[lit-ideas] It's not the color it's the Humemidity

  • From: "Mike Geary" <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 2 Jul 2009 23:47:06 -0500

I'm confused.  We all know there's no such thing as color, there's just varying 
wavelengths of reflected light.  Names given to specific  wavelengths are 
totally arbitrary as is the choice of wavelength band to which that name 
applies.  There's no reason not to call all the visible wavelength "blue".  It 
you can see it, it's blue.  But we have found it useful to ascribe arbitrary 
names to arbitrary bands of wavelengths.  And, of course, what "color" one sees 
-- such as the green of grass -- is an outright lie, grass isn't green, the 
wavelength corresponding to what we call green is the wavelength that grass 
rejects, throws off, dispenses with -- green is grass's trash wavelengths of 
electromagnetic radiation.   Be glad it's not orange.

Here's my question.  We live analog lives but we know that physics is discrete. 
 As an analog being I give wide berth to the blues.  Were I  a physicist, I can 
imagine denying any "shades of blue" in favor of claiming each discrete 
wavelength within the " blue" wavelength band a different color, however many 
hundreds, thousands, millions that might be wouldn't matter, precision matters 
in physics.  But I'm not a physicist, thank God, and never could be given my 
propensities, nor a philosopher and never could be given my lackadasicalness.  
But this question seems to me to transcend physics and philosophy.  It's about 
interior decoration.          

Mike Geary

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Thursday, July 02, 2009 1:02 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Hume's Missing Shade of Blue

Okay, so now our resident Bremen-children having W. O. -- Russian  
philosopher -- says it's grue. 
In a message dated 7/1/2009 10:12:38 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
rpaul@xxxxxxxx writes:

>Hume's words are deceiving. There is no _single_ shade of blue that is  
>the missing shade. Any shade of blue may be missing from a color chart  
>that ranges from the darkest to the lightest shade, so any shade may  
>turn out to be a missing shade: there will be a long disjunctive list of  
>'shades,' and whether a certain one is 'missing' is in the eye and the  
>imagination of the beholder.
>So, there cannot be a missing shade  of blue until one has found it to be 
>missing. Even Mr. Trogge cannot  tell from looking at his prize garment 
>if it's one of the missing ones,  let alone _the_ missing one. Only by 
>examining Hume's original chart,  which is in the Mutton archives, can 
>this be known.
>How to get  out of this predicament is a second-order philosophical 
>problem; but not  for everyone.
I see. 
Yes, I await with anticipation.
I hope he likes it anyway, missing or not.
I see Hume was slightly confused in parts.
I for one, cannot think that one person SHOULD HAVE seen all shades of  
blue. They (i.e. the shades of blue) as the wiki entry notes, are possibly  
INFINITE, since (as Fogelin notes) it is a continuum. And surely I cannot have  
an INFINITE number of impressions.
Nor can Herr Trogge.
I think Hume was so _scared_ about this concession -- that an idea may not  
derive from sensory input -- that he wanted to minimise it by talking of 
'shade'  of _blue_.
Now, consider the way Geary learned 'blue'.
"Yes, Michael, the sky is blue", replied his mother.
"Yes, the china is Dresden blue; very well Michael", replied his  
"I'm blue" -- B. B. King.
"Very well, B. B. King", said Young Michael.
We _assume_ the spectrum Geary _saw_ includes both light- and deep-shades  
of blue and medium blue in between.
Should we assume that Geary has seen ALL (infinite) shades of blue? Surely  
not! (Only Berkeley's GOD could have perceived that). So there have to be A 
FEW  (maybe an infinite number) of shades of blue that Geary is unware of.
There may be a whole new colour that he has never perceived in  Memphis.
When I studied the Birds of Paradise, for example, -- in the Museum of La  
Plata --, I noticed that some shades of blue were not found in La Pampa 
Hume also supposes that we have genial memories. Surely Geary may have  
FORGOTTEN about a shade of blue. So, to assume that, when exposed to the shade  
of blue, Geary will retrieve a remembered impression seems  optimistic.
Consider apples and cardinals.

Surely I have an idea of 7,689,878 apples. Although I do not have an  
_impression_ of that.
Geary and Hume and McEvoy and Kant will say that cardinals are _synthetic a 
 priori_ but as a Millian I disagree.
And what's sauce for the cardinals, should be sauce for other birds,  too.
J. L. Speranza
   Buenos Aires, Argentina
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