[lit-ideas] Re: Hume's Missing Shade of Blue

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 1 Jul 2009 11:07:38 EDT

In a message dated 6/30/2009 10:58:20 P.M.  Eastern Daylight Time,
atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:
Or are we just
such a  bore in all our concerns?


Not necessarily, Mr. Communication.

But yet, you have failed to answer Hume's puzzle.

There you are listing as a problem of philosophy,

"Where do new ideas come from?"

and quoting, totally out of context, a Nazi.

Hume is clear in this respect. Imagine 'colour' can be defined objectively
by the position in the spectrum (caveat: Dalton)

          blue              scarlet             green
yellow                mauve           purple

Hume is saying, "Imagine a man ('call him Karl Troegge'). He is given a 
T-shirt -- Fearing Daltonism, he asks, 'what colour is it'. The professor Paul
 answers, "The missing shade of Hume's blue".

Is it conceivable to rephrase Geary's question, more philosophically. As I

the issue is not where NEW ideas come from but where ideas (simpliciter)
come from.

For Hume, but for nobody else, they came from IMPRESSIONS (cfr.

Now, Karl Troegge is regaled with a T-shirt of a shade he has no impression
 of --. Is he imaginative enough to 'fill' in the missing link? Hume say,
he  'can't'. (Or, in Walter Ok. -- I intend to write a post on Russian
philosophy,  today --'s preferred spelling, "he kant").

Hume writes: "He will see a BLANK -- for if he has no prior impression of
this shade of blue, he surely cannot form the idea".

Unless the idea is a combination of other things?

Geary should explain all this.

J. L. Speranza
   Buenos Aires, Argentina

>The Missing Shade of Blue is an example introduced by the Scottish
philosopher David Hume
>to show that it is at least
>             conceivable
>that the mind can generate an idea without first  being exposed to the
relevant sensory experience.
>In both A Treatise of Human Nature and An Enquiry Concerning Human
Understanding Hume argues that all perceptions of the mind can be classed as
>either 'Impressions' or 'Ideas'. He further argues that
>There is, however, one contradictory phaenomenon, which may prove, that
it is not absolutely impossible for ideas to arise, independent of their
>correspondent impressions. I believe it will readily be allowed, that the
several distinct ideas of colour, which enter by the eye,
>are really  different from each other; though, at the same time,
resembling. Now if this be  true of different colours, it must be no less so 
>of the
different >SHADES  of blue; and each shade produces a distinct idea,
independent of the  rest.
>Suppose, therefore, a person to have enjoyed his sight for  thirty years,
and to have become perfectly acquainted with colours of all kinds,  except
one >particular
>SHADE OF BLUE, for instance, which it never  has been his fortune to meet
with. Let all the different shades of that colour,  except that single one,
be >placed before him, descending gradually from the  deepest to the
lightest; it is plain, that he will perceive a blank, where that  shade is 
and will be >sensible, that there is a greater distance in  that place
between the contiguous colours than in any other. Now I ask, whether  it be
possible for him, from his >own imagination, to supply this deficiency,  and
raise up to himself the idea of that particular shade, though it had never
been conveyed to him by his >senses? >I believe there are few but will be  of
opinion that he can.
>It is also said that when Hume says, “Let all the  different shades of
that colour, except that single one, be placed before him,  descending
gradually from the >deepest to the lightest; it is plain that he  will perceive 
blank, where that shade is wanting”, he is assuming that colours  are composed
of a set of distinct >independent hues when in reality they form  a
continuum. In this matter it does seem as if Hume is simply wrong.
>after experiencing the full range of colours a little experimentation
will soon show that it is much easier for most people to recognise that there
is  a missing >shade than it is for them to actually form a clear idea of
that  missing shade.
>Fogelin argues that the reason this exception is a genuine exception  that
can be safely ignored is because despite being simple ideas, colours and
>shades can be organised into a highly organised colour space.
>Hume  allows that some simple ideas can be seen to be similar to one
another without  them sharing anything in common. The proviso that they do not
share anything in  common is important because otherwise this feature might be
separated off and  this would show that the original idea was in fact
complex. In a note added to  the Treatise commenting on abstract ideas Hume 
>BLUE and GREEN are different simple ideas, but are more resembling than
>It is this very ability to recognize similarity that  enables us to
arrange the shades of blue in order and to notice that two  adjoining shades
differ more than >any two other adjoining shades.


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