[hist-analytic] Question for Bruce on

Bruce Aune aune at philos.umass.edu
Sun Nov 8 07:45:15 EST 2009


Steve recently sent this response to an email in which, having been  
asked what a determinate color is, I told him to reread my discussion  
of Tom., Mary, and Harry, who argue about a particular color they  
see.  (That particular color is an example of a determinate color.)  
Since others have expressed an interest in this matter, I am sending  
on cite Steve's reponse and my response to that response.

Steve's response: I don't see the discussion of Tom, Mary, and Harry  
as clarifying matters much.
One problem is that you were only talking about what color things appear
to be, not what colors are. I don't think my puzzlement, nor  
Barnette's, is
uwarranted. Recall, that you  say (somewhat sarcastically - nothing  
personal, purely
philosophically) that if a de re "correlate" (?) for 'red' is needed  
then the best
we can expect is, merely, a "fuzzy set," so it's not a crazy question  
to ask how you
get determinateness out of a fuzzy set. Now we are into degrees and  
ranges,
but when I see a red rubber ball there is nothing fuzzy about the  
color, or so it
seems. So on the one hand there is fuzzyness; then there is what color  
things appear
to be according to different people (none of whom, I suppose, need be  
"right");
and if we had three hands, then, we might get something "specifiable  
by a
quantified formula" etc. No, I think the question of what you  mean by  
a determinate
color needs to be stated more definitively. I don't think the  
suggestion that people
aren't reading the book etc. will resolve what is a very reasonable  
question.

My response to Steve:

I think you seriously misunderstand my discussion of the May, Tom, and  
Harry case. So I will go over your comments and relate them to what I  
actually said in my chapter.

1. You say, "One problem is that you were only talking about what  
color things appear to be, not what colors are."  This is wrong.  I  
did talk about how three different people classified the  color (the  
specific, determinate color) that all three of them saw.  But I had  
noting to say about a mere appearance.

2.  You add that I  say "(somewhat sarcastically - nothing personal,  
purely philosophically) that if a de re "correlate" (?) for 'red' is  
needed then the best
we can expect is, merely, a "fuzzy set," so it's not a crazy question  
to ask how you get determinateness out of a fuzzy set."  Fact: I  
wasn't being sarcastic; I was pointing our that if a de re correlate  
for the word "red" (the word that applies to an enormous number of  
different shades of red) were needed, the most we could expect is a  
fuzzy set.  Why fuzzy?  Because the shades in question are not sharply  
delimited.  There are a great many clear cases of red shades  
(vermillion, scarlet, red madder would be instances) but there are  
also many borderline cases, where the instances, though reddish to  
some degree, could be classified otherwise--for instance, as reddish  
orange, which would be a shade of orange--just as an orangish red  
would be a shade of orange.

3.  When you conclude, "so it's not a crazy question to ask how you  
get determinateness out of a fuzzy set,"  you get things exactly  
backwards:  We have no need to get determinateness out of a fuzzy set;  
we have to form a set from the determinate shades that we can  
encounter in experience.

3.  You then say, "Now we are into degrees and ranges,but when I see a  
red rubber ball there is nothing fuzzy about the color, or so it
seems."  Of course.  The ball you see (assuming it to be homogeneous  
in color) is, if red, a determinate shade of red.  There is nothing  
fuzzy about a determinate shade.  (If you are hung up on the word  
"determinate," which has a long history in philosophy, use the words  
"specific shade").  What is fuzzy is the class of specific shades, the  
class of reds.

4.  Finally, you say" "So on the one hand there is fuzzyness; then  
there is what color things appear to be according to different  
people."  You have the dichotomy wrong here.  There is the fuzziness  
of the class of red shades (or green or yellow shades) and then there  
are specific shades that are in the class, the specific shades that  
people see. When I speak of a determinate color, I mean the specific  
color shades that people can see.

5. Steve's misunderstanding of my discussion may have resulted from an  
ambiguity that is attached to a world like "red."  A red object--that  
is, an object belonging to the class of red things--may change in  
color but nevertheless remain red.  How is this possible?  Because it  
may change from  being scarlet to being vermillion.  Things that are  
scarlet are rightly classified as red and so are things that are  
vermillion.  As I see it, it is entirely possible (conceptually) for  
an object with a single shade of color to be rightly classifiable  
(according to some accepted classificatory scheme) as an instance of  
two different generic colors--for instance, green and yellow.  But no  
thing, I argue, can have more than one specific color-shade (if it is  
not spotted, for instance).

Both Steve and Ron Barnett ask what I take color to be.  In one post  
Steve asked if I take it to be a property of an object that causes a  
certain kind of color sensation.  As it happens, I have considered  
views on the nature of color as a natural phenomenon (I discussed it  
at length in my fist book and a couple of years before I retired I  
gave a graduate seminar on the subject), but I did not try to insert  
those views into my discussion of the color example in my second and  
third chapters.  Why didn't I?  Because I was concerned with an  
epistemological issue involving an alleged impossibility.  That issue  
involves a naive conception of color.  Color is something that once  
can directly observe (according to the example), and the red and  
greens thus observable cannot (it is argued) belong to the same object  
at the same time. I did not argue with the "given" of the issue.  I  
did argue about the way it should be resolved.  Saying more about what  
I personally take color to be will simply take us away from the issue  
in question.

Bruce Aune


(countable and uncountable) Any of a range of colours having the  
longest wavelengths, 670nm, of the visible spectrum; a primary  
additive colour for transmitted light: the colour obtained by  
subtracting green and blue from white light using magenta and yellow  
filters.




























Best regards, Bruce
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