[hist-analytic] The Two Color Problem, Putnam, and the Synthetic A Priori

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Wed Nov 4 07:13:27 EST 2009


I haven't presented my argument yet. The business about determinate colors 

is a good approach. Putnam has a correlative manuever. Your argument is 

somewhat different but if I am right then it falls prey to similar criticisms. Among 

them is reliance on some notion of determinate color. I don't believe you have 

given an account of what a determinate color is. Putnam understands that this 

is very important for the case. I will explain why as I go through the Putnam, 

comparing his approach to yours. 

Now I don't believe that the anatomy of the eye will provide any basis for 

solving philosophical problems. This may reflect a "metaphilosophical" difference 

between us. I don't know how signficant that will become. However, if a problem's 

solution is to be found to be solvable by medicine, then the malady was not 

philosophical to begin with, unless of course philosophy is a sort of disease 

requiring "therapy," a position that I will simply pass over in silence. A philosophical 

point unrelated to anatomy can be made here. 

I can't imagine an object with two colors at the same time all over etc. Now the 

physiological approach to philosophy will now have to be extended to cover 

memory, the imagination as a neural process, etc.  However, since I doubt the 

existence of matter and reject physicalism doing this weakens the case. No, until 

you can show that it is analytic that an object (mental or physical) cannot be 

two colors all over, then you have done nothing to dispose of the synthetic 

a priori or intuition. I will say this much about this approach: it does raise questions 

about the nature of secondary properties. Are they merely mental? But if there is 

just the brain etc, they are no different than other physical properties. It may be 

that the synthetic a priori is tied to this issue. I do find one strength in your 

position Putnam's lacks. 

Putnam has to with colors. Indeed, the problem you seem comfortable ignoring, 

the problem of defining 'determinate shades', requires, even by his own lights, 

the notion of a continuum. So Putnam says: 

"The point I am leading up to by the way is very simple: the color properties are 

not isolated ; the form a system (or better a continuum)." ("Reds, Greens, and 

Logical Analysis" _Necessary Truth_ edited by L. M. Sumner and J. Woods, 

p. 73. 

The problem is this: The approach will not address the question: why can't two 

things have the same shape at the same time? Notice there is no "all over" to 

contend with. 

By the way, even if the anatomy of the eye ruled out seeing a two colored object, 

this does nothing to dispose of the question: "CAN an object be two colors at once 

etc.?" The powers of the eye are not so important, nor the brain. Were the brain 

different we could experience infrared but so what? Esse est percipi may enter at 

some point; that is another issue. 

As for not understanding you: well maybe not. I apologize. However, I do think there 

are weaknesses or at least questions regarding your argument, in particular 

with 'determinate color' and how this ties in to your brief footnote. Whatever the 

case may be Putnam is VERY thorough in stating his reasoning towards your 

conclusion. Let me get to that soon and, perhaps, show where both your position 

and his may be in doubt. 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bruce Aune" <aune at philos.umass.edu> 
To: "hist-analytic" <hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk> 
Sent: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 6:12:09 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern 
Subject: Re: The Two Color Problem, Putnam, and the Synthetic A Priori 

Steve, Because I can't convey symbols in an email text, I include the proof you ask for in an attachment to this post. 

You say, " Even if the proof goes through, it misses the point. We all agree that a thing can't be red and green all 
over at the same time .  "  THE PROOF HARDLY MISSES THE POINT.  What I show is that the impossibility of a thing having distinct determinate colors at the same time follows from a basic convention we use in distinguishing determinate colors as we do.  We  don't  all agree that a thing can't be red and green all over at the same time.  I note in my text that this is impossible empirically (because of the way the eye works) but it is not impossible conceptually; I support this by an analogous claim about yellow and green.  (See my reminder at the end of the attached proof.) You should think that there are such things as determinate colors; non-determonate colors are generic colors, and nothing could be generically red without being a specific shade of red, that is, without having some determinate shade of it.   

I devote many pages in the chapter to criticizing the notion of self-evidence, but you seem not to be unaware of the details of my argument. Note that I did not credit Stephen Schwartz with any proposal.  He simply brought Putnam's paper to my attention; I had heard of that paper before but did not actually study it. I did not get my argument from Putnam; I thought it up myself. 

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