I’ve stated topics like this one will evaluate and include all cases, their reasoning, and their downfall.(Like in Professor Campbell’s slide) It’s not really about learning what people think is the case, it’s about why they think it’s the case and what the case implies. I’m plenty satisfied with some sort of combination of genetics and conditioning explanation to why is it that someone likes icecream, and that makes something that seems quite trivial and purely opinion based a bit more solid.

Am I learning about color or opinions of color, I’d theres not much difference. I don’t think there is a truly objective perspective, none are currently known at least. So all there is to know are perspectives, but more importantly the “why” that’s behind those perspectives. I don’t think saying everything is only true by definition, since the definition itself is just another perspective. It’s not like God defines words for us, we give definitions to words. I mean of course theres phenomenons that we simply give names to, making it utterly meaningless to debate its meaning, yet we can still debate what phenomenon is really given that name and why.

So now about finding truth, I think truth isn’t really about picking a side, but it’s about analyzing the sides. Truth to me is just a greater understanding of all perspectives, as opposed to any specific perspective. (Since they’re all subjective in a sense, “objectivity” would be all of them combined I suppose.)

28. silencio bouche - April 2, 2008

I am not dismissing the discussion of ideas at all– I find it fun too.
But here’s my argument- Every statement you have made you are saying is the case–is the state of affairs that actually exists.
Thus, I am saying that neutrality is not an option—

ALso, about “pure opinion”:
If you are saying that there is such a thing as opinion–an assertion that something is the case. then please do tell me when opinion–pure or not– –about what is the case–is ever eliminated.
If you say “there are grounds to say evidence supports x , but this is not my opinion”—at what point is it not your opinion?
The reply, “oh it is not my opinion as experts think this”–why would that not be your opinion also–an assertion that something is the case.
Thus, If you assert some statement to be “a bit more solid” because it is less an opinion, because there is some additional aspect to it ( evidence or some such)—is this not your opinion?
In other words: If you hold something is “more solid”–better in that way, superior because it is not opinion–but there is no point at which what you say is not opinion—then there is contradiction.

What do you think?

29. Huan - April 2, 2008

I do agree, this is what I meant when I said I don’t think theres any truly objective perspectives. I do think everything is opinionated on some level, since even science is based on observation. It simply becomes relatively less opinionated and less subjective as more people agree with certain empirical data or certain ideas, kind of like an asymptote never reaching the point of true objectivity.

This is why I draw the line between partisanship and better presented ideas that take all possible ends into account, it may not be the line between an opinion and something beyond opinion, but there are various differences indeed.

30. silencio bouche - April 3, 2008


Very puzzling to me—your scheme.
It seems to me you make an ontology of opinion. From what you say
here is what I get:

Apparently, there are two things: opinions and opinions that people agree on—and that is all there is. And you like the kind of opinion where people agree with each other–you think it is superior to the other kind of opinion which is just one person’s.
So, apparently, the most superior opinion would be that opinion which the most people agree with.
The people of the ancient western world believed that the sun rotated around the earth—only a very few Greeks thought the earth rotated around the sun and too bad for them, their opinion was the inferior one.
Most people think of space in the Newtonian sense–as absolute.
Only a comparatively small number of people think of space in the
Einsteinian sense–too bad, their opinion is inferior.
And I suppose that what is actually the case is that which a superior opinion says is the case–versus an inferior opinion, which can’t be the case.
But Huan my friend, because only superior opinion can be actuality–then unless other people agree with you, your opinion can’t be the case–because it is and inferior opinion. The way you make it superior –and so make it the actual state of affairs—is to have a whole bunch of people agree with you.
Maybe if we do a poll, we can find out whether your opinion is superior or inferior.
Only superior opinion can be actuality.
So too bad for those few Greeks, the actuality is that the sun revolves around the earth, and too bad for Einstein, for Newtonian
space is the actuality.

And what You think you think, is really only your opinion–and so
inferior to what a dozen others agree that you think.

One is never stating the case, but only an opinion, and if it is pointed out that you are stating that what is the case is that there are only opinions–that you are stating that opinions are the case–you reply that no you are not positing that opinions are the case—you are simply saying that there are only opinions. So that even to assert that one says anything at all–is opinion and is not actuality–unless a whole bunch of folk agree with you and only then it is actual.–because that is all there is—opinions—- you know.

Or maybe there is no actual–there is only superior and inferior opinions. Kind of like Berkeley saying there are only minds and God.

Instead of splitting things into mind and world–you split it into superior and inferior opinions.

This is what I get from your scheme– it is quite a wild thing.

There is nothing that is the case really –there is only opinion—just inferior and superior opinion. An all encompassing opinionated world.
And what about objective and subjective ? The former happens when some people agree that something is the case, the latter, when only one person does.

Instead of splitting things into mind and world- it seems a split into superior and inferior opinions.

This is what I get from your scheme– it is quite a wild thing.
Perhaps you want to qualify and clarify some part of your position— or perhaps not?

31. silencio bouche - April 3, 2008

OK, Sorry—I overdid it using the word “you”. I should have
used the word “one” as in “one may say”.
YOur point of view is interesting —if I have understood your point
of view–perhaps I didn’t.
My post is just my working out some of the ramifications if I did
understand you correctly.
If I did not—do correct me.

32. silencio bouche - April 4, 2008

Final question: Is there something the case or isn’t there?


33. Huan - April 4, 2008

Well theres a slight misinterpretation, I suppose I should go in more depth to avoid confusion.

The idea starts out at the different between what’s subjective reality and what’s objective reality. It starts off looking at illusions and reality, the difference being reality is much more reinforced than illusions, but they’re all just perception we just named them differently. This gives rise to the idea of objective reality, and objective truth, along with the scientific method to explore this objective reality.

Of course science is based on observation, depending on the fact that most people are able to perceive the same things, known as the physical world. What I believe becomes opinionated is how we arrange and explain these categorized perceptions, since that becomes highly theoretical and fallible. This is the origin of partisanship, having multiple ways to explain and arrange the same observations made. In the end which ever idea explains the most perceived phenomenons becomes the superior idea, it has nothing to do with how many people believe it really.

When I was referring to how many people agree on something, I was referring to objective reality, since it’s simply perceptions that most people agree on perceiving, we have no idea what’s actually out there we just induced this physical world because of how reinforced it is.

Going back to the superior idea, it’s the idea that looks at the flaws of all other similar ideas and ties them all together, leaving little to no loose ends. The idea that has sufficient evidence and covers the most ground wins, this is even how science works isn’t it? Consider the current attempts to discover a grand unified theory, that’s precisely an attempt to cover more ground and link different forces together. Also consider Newtonian mechanics and special relativity, relativity is only superior because it covers more ground.

This is most likely why God was a more dominant idea before science started to take its place, since God covered way more ground than science back in the days. However God is not backed up with observations like science, making it something that’s rather out of reach and faith based.

So overall, I’d say this is a good view to take upon when looking over opposing ideas. They usually do have shortcomings, and usually something can be done about them.

34. Huan - April 4, 2008

Well heres a statement that is almost necessarily the case. The observations of color can be fully explained with the relationist theory. This has to be the case because it doesn’t claim anything except that this idea explains the observations, this doesn’t set it up for partisanship therefore can’t really be challenged until observations that break this idea are made.

35. silencio bouche - April 4, 2008

Your premise is that people hold opinions and an opinion which people agree upon is better than an opinion which people do not agree on and we should give up the latter. and adopt the former.

And I said then that given this premise, Einstein’s concept of space should be given up since most people think of space as absolute
as in Newton and not in Einstein’s sense—since it is the number of people who agree with an idea which determines whether we should adopt it or not.

Is that not correct?

36. Huan - April 4, 2008

You misinterrpreted my premise, my premise is merely a rather pragmatic one. It was never that which ever opinion is most agreed upon is correct, it’s more like opinions are just rearrangement of observations and the arrangement that explains the most observations “wins”.

The agreement part was about objective vs subjective perception, like illusions versus physical “objective” reality. Please read my above two posts with care, I’m not the best writer but I think it’s all in there.

37. silencio bouche - April 9, 2008


So, then, how do you determine what opinion explains
the most? And what is it to explain?

38. Moriae - April 9, 2008

I’m sorry, but how anyone can talk about the ‘experience’ of colors without including Newton, Goethe’s Entoptishe Farben, or Zur Farbenlehre (Theory of Colours), Berkeley, and the primary (and essential) role of ‘transducers’ I simply can’t fathom. Right from the begining not one ray of light (no pun) has been shed on this topic that is worth repeating–it has largely been a muddle. It all sounds like the unruly discussions you hear outside of a classroom when all the participants either misheard or misunderstood a particular lecture about something no one was prepared in advance to appreciate. Understanding depends on preparation. This has all the appearance of those kinds of students (that have always existed) that insist on having an opinion about any particular subject, yet reserve the right to not read any relevant materials in advance before they defend their position. That isn’t philosophy, that’s persiflage.

39. silencio bouche - April 9, 2008


Persiflage, what a great word.

You seem to be saying that you want to confine the discussion to the pros and cons of certain theories along with the assumptions underlying those theories.
Is that right?

Very well, could you please explicate one of the theories and give your point of view–that would be great.

On Berkeley:
Berkeley’s scheme brings up some fundamental questions.
If there are only minds and God, as Berkeley holds, then the split between the world and the mind is only apparent–and seeing is not external to mind.

And what is the definition of seeing?
If one holds that without the mind there is no seeing then If the eyes are removed—can one argue that the mind still sees– it simply doesn’t see what the eyes present because there are no eyes?

So what is seeing?

40. Huan - April 9, 2008

I don’t believe referencing famous philosophers is absolutely necessary for these philosophical discussions, though it is rather helpful. I think that’s precisely what Professor Campbell did in her power point presentation, pros and cons of each theory.(So she’s not in the muddle if anything.) I definitely see the benefits to doing this, yet I still personally dislike being limited to opposing sides therefore I usually end up thinking about ideas without the direct aid of famous philosophers.

I don’t think philosophy somehow becomes less legit when one doesn’t refer to the arguments of past philosophers, or somehow misinterpret their theories. It seems to me that whether someone regurgitates a theory as originally intended by the author or not is a purely academic skill, what matters to philosophical discussions is how the ideas are presented. I’m honestly not too good with the names of philosophers aside from the really famous ones, I suppose that means I’m not a serious philosopher. Though to imply that these ideas in my head without proper names are some how less legit, I don’t think that’s the case.

Of course it’d be a bit easier on the reader if one often refers to famous philosophers, but doesn’t that just put a lot of restrictions on the discussion itself? I mean ultimately it’s not the philosophers that matter, its the ideas that matter right? So wouldn’t it be a lot more flexible to discuss philosophical ideas without naming too much names? The various different interpretations on one name alone makes it easier to just state the interpretation instead of the name of the philosopher or the idea.

Anyways, regarding seeing, wouldn’t dreams be seeing without eyes? Though one could argue that anything perceived in dreams are just derived from what was seen with eyes. If we’re talking about seeing without a body though that’s a whole different argument.

Regarding what opinions explains the most, I’d once again point to science. The difference between Newtonian mechanics and special relativity, the difference between E=MC^2 and KE=1/2MV^2 is precisely what shows which explains more. The perceptions remain unchanged, yet an increase in perception clearly shows the limits of Newtonian mechanics.

It works a bit differently with ideas that aren’t too measurable, but not all that different. Different ideas on color are able to explain different portions of the phenomenon known as color, yet each idea seems to have its shortcomings through being unable to explain all of the features of color. For example the idea that color is purely physical, and that scientific explanations of color can explain everything about color are flawed because they do not explain why these physical measurements translate into color in our minds. Why is a certain group of neural firings red? The physical explanation does not even attempt to address this side of the phenomenon known as color. On the other hand if you look at an idealist argument that it’s all in our heads, that provides absolutely no explanation for all the predictabilities within our perceptions, leaving out yet another chunk of the phenomenon known as color.

So let’s say we have only these two ideas(not the case but let’s assume), both explaining a portion of what we know as color while leaving out other portions. Leading up to the theory Professor Campbell presented, an approach that recognizes both sides of the argument and takes a more practical approach. Effectively bridging the partisan ideals of materialism and idealism while at the same time covering just about every feature of the phenomenon known as color. That’s what I meant when I said some opinions explain more than others.

41. silencio bouche - April 9, 2008

So how to tell if world is a waking dream or not?

You touch on the hard problem referred to by Melinda.
If one is a reductionist–then it is correct to reduce color to
neural activity. To a reductionist the correlation is the proof of identity.
If you are not a reductionist then the correlation of nerves and vision does not necessarily show identity or even causation—-this would be a Hume-like point of view.
So who is correct? How to decide on the One that “wins”? Or do they all win and lose in some way in your scheme?

42. Huan - April 9, 2008

What do reductionists say about qualia? Can they do anything but ignore it? I mean there are very valid objections to the idea that color is neural activity. What of that thought experiment of the girl in a black and white room learning about explanations of color? Even if she is shown images of neural connections some how she still won’t be able to see color. Regardless of whether the reductionist cares about qualia or not, isn’t it still a very important part of what we know as color?

On the other hand, we could say that the correlation of us thinking about moving and actually moving does not necessarily show causation, but then what actually shows causation? When I throw a phone at a wall I could say that the correlations of it breaking could be caused by something completely unrelated, but what do we gain from such objections? If all we know is that seeing color directly correlates with neural activity, I don’t see why we can’t step over into causation. Correlations in observations is all we have, one could argue it’s the only way we can get to understand this world.

I guess we can safely say that the reductionist does not win, but scientific explanations can’t really be discarded as useless either.

43. Huan - April 9, 2008

Regarding whether reality is a waking dream, I think the first premise I spoke of kind of covers it. Given that we perceive a lot of things, the things that are reinforced the most are known as reality and the things that aren’t reinforced so much are known as illusions.

Consider a group of people living high up in the mountains, the thin air they are used to could possibly cause them to see things very differently from us. We would deem the things we see when we’re up there minor tricks on our senses, yet if they occasionally took a stroll on our land they’d deem what they see down here minor tricks on their senses. I mean illusions only are illusions when theres observers that observe reality, so if everyone lived in illusions and no one can see outside of it then it might as well not be an illusion at all.

Consider the Matrix, if no one in the Matrix ever learned of the outside world, would it matter to them at all? Of course being the observers that see both worlds, we would think it obviously matters. However they do not see both worlds, reality for them IS within the matrix.

A lot of our different conceptions of reality seems explainable through the concept of frames of references.

44. silencio bouche - April 10, 2008


Apparently you are saying that there is no one reality—no thing that is the case–that one person’s reality is another’s illusion.
But when you state this, when you assert this–you do assume that what you state is the case–in other words you assume that there is a reality and you have said what it is.
If there is no one reality then what is it that you are asserting when
you are saying that something is the case?

45. Huan - April 10, 2008

Once again, let’s go back to perceptions and things that explain perceptions. I deem that the “frame of reference” concept explains just about all of the things I’ve seen. Now if something comes along that breaks this conception, then I’d gladly improve upon the conception as needed.

Once again I am not claiming that this is the case, I’m claiming that the concept explains what is perceived with a degree of precision.

46. silencio bouche - April 10, 2008

Sounds contradictory to me—Do you really mean to say that you are claiming the “concept explains”—that is you are claiming that is this is the truth –is the case –but at the same time you are denying that you are saying it is the case?

When you claim “that the concept explains what is perceived with a degree of precision” from my view you are saying something is the case–is true—-you are claiming it is the case.
So to say that you are not claiming it is the case—is contradictory to me.

I just don’t understand how an assertion you have made–is not
an assertion.

47. Huan - April 10, 2008

Ok, the equation of KE=1/2mv^2 explains physical observations under certain everyday conditions correct? Does that mean it is the case? It just means it explains certain observations, leaving room for much improvement when more observations contradict the equation. In the case of special relativity, I suppose the observation was that the speed of light is constant in a vaccum.

This is a great example of why saying A explains observation B does not mean A is the case. It just means A is a theory that makes sense out of perception B.

Just like the idea of absolute space and time made sense when we couldn’t see that light travels at a constant speed regardless of the source of light or the observer’s motion. The idea explained a limited spectrum of our perception. You don’t have to think something is the case to think it explains some set of perceptions.

Like I said when you apply this kind of thinking to an idea and not measurable data, you’d look at objections to the idea. If theres an idea that explains what you explained and the objections, that idea “wins” for the time being. Doesn’t really mean the idea that wins is necessarily the case, but it is the dominant idea until more perceptions/objections come along.

I guess pragmatism(Heres a name for you Moriae, 🙂 but I don’t know any famous pramatists. :() is why science is not faith based, it even hints at idealism, without discounting the validity of reality.

48. silencio bouche - April 10, 2008

My point really, is simple.
I am not disagreeing that one theory may be replaced by another.
I am saying that if you replace one by another–then you think it is the case that one should replace another—you are indeed thinking something is the case—namely that one should replace the other.

I am not saying that you think that the replacement is the way the world is—but you do think that it is the case that one should replace the other—and this is a statement about the state of things–about
what there is. You are saying that this is a world wherein one theory can replace another.
All I am saying is that you are saying that something is the case.
When you say “it explains certain observations” , that is an
assertion—-it is you asserting that “it explains certain observations” is true–is the case. So, from this view it is a contradiction to deny that you are saying something is the case.
It is of the nature of statements–I am arguing—that something
is asserted as the case.
There will always be something that is asserted as the case.
Suppose you say that you don’t assert that anything is the case—
well, that then is being asserted as the case.
In other words you will say that the world is a certain way.

“you don’t have to think something is the case to think it explains
some set of perceptions”—is a statement of fact—you are
indeed saying this is the case–is true. In fact you do have to think something is the case: that is the way assertions, statements work.

49. Huan - April 10, 2008

Well if you want to get technical, sure, even pragmatism claims that something is the case. To me it’s just a way of thinking about knowledge, but if you want to call it thinking something is the case that’s fine by me. As long as you don’t think that I’m claiming certain theories are absolute.

I guess by your definitions I’m not really claiming that nothing is the case, I’m simply claiming that nothing is absolute. I guess this whole discussion has been just a giant play with words, little disagreements here.

To me theres a huge difference between saying “arranging these puzzle pieces this way makes use of all the pieces given” from “arranging these puzzle pieces this way is the ‘case'”, but I suppose one could argue that no matter what you say you’re stating a “case”. Though what is a case if it isn’t disputed? Can you dispute that E=MC^2 explains physical observations without perceiving something we haven’t seen before? Could anyone dispute that KE=1/2mv^2 explained physical observations back in the days?

You can only dispute these types of “cases” with observations that weren’t included right? I suppose even then you could STILL define a “case” as any statement what so ever, whether it can be disputed or not.

The statement of “KE=1/2mv^2 explains physical observations that fitted” can NOT be disputed at all. Even now days that statement still holds true, even if the equation has improved. This is of course different from ideas like reductionist materialism, which has counter-cases.

So if there are no possible counter-cases, does it still count as a case? That is my question for you.

50. Huan - April 10, 2008

To add on to that, even reductionist materialism can be without counter cases. All it has to do is limit its supposed explanation power to what it does explain, without blatantly ignoring things like qualia. With that it would be a statement without counter-cases, wouldn’t it?

51. silencio bouche - April 11, 2008

“if there are no counter cases, does it still count as a case?”

I think you are saying that those who hold the formula e=mc2 correct-will not change their minds unless they think some novel observation that should be explained by the formula is not explained by the formula.

So the formula e=mc2 cannot be disputed unless there is some new observation that is not explained by it.
It is not clear however that just because most physicists agree that it
the formula explains all the relevant phenomena –it would necessarily be the case that others who might disagree must be discounted.
It is possible to think that the formula does not explain an aspect of the old phenomena that many think it explains. A novel observation is
not needed to disagree.

What if a physicist thinks a theory or formula does explain most but not all the old phenomena (no new observations) supposed to—this is not uncommon in physics—-can’t see anything wrong.
Are you saying that such a situation is not possible?

Also, it is possible to argue that a new observation is not meant to be explained by the formula—but by some other.

It is even possible to argue that those who say they think the formula is correct–have no basis to say this–because if they do not truly understand its meaning –because if they did they would not think it explains what it aims to.

“all one has to do is limit its supposed explanation power to what it does explain”—-
Even so limited it seems to me one may assert that the explanation does not hold.

If you say that one needs proper grounds upon which to disagree
—–well then one may disagree about what grounds are proper.

Tell me what it is to explain.
What makes E=mc2 explain?
If it predicts–then what is it to predict?
Some may say it does predict some nay not.
It will come down to saying that something simply is the case.
It does predict because what I saw means that the prediction came
It does not predict because what I saw means the prediction did not
having coming true is doubtful.

52. Huan - April 11, 2008

I’m definitely not saying to discount those who disagree, objections are what improves these ideas anyways. There doesn’t have to be new observations for the theory to falter, qualia is no new observation and it sure does falter reductionist materialism. I think you’re saying that whether something explains some perception is itself highly subjective, I’d have to agree. Though that does not mean things are necessarily reduced to cases.

E=mc2 accounts mathematically for many observations, I don’t think one could dispute its validity, perhaps its limitations. When it comes to math, it’s kind of hard to dispute the validity of these famed equations, I mean even newton mechanics can’t really be disputed. Think of the nature of these equations, they calculate the observations within their limitations very precisely. How does one dispute math? Numbers are just names we gave to an observed phenomenon, how do you dispute the naming of something?

I suppose you’d have to give me a case of one of these objections, I personally don’t see how these equations’ validity can be doubted. Science simply doesn’t seem to leave room for doubting of the very validity of these equations, it only leaves room for improvements upon them.

It’s a different story with ideas of course, but if you get technical it’s the same deal. You could raise the objection that a certain explanation is insufficient, but how would you raise that objection? You’d raise it by saying this explanation does not cover all that is perceived, or that it predicts what can not possibly be perceived. Therefore once an idea covers all the objections’ demands, it will no longer have counter cases. One may still object, but if the objection falls under what has already been covered, of course that doesn’t do anything to the idea.

The point is to come up with an idea that will necessarily dismiss the objections even to those who objected, if this is not done then there will be counter cases that must necessarily be dealt with. Which would indeed make each idea a case, and nothing more. Of course this is speaking from a point of view that discounts blind belief and dedication. Given that the one raising objections is open to dismissing his own objections, there stands a possibility for cases without counter cases, cases that cover everything perceived at a given time.

So getting down to the key objection you raised, simply claiming that you explained something doesn’t do the trick, it will indeed leave your idea a case. One has to be careful how he deals objections, because the different methods will either convince the other side or ignore them. (Once again this is only temporary, given a period of time, a certain idea could explain perceptions within that time without objections from perceptions within that time. )

I’m not saying all of our perceptions can end up being explained by a case without counter cases, I’m simply describing what I think is the process we’re partaking in, and a process it is, an “endless” improvement upon ideas. Mainly it’s a criticism on partisanship if anything.

53. silencio bouche - April 11, 2008

One could object that a theory doesn’t explain any of what it is supposed to.
Physicists disagree on many things. There are even physicists who
think the standard model of the universe is wrong. That you don’t see what could be wrong with an equation is no barrier to someone who does.
Ultimately, it comes down to two physicists saying to each other “I think you’re wrong”—about what the theory explains, and why and the math describing the phenomena and so on.
If I hold that the brain’s activities explain consciousness and you don’t —what will you say?
What is it to explain something? Such fundamental questions are always at hand and underlie scientific disputes.
Philosophical questions are fundamental—they deal with basic
assumptions and conclusions and so on–that all understanding is
based upon. These issues are always debatable, arguable.
The basis of mathematics, what is mathematics, is always debatable.
Your approach seems to be simply to affirm the conventional
ideas of scientific endeavour, all of which are questionable at
many levels.

54. Huan - April 11, 2008

The point isn’t to claim that you explain something like I already said, it’s to quell all objections even to those who object. If I convince those who objects against my ideas with an idea that they won’t object against, then how would there be two cases? The problem is most people hold on to their cases very dearly, they refuse to consider counter cases or better ideas.

Disagreements may always exist, but what we perceive is not really debated. When we talk of red we might not see the same thing, but we generally do know red when someone points to it. Scientists might think that the current model of the universe is wrong, but I seriously doubt any of them even dare to challenge newton mechanics. All they can say is that the current model is insufficient and only an estimate, that’s as far as they could possibly go.

E=MC^2 and KE=1/2MV2 express patterns within perceptions, I can’t think of them as cases at all, however you define them. I can’t even begin to fathom how a scientist would begin to call Newton Mechanics wrong, they could only say it’s insufficient. Could 1+1=2 be wrong? Could names we give to observed phenomenons be wrong? If not why can patterns from perceptional data be wrong if it limits itself to the perceptions that the patterns came from?

If you hold that brain’s activities explain consciousness and I don’t, I’d obviously tell you why is it that I don’t. I mean given that we generally see the same relative contrast between perceived things, why would we be hopelessly split in ideas? I think it’s just because we tend to project our limited ideas to beyond their capabilities, causing conflict and disagreement, which in turn leads to dogmatism. (And leading to the cases you speak of.)

If people stopped thinking of things as comfortable truth cases, and started thinking of things as tools used to organize perceptions, then perhaps we’d be able to let go of ideas and improve upon them.

55. Huan - April 11, 2008

In other words, if we stopped arguing like “Well obviously there is only material things” or “Well obviously there are only ideas”, and started arguing like “well with the idea of materialism we could include certain perceived features and with the idea of idealism we could include certain other features” then we’d actually get somewhere.

People would naturally be less dogmatic, there would be less claiming of things as cases and necessary truth. Different ideas would no longer be opposing ideas, they’d be freely exchanging and progressing, ending partisanship for good.

56. Moriae - April 12, 2008

Ok, guys. You guys badly need a beer. So–Lets’ suppose a man came home late at night, and when he walked into his bedroom, a scene “appeared” to him that suspiciously looked like his wife was in bed with the gardener and the postman. What would constitute a “misapprehension” of what seems to be the ‘facts’ to his mind? Should he be impressed if his wife suggested to him that he “shouldn’t believe his lying eyes,” because after all, being color blind, he’s made many mistakes before in what he thought he apprehended through that thing which we call sight? For instance, why would we think one aspect of our sight is actually ‘correct’ when other aspects aren’t considered correct by others because they come up with different results? Which of the “contruals” you two dispute about would justify best he getting pissed, the idealist position or the materialist view? If he were to kill one of them, which of the ‘construals’ would offer the best chances for an acquittal? And then, suppose, if his wife asks him to join in, would the ‘meaning’ he applied to her words accurately correspond to her intentions because of something inherent to the molecular vibrations she caused in the air between him and her through that thing we call speech? Or is this something that merely takes place in his head and is completely unrelated to what little goes on in his wife’s head? If this were the case, could this be counted by a jury as a mitigating ‘fact.’ Or could he, due to an ‘idealist’ aberation in his own mind, mistake her ‘meaning’ by thinking she was asking him to take one of the extra guys for himself to free her up for a one on one? Is the mistake in meaning conveyed in the actual molecular vibrations between the two, or could the mistake be completely non-material and simply be a reflection of a latent impulse he’s harbored for quite sometime, unbeknownest to his wife, to try a man in his wife’s stead? I’m trying to think how I could use my understanding of how I think I understand E=MC2 to clear this up, but I’m at a complete loss because it seems it all kind of depends on what I think I mean by ‘think.’ But I’m begining to doubt that a man has really earned the right to ‘think’ his wife is cheating on him simply because he “thinks” he sees other men in his bed each night with his wife. It seems hard to ‘see’ this one through. Is there any help? Married, but in doubt.

57. silencio bouche - April 12, 2008

You have an interesting point of view that provokes my own thought.

I enjoy a multiplicity of ideas also–but some will agree with others and some won’t and I see this as normal and ok.
Consensus is an aim of science —but science also changes by a clash of contending theories—and there is always dissenting minority.
A few mathematicians don’t accept that the recent working out of a longstanding math problem Poincare’s by a Russian mathematician–actually solves the problem.
What are you going to say? That these dissenters are dogmatic?

if I say that 1 +1 is 3, because I have different rules than you do
concerning what these symbols mean and how they operate,
—the reply might be that my rules are incorrect.
But this is debatable also.

Disagreement will come down to one person saying that he
simply sees it a different way—like one person who sees an
object as red and another who sees it as orange.
What can you say?——–
“You should see this as red for x,y and z reasons and because we

“Could the names we give to observed phenomena be wrong?”
What category (which is what it is to give a name) a thing
is put into can vary greatly from person to person:
You say it’s orange, I say it is red. You say it is a color, I say it is
a feeling—Are we talking about the same thing?
What is the thing we are talking about?

I like your idea that people should simply be exchanging and progressing–but progress requires that people disagree–that
is how progress happens–by someone having a differing idea and point of view—and points of view that held onto tightly.
Science is full of contending theories.
It will come down to someone saying–“I am sticking to my point of view –I disagree with yours”.
You may get a group of folks around you with whom you can agree to find some synthesis of your differing theories—Like some Hegelian thing. But you will exclude those who aren’t interested in
such cooperation–who don’t see it as the optimum strategy.
Any theory—whether generally accepted or not—must be tentative–must be liable to be replaced–

If someone says that a color is not red as you hold, but orange, and so disagrees with you. What will you say? That he is not seeing correctly? What is the difference between seeing correctly and having a different word than you for the same color–how would you tell?

Or I could even argue it is invalid because the definition of explanation it meets is incorrect.
That is crazy, you might say–but then we may debate what crazy is.
My point is not that people cannot come to agreement, but that
it is always possible to find another point of view within which what you hold is not correct. I don’t think it is necessarily optimum to think
that it is incorrect to have differing points of view that do not reconcile or synthesize into a scheme that all agree on.

— “patterns within perceptions” is already a metaphysical theoretical construct, a point of view—that you have assumed.

If dogmatism is a particular way of thinking that is held onto to the exclusion of other
I get that you want people to agree with you or you with them– this is most valuable to you—but why? What is your goal in getting such agreements?

58. Moriae - April 12, 2008

Garcon, More beers than I expected are needed!

59. Huan - April 12, 2008

I suppose pragmatism works on the premise that most people generally see the same things, or at least it focuses on the things we do collectively see. When contemplating this ethical judgment your raise one must take into account the difference in perception, since generally speaking we are able to relatively categorize perception the same way, even if my red isn’t your red. I mean of course the colorblind husband is capable of coming up with ideas to “organize” his perceptions, but being the observer it’s a different case.

We as the story listeners know that the husband perceives differently than a normal person, and if we were there watching the whole thing go down we’d have perhaps very different ideas from the colorblind husband to explain the things we perceived. I mean I guess it all goes back to the frame of reference thing, right?

Now regarding the joining in part, funny stuff. 🙂 I’d say the materialist would argue that even the husbands’ thoughts themselves were neural connections, and the vibration of the wife telling him to join in is part of the material causal chain that triggered those neural connections leading to her or the postman’s demise. The idealist would most likely stick to the “why are these neural connections these thoughts” argument, and the materialist would dismiss it completely. I don’t know I might be wrong with this, but that seems to be what it ultimately comes down to.

I mean from what I know of science, E=MC^2 is just about impossible to prove wrong, the only way you could prove it wrong is by calling it a gigantic coincidence of statistical correlation, which is rather absurd.

To leave one more comment on the tragedy befallen upon the married couple, the husband’s mistake was taking his idea that he used to explain his limited perception and extending it to what is outside his limits. We only know of his limits because there are observers outside his limits, if there were no observers that saw his limit his ideas would be “truth”. These also aren’t just opposing perceptions, one frame of reference includes the other one.

Pragmatism does get a bit twisted when referring to different frames of references though, luckily we humans generally perceive similar enough “perceptional categorization” to work things out.

Here’s a counter example. Consider if there are aliens that are able to perceive six dimensions instead of four. Their ability to perceive more “precisely” would allow them to see that our perception capabilities are limited. To them our ideas would only be able to explain four out of six of their dimensions, and what’s truth to them would be more “precise” than what’s truth to us. To us though, if we were unaware of the aliens we’d think of our ideas plenty capable of explaining what we see. If we were aware of the aliens and their “precision”, we would still be unable to discount our own ideas, (like newton mechanics) yet we’d see more “precise truth” if they showed us how to see the two extra dimensions.

60. Huan - April 12, 2008

Beers would be great, all this reading and thinking is hurty for my brains.

61. Huan - April 12, 2008

Response to Silencio:

I don’t doubt that pragmatism is but a point of view, but pragmatism passes its own claims without much problems, as opposed to other ideas of knowledge and truth. (The more dogmatic ones.)

If you say my apple is green and I say my apple is red, there’d be a consensus that something fishy is causing us to NOT perceive the relationships between categories of perception similarly. How did we find out that people were colorblind? We found out by perceiving that they perceive differently. Can one argue that they perceive things wrong? I would say no, they could only argue that they perceive things in a limited fashion.

I mean if you think about it, red and orange are just names we gave to perceptions that we collectively made. So if it does come down to I see red but you see orange, we’d take just take into account that the names we’re using are either insufficient or that some idea is needed to address this difference in perception. This is when we’d start looking for correlations, such as say maybe the sun is out causing red to be orange from one angle.

I simply don’t think it has to come down to “I’m right you’re wrong!” I can’t really think of a case where right and wrong can not possibly be addressed. If you want to say 1+1=3 because your 3 is my 2, I’d address that and debate with you about the utilitarian consequences of coming up with a radical new set of symbols. I don’t have to say 1+1=2 is necessarily correct, not at all.

I’m not saying we must ultimately all agree on the same things, that is not my goal. I’m simply saying if we held on to our ideas a little less and realize they’re just tools, we’d most likely be able to progress our ideas a lot more. Yes I agree that progression must require disagreement, but it’s not the same kind of disagreement as “I’m right you’re wrong”, opposing partisan cases will get us nowhere.

If disagreement meant “I have perceived things that are not included in your idea” like science, then things would work out a lot better. I’m not saying scientists are not biased as well, but the essence of science is not to create biases, and neither is the essence of pragmatism.

I mean in other words, partisan disagreement doesn’t aim for progression, pragmatic disagreement does.

62. silencio bouche - April 15, 2008


Interesting scenario— like a philosophical Dear Abbey letter.
Maybe if she said the gardener was logically extending the meaning of “to plant seed” or “to fertilize” and the plumber “to plumb” or “blow out the pipes”—or extending the meaning of “house call”.
But seriously folks,
So the scenario is–if a husband thinks that another in bed with his wife is a bad thing—-and the husband is convinced that this has happened–should he refuse to be convinced by his wife that he is

Are you saying that the husband has no justification for
believing his wife? According to what criteria?
if he says ” oh, gee, I guess you’re right dear–my eyesight is not what it was–” or some such—is he then unjustified?

63. Huan - April 15, 2008

I would say he is perfectly justified to doubt his own eyesight, knowing his limited “precision” of perception. Considering that he is in an environment where color “precision” is necessary to a degree, he is obligated to bridge the gap through one method or another.

One of these methods is of course perceiving through the eyes of others. We know that perceiving through the eyes of others is removed from direct perception, but in certain situations it’s the only tool available. One example being the physics student who doesn’t get to shoot photons in laboratories, his only option is to read about other people shooting photons in laboratories.

So I suppose the justification is utilitarianism in my opinion. (I don’t know any famous utilitarians either 😦 )

64. silencio bouche - April 15, 2008

Regarding alien scenario:

If Eskimos recognize 100 different types of snow—make around 100 distinctions versus just a few for non-Eskimos like us.
Do we say that we see too little—don’t see enough of what is actually there and Eskimos see the truth—or do we say that the Eskimos are seeing things that aren’t there-that they are in some way hallucinating or mistaken. Or do we say that-that their vision of things is overly and unnecessarily complicated?
What is the relation between how we divide things up and the way things are? Or is there a way things are beyond what we hold to be
the way things are?

65. Huan - April 15, 2008

Well my last post kind of addressed this I think. This was one point professor Campbell’s powerpoint, utility. We can recognize that Eskimos have more “precise” perception of snow, we can even recognize that aliens with six dimensions have more “precise” perception of the universe, yet how useful this “precision is to us depends on our situations/environment/conditions. This seems to be the case at least.
(I’m making a lot of this stuff up along the way so please point it out if theres anything that doesn’t make sense.)

66. silencio bouche - April 16, 2008

The question is what is perception and what is perception of snow? Are you saying that
the Eskimo distinctions are actually there to see in the snow or are they making distinctions that are not in the snow?
How would you tell? Suppose you don’t see the distinctions they
make in the snow—what would you assume?

Your word “precise” Implies that there is something independent
of the vision of the person that may be seen more precisely by
some than others. So, there is something the case a world
independent —a split between the mind and the world—-
—-is there then such a split?

If the Eskimos see the distinctions and the non-Eskimos do not
how to tell if the distinction is in the person or in the snow?

Are the Eskimo and non-Eskimo referring to the same thing
when they say snow? How would you tell?
Unless the Eskimo and the non-Eskimo see the same thing how
can there be a precise or non-precise “perception” of the snow?
If each has his own vision—-then it seems there is no different perception of snow–because snow is not independent of the seer
they are not perceiving the same thing.—and we are back to Berkeley’s vision of minds and God as the only existents—and God as the guarantor that each mind sees the same thing.

On Pragmatism
“pragmatism” —is whatever works, and what works is up to
the individual, right? So for me “pragmatism” can be anything, as long as I think is it useful to me–works for me.
But this means that I can say that my not believing or acting in accordance with pragmatism is useful and pragmatic.
In other words, if I have decided that if don’t act in a way that is pragmatic–it is pragmatic.
A contradiction.

Einstein considered Quantum Physics to be a poor theory because it substituted abstract probabilities for entities in the world—
is Einstein being dogmatic in saying that Quantum is wrong–despite the fact that Quantum predicts well?
How could Quantum be wrong? What is Einstein saying?

67. Huan - April 16, 2008

The point isn’t that each mind has to see the same, as long as they categorize relativity the same. If my red is actually your blue, but we both call it red, it doesn’t matter if we see the same things at all.

By precision I meant if one is able to tell different tastes of wine precisely, or if one is able to count time by milliseconds and refer to events that way. Or like that alien race, being able to reference the universe in six dimensions instead of four. Do you think that the aliens or the wife are so advanced in their “precision” making the less advanced humans or husband incapable of even relating to them? I think this is not the case, since the colorblind are still able to see what we see with less “precision”.

I’m not trying to say theres necessarily a piece of bread out there and we’re cutting it up into bigger or smaller pieces with our eyes, I can’t hope to make that claim with certainty. Though regardless of what is “really” out there, it would only matter if someone was actually observing what’s “really” out there. We get what we see, and what we see relates to what others see, and that relationship in our categorization of perception allows me to use the word “precision” without necessarily implying a split.

You’re making it sound like human dispositions are somehow without cause and each to its own brilliance, though I must disagree. It is precisely that attitude that drives us into dogmatic partisan thoughts, preventing progression of ideas.

This isn’t about whether we “believe” that something works, it’s really about the ability to question your own beliefs. Pragmatism looks at all ideas as mere tools, nothing more than tools to deal with what we perceive. What works isn’t necessarily just up to the individual if you were to be rigorous with your ideas, it’s a process of challenging or having people challenge your ideas.

Einstein considered quantum physics imperfect, he didn’t consider it wrong. He tried desperately to come up with a counter theory of local realism, yet he failed. Whether it’s because we don’t have enough perceptions, or because his personal beliefs were simply misplaced I do not know.

All Einstein was trying to say is that quantum mechanics is but an estimate, and that things are not so probabilistic in reality we’re just currently incapable of precision. He couldn’t possibly deny the predictions of quantum mechanics, he couldn’t possibly say they’re just wrong, he could only say they’re insufficient.

68. Huan - April 16, 2008

Oh and one example, sometimes dogmatism does work better than pragmatism, since human psychology is immensely imperfect. We have to make vows to ourselves to “trick” ourselves into doing with dedication things sometimes, if that’s what you’re referring to I don’t see how it’s a contradiction.

I guess I see pragmatism as an underlining background idea, a natural process of human evolution that only can be seen when looking way outside the box. Not much of a dogmatic claim to me if that’s what you’re getting at.

69. Huan - April 16, 2008

Ok sorry to triple post but I must draw a distinction between utilitarianism and pragmatism. Pragmatism is a bit more focused on epistemology, and utilitarianism is a bit more focused on ethics.

Whatever works is more utilitarian, and tools for perception is more pragmatic. Theres a slight distinction but it seems you’ve caught on to it.

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