Two things about colors worth considering (the first thing)
Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on July 13, 2006
The identity of intentional matter can be discussed in different contexts. For example the issue of transcendence of intentional matter might be seen as other way to refer to the identity of intentional matter across different intentional acts (see here for example). Here I will put attention to two intra-subjective cases of transcendence connected to the concept of color.
Concept of color transcending specific colors
We may learn what color is from experience. People point to things and say “This is green color.”, and “This is red color.”. Of course there are lot of things about the things they point to, and on which you might focus. It might be the color, but also it might be the shape, it might be the distance from some other object, it might be the left-right position if both objects are in front of us, and so on. Obviously the part of learning is to find in the experience what the words mean.
If I’m to teach my child, I will talk about most salient features of things, those things, properties that attract the child focus. Of course I can even do it other way, I can check what the child is looking at, and say the word for it.
What seems to make it easy is that what is salient is going top-bottom, from the gestalts to the separate properties and so on. If a rabbit runs in front of us, if the child looks at it, I know its focus is on the rabbit, and not on the color of its fur. So, this makes it easy… I can say “rabbit”, and be pretty sure that from the whole situation the child will notice my saying “rabbit” when I see one.
Now, colors are little more problematic then rabbits, I thought for example that it would be easy to teach my child to colors if I show her shining lights in different colors on the Christmas tree, and tell her the words. But not so… while she was learning names for other things easily, it was not so for those different colors. After some time when she saw a colored thing she would say one of the colors “green”, “blue”, “red”… just random any… Obviously she was noticing that there is something about the colors, but seems she experienced them as colored things, that being colored was the salient feature which they all shared. I think she couldn’t focus on the specificity of the colors, and that’s why those “green”, “blue”, “red”… they were all used for what we would call “color”.
But how can child notice color if not as specific color?
This is not something specific for children though. Imagine that you haven’t seen e.g. cyan color whole your life… And then you see a cyan object… And you say “Wow, strange color, it is like green, but then it is like blue also”. But if you have never seen that color, how do you know it is a color?
So, from those two examples it seems that identity of concept of color doesn’t belong to some kind of set of experienced colors. Even if we learn the use of the word “color” only connected to a specific colors, we still see some new specific color as color. It seems even that we learn that word “color” refers to that salient feature of being in color which we can extract from the gestalt, before even being able to put attention on the specificity of the color.
So there are two (seemingly contradicting) things – the identity of color is not based on specific colors, but it is always some specific color (or several of them) on base of which we can understand the concept of color.