People generally wonder about the shape of the universe; what about color?

Or at least what color do we perceive it as, since human senses are not objective tools of perception.

Metaphysically, shape (color comes from the shape of molecules). Epistemologically, color (shape is perceived as the arrangement of colors).


I like your answer, and my initial response was to agree with you. But after thinking about the metaphysical answer for a bit, I don’t think that it is so clear to me. Color does not come from the shape of molecules. The shape of molecules that rays of light bounce off will influence the range of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation that ultimately reach our eyes, and our brain will interpret these signals in a way that gives rise to a conscious experience which we call color.

I see it two ways:

1: We define “color” as the electromagnetic fields themselves. So, a beam of 530 nm light is a green beam, and the “color” is defined objectively in this physical sense. The question then might be transformed into “what is more funtamental, the electromagnetic field or an arrangement of positions in space?” It is then not clear to me that colors are less fundamental than “shape”, because the electromagnetic interaction is one of the four fundamental forces, and it is possible to define and describe a zeroth dimensional case which requires no shape.

2: We define color as our conscious experience of light. Here we get into the hard problem of consciousness. We don’t know why we experience color. It appears that the processing of complex information gives rise through some almost super-natural and potentially un-knowable mechanism to our little movie in the head. But, if we don’t actually understand this magical jump that converts the dynamics of our brain into our consciousness, how can we say whether a physical concept (shape) or a qualitative concept (color) is more fundamental? It doesn’t seem so straight forward to me.

I’d just like to take this one step further and say that color has nothing to do with electromagnetic radiation and its wavelengths. Not at its core.

You could easily have a robo-eye that reacts to water waves or anything else that might carry similar information and converts it into a bio-chemical signal that goes into the optical nerve and into the brain and you’d see color. In fact, you can see color in your sleep/dreams with no input from outside the brain. Or less abstractly, you can see flashes of color with your eyes closed after going in a dark room after being in a bright space, because of the state of the ”irritated” chemicals in the back of your eyes. The subjective perception of color, the qualia as it is called, is something that correlates in the physical world, or has its physical correlate (noun) only to something in the brain. The EM waves are just carriers of information that supply us with information that gets experienced as color once it finds it’s appropriate home in the information structures of the brain, and the mind.

Another example of this is how people with amputated limbs can feel “phantom pain” sometimes in the non existent body parts, because the stump nerve is being appropriately irritated to send a signal to the brain, that becomes pain in the brain, independently of the existence or non-existence of the body part.

Same with irritating the ear bones, without any air waves, as with tinnitus. The air waves just carry the info usually, they’re not sound itself.

You can indeed hear EM waves’ info too, not see it, just listen to a radio.

Shape is something we experience because of the existence of space, the perception of the “category”, the concept of space in the mind.

Which one is more fundamental depends, I guess, which one you believe is more fundamental, if any, quality or concepts, perception or reason.

This would be of equal true value, whether you label things as a materialist or as an idealist, just label it then as, let’s say, matter arrangement, or laws of arrangement. Or maybe simply, matter and spacetime.

I’d say they’re of equal footing, and don’t quite go, one without the other, in the human mind, or the physical world, as we know them.

Good answer, thanks! Very informative!

I think they’re on the same level.

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