Can color exist to a blind person?


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If a person were totally blind, say born without eyes as one individual I knew years ago, can color or even the concept of color exist for that person?

I don't mean simply a definition of color as reflection of light, or a description of light as a measurement of wavelength along the electromagentic spectrum, etc. I mean the redness of red or the brownness of brown, etc.? I would assume not, as this is outside of his nature (i.e., total blindness)

If the blind person then stated that color doesn't exist and anyone who believes there is such a thing as color is irrational, would he be correct? If not, how would you prove he was incorrect?

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Mike:

We could insert a probe into the section of the brain that reacts to the stimulation of the areas that are normally stimulated by the optic nerve and stimulate that area.

A...

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If a person were totally blind, say born without eyes as one individual I knew years ago, can color or even the concept of color exist for that person?

I don't mean simply a definition of color as reflection of light, or a description of light as a measurement of wavelength along the electromagentic spectrum, etc. I mean the redness of red or the brownness of brown, etc.? I would assume not, as this is outside of his nature (i.e., total blindness)

If the blind person then stated that color doesn't exist and anyone who believes there is such a thing as color is irrational, would he be correct? If not, how would you prove he was incorrect?

A rational born-blind person hearing from the sighted about color would realize that there is something that he cannot sense and he will rationally accept any analogy within his grasp that approximates the perception he cannot experience.

For example: I know that I cannot see ultra violet. But I have no problem in conceiving ultra violet as a color which is analogous to the colors I -can- see. Likewise I accept the strong and weak force interactions even though all I can experience are the electromagnetic and gravitational interactions.

Absence of perception is not absence of the thing not perceived.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Mike:

We could insert a probe into the section of the brain that reacts to the stimulation of the areas that are normally stimulated by the optic nerve and stimulate that area.

A...

I'm nor sure your example would work as color perception/differentiation is determined by the cones and barring these, any signal transmission would be incomprehensible, but accepting your example, what might one have said 100 years ago?
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If a person were totally blind, say born without eyes as one individual I knew years ago, can color or even the concept of color exist for that person?

I don't mean simply a definition of color as reflection of light, or a description of light as a measurement of wavelength along the electromagentic spectrum, etc. I mean the redness of red or the brownness of brown, etc.? I would assume not, as this is outside of his nature (i.e., total blindness)

If the blind person then stated that color doesn't exist and anyone who believes there is such a thing as color is irrational, would he be correct? If not, how would you prove he was incorrect?

A rational born-blind person hearing from the sighted about color would realize that there is something that he cannot sense and he will rationally accept any analogy within his grasp that approximates the perception he cannot experience.

For example: I know that I cannot see ultra violet. But I have no problem in conceiving ultra violet as a color which is analogous to the colors I -can- see. Likewise I accept the strong and weak force interactions even though all I can experience are the electromagnetic and gravitational interactions.

Absence of perception is not absence of the thing not perceived.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Your example presupposes sight and both the knowledge and experience of various colors. This individual could contest whether the faculty of sight even exists.

You then wrote, "A rational born-blind person hearing from the sighted about color would realize that there is something that he cannot sense and he will rationally accept any analogy within his grasp that approximates the perception he cannot experience."

So are we then to base a belief in something we cannot perceive on the testimony of others? How can we know it to be true and not just propaganda by the masses?

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So are we then to base a belief in something we cannot perceive on the testimony of others? How can we know it to be true and not just propaganda by the masses?

You bet! Most of what we "know" is second hand. Have you been to the Antarctic in person? Probably not, but you have no doubt it exists as a continent at the south pole.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Mike:

We could insert a probe into the section of the brain that reacts to the stimulation of the areas that are normally stimulated by the optic nerve and stimulate that area.

A...

I'm nor sure your example would work as color perception/differentiation is determined by the cones and barring these, any signal transmission would be incomprehensible, but accepting your example, what might one have said 100 years ago?

It's like to insert probe inside your TV set when it runs " Gone with the wind" and learn about the movie plot and performance of actors. Perception and neurophysiological processes are connected but not identical. Perception is rather an awareness of these processes. If person is totally blind then by definition no visual perception exists for him.

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So are we then to base a belief in something we cannot perceive on the testimony of others? How can we know it to be true and not just propaganda by the masses?

You bet! Most of what we "know" is second hand. Have you been to the Antarctic in person? Probably not, but you have no doubt it exists as a continent at the south pole.

Ba'al Chatzaf

But I can actually go to the Antarctica and verify its existence and there is sufficient evidence to support its existence. Not so with the blind person who cannot conceive of color. If he can't even conceive sight, he surely can't conceive color.
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Mike:

We could insert a probe into the section of the brain that reacts to the stimulation of the areas that are normally stimulated by the optic nerve and stimulate that area.

A...

I'm nor sure your example would work as color perception/differentiation is determined by the cones and barring these, any signal transmission would be incomprehensible, but accepting your example, what might one have said 100 years ago?
It's like to insert probe inside your TV set when it runs " Gone with the wind" and learn about the movie plot and performance of actors. Perception and neurophysiological processes are connected but not identical. Perception is rather an awareness of these processes. If person is totally blind then by definition no visual perception exists for him.
I agree. Then the question becomes whether the blind person can think that a seeing person is irrational if he speaks of either sight or color.
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So are we then to base a belief in something we cannot perceive on the testimony of others? How can we know it to be true and not just propaganda by the masses?

You bet! Most of what we "know" is second hand. Have you been to the Antarctic in person? Probably not, but you have no doubt it exists as a continent at the south pole.

Ba'al Chatzaf

But I can actually go to the Antarctica and verify its existence and there is sufficient evidence to support its existence. Not so with the blind person who cannot conceive of color. If he can't even conceive sight, he surely can't conceive color.

Yes you could. But you have already accepted the existence of the place based on the testimony of a witness you trust. Much of what we "know" is of that nature. Very little of what we claim to know is gotten first from experience. And even first hand experience sometimes has to be "sanity checked" by other witnesses. That is how science works.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Mike:

We could insert a probe into the section of the brain that reacts to the stimulation of the areas that are normally stimulated by the optic nerve and stimulate that area.

A...

I'm nor sure your example would work as color perception/differentiation is determined by the cones and barring these, any signal transmission would be incomprehensible, but accepting your example, what might one have said 100 years ago?
It's like to insert probe inside your TV set when it runs " Gone with the wind" and learn about the movie plot and performance of actors. Perception and neurophysiological processes are connected but not identical. Perception is rather an awareness of these processes. If person is totally blind then by definition no visual perception exists for him.
I agree. Then the question becomes whether the blind person can think a seeing person irrational if he speaks of either sight or color.

And why not? We don't directly perceive X-rays but talk about them all the time. We function on conceptual, not perceptual level. Blind person could perceive visual information by using other senses. He cannot see letters but could read braille prints.

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Leonid wrote:

And why not? We don't directly perceive X-rays but talk about them all the time. We function on conceptual, not perceptual level. Blind person could perceive visual information by using other senses.

end quote

That was very bright, Leonid. Colorful. Brilliant!

Touch. Suppose, you are blind but you have two cats, one black and one white. You know from science that the color black more readily absorbs heat from the sun. As you sit in your sunlit lawn chair, your two cats rub against your legs. You reach down and pet each of them. Tying the conceptual and perceptual levels together you know which color each cat is. One cat is hotter, and therefore darker in color.

Hearing. I imagine different colors reflect sound differently. You might be able to discern a rooms color my making a sound like yodeling, or simply by yelling, "Hey!"

A trusted machine could also inform you of colors.

Or in a few years you could have a visor like StarTrek’s Engineering Commander, Geordi Laforge.

Peter

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Mike,

I think I know where you are going with this. :smile:

Ken Wilber has a very similar approach on subjective experiences. I, also, argue that there might be parts of reality humans do not have sense organs for, or have very imperfect, inconsistent and partially developed ones that are still evolving in the species. This, to me, explains why so many reported subjective experiences across so many different cultures and times are similar.

But to answer your question, the only commonsense answer I know to be 100% accurate is the following:

1. If a color-blind person lives in a society where others tell him about color, he can get a notion of color second-hand from them.

2. If he cannot perceive color and has no contact with those who do, he won't even think about it.

3. If he does think about color, but has no no contact with those who can perceive it, he will deny that color exists in reality--or, going creative, he could (and most likely would) imagine the existence of color in a science fiction of fantasy story way. In other words, color would not be real to him, but as fiction, it would be conceivable if reality were different.

Michael

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The Country of the Blind by H. G. Wells.

http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/11870/pg11870.html

We say that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, but Wells showed that in the land of the blind, he is considered insane. Eventually, the blind people figure out that the guy has "organs" that cause this unsettling problem and they offer to remove them.

Just sayin'...

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Mike,

I think I know where you are going with this. :smile:

Mike

Thanks for the comments. I will respond to the previous posts a little later. I’m cooking dinner right now.

Michael: Where I’m going with this is to examine my own epistemology.

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I agree. Then the question becomes whether the blind person can think a seeing person irrational if he speaks of either sight or color.

And why not? We don't directly perceive X-rays but talk about them all the time. We function on conceptual, not perceptual level. Blind person could perceive visual information by using other senses. He cannot see letters but could read braille prints.

OK. I accept that a blind person can conceptualize information by other senses. in your case Braille prints as a form of written language, but my OP was about whether color can exist to a blind person.

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I agree. Then the question becomes whether the blind person can think a seeing person irrational if he speaks of either sight or color.

And why not? We don't directly perceive X-rays but talk about them all the time. We function on conceptual, not perceptual level. Blind person could perceive visual information by using other senses. He cannot see letters but could read braille prints.

OK. I accept that a blind person can conceptualize information by other senses. in your case Braille prints as a form of written language, but my OP was about whether color can exist to a blind person.

Suppose, you are blind but you have two cats, one black and one white. You know from science that the color black more readily absorbs heat from the sun. As you sit in your sunlit lawn chair, your two cats rub against your legs. You reach down and pet each of them. Tying the conceptual and perceptual levels together you know which color each cat is. One cat is hotter, and therefore darker in color.

Hearing. I imagine different colors reflect sound differently. You might be able to discern a rooms color my making a sound like yodeling, or simply by yelling, "Hey!"

A trusted machine could also inform you of colors.

This example doesn’t work. From your example, all a blind person could say is that dark colors absorb more heat, but it doesn’t let him understand what "dark" is. It only lets him know what warm and less warm are.

Colors do not reflect sound differently.

RE: Your “trusted” machine. Are you saying that “trust” in a person or machine is a valid reason for believing something?

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So are we then to base a belief in something we cannot perceive on the testimony of others? How can we know it to be true and not just propaganda by the masses?

You bet! Most of what we "know" is second hand. Have you been to the Antarctic in person? Probably not, but you have no doubt it exists as a continent at the south pole.

Ba'al Chatzaf

But I can actually go to the Antarctica and verify its existence and there is sufficient evidence to support its existence. Not so with the blind person who cannot conceive of color. If he can't even conceive sight, he surely can't conceive color.

Yes you could. But you have already accepted the existence of the place based on the testimony of a witness you trust. Much of what we "know" is of that nature. Very little of what we claim to know is gotten first from experience. And even first hand experience sometimes has to be "sanity checked" by other witnesses. That is how science works.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I again would say: do you believe that “trust” in a source is valid reason to believe in something? On what basis? What if the individual lacks adequate familiarity with whatever topic to discern what is being conveyed? Should he then doubt the information until he can adequately familiarize himself with the subject to discern whether it is truth or lies that are being conveyed?

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The Country of the Blind by H. G. Wells.

http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/11870/pg11870.html

We say that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, but Wells showed that in the land of the blind, he is considered insane. Eventually, the blind people figure out that the guy has "organs" that cause this unsettling problem and they offer to remove them.

Just sayin'...

I have stories about blind men, too. Just stories, like Wells’.

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Mike,

I think I know where you are going with this. :smile:

Ken Wilber has a very similar approach on subjective experiences. I, also, argue that there might be parts of reality humans do not have sense organs for, or have very imperfect, inconsistent and partially developed ones that are still evolving in the species. This, to me, explains why so many reported subjective experiences across so many different cultures and times are similar.

But to answer your question, the only commonsense answer I know to be 100% accurate is the following:

1. If a color-blind person lives in a society where others tell him about color, he can get a notion of color second-hand from them.

2. If he cannot perceive color and has no contact with those who do, he won't even think about it.

3. If he does think about color, but has no no contact with those who can perceive it, he will deny that color exists in reality--or, going creative, he could (and most likely would) imagine the existence of color in a science fiction of fantasy story way. In other words, color would not be real to him, but as fiction, it would be conceivable if reality were different.

Michael

I’m pleased to see you acknowledge reality may contain things that that humans may have not adequate sense organs to perceive.

I’m sure about #1. What kind of “notion” of color could a totally blind person conceive? I’ve heard theoretical physicists speak of other dimensions. Can you conceive what these might be like?

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Ken Wilber has a very similar approach on subjective experiences.

Here is the passage I was thinking about. I'll leave it to each reader to find the epistemological connections with the color-blind problem:

There is a fascinating passage in his [Nathaniel Branden's] book, The Art of Living Consciously where he presents an idea by Ken Wilber that deals with precisely the kind of thing that is necessary to back up Rand's statements. (The book by Wilber he mentioned is Eye to Eye.) Branden was discussing mysticism and Wilber's idea of "eyes" of knowledge, but the following creeped in bearing a form that can be standalone. I believe it deserves more exposure and exploration. It actually comes from Wilber, but NB said he chose it because, "I regard it as the most ingenious [argument] I have encountered."

I don't want to deal here with NB's comments on Wilber's defense of mysticism. The idea below, or at least the way NB phrased it, is the golden nugget. It cuts to the very core of what knowledge is on a fundamental level. From pp 203-204

... Wilber argues, the principles by which knowledge is validated in the three domains [flesh, reason and contemplation] are ultimately the same--this is his key point. Three steps are always involved in the verifying of knowledge. First, there is the instrumental injunction--"if you want to know this, do this." If you want to know if it's raining, go look. If you want to know how much is 36 times 36, go do the calculation. Then there is the cognitive grasp--the mind's appreciation of the data and its meaning. I see water falling; it is raining. I see that 36 time 36 equals 1296. Then there is the communal confirmation--checking the objectivity (the "intersubjectivity" would be Wilber's preferred term) of our knowledge by determining that others who traced our steps see the same things and arrive at the same conclusions.

All scientific conclusions reflect these three steps: we take actions of one kind or another that bring us into contact with certain data; we apprehend the meaning of the data; we ascertain that colleagues trained to reproduce our experiences--do the experiments, do the math, or whatever--arrive at the same final point. And thus is our knowledge confirmed. (And thus may it be disconfirmed--or at least put into question--if others who are qualified to reproduce our actions do so and find a different result.)

However--and here is a central point for the thesis--a person who is unable or unwilling to trace the scientist's steps is unqualified to pronounce judgment on the scientist's conclusions. Or, on a more primitive level, if I look out the window and say it's raining, and you refuse to look out the window while insisting it is not raining--your qualification to hold an opinion in this matter is not equal to mine.

Note that he says scientist, but this also applies to philosopher. (Or mystic for Wilber.)

Michael

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Far as I can tell, the answer is no. A concept is dependent on the perceptual and the sensory.

One may accept the existence of a concept, or establish it by other means - but only rationalistically.

[it's like explaining New York to an Aboriginal who's always lived alone in the Amazon jungle: he

can't grasp the concept "City" if he hasn't even seen a village.]

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Sans any trekkian visor/glasses, the person would not be able to experience color or sight. Why or how could they claim that it didn't exist if they knew of sighted people. They could not conceive of the experience of color, but why would they deny that those with the capacity for such experience are experiencing this non-intelligible phenomenon?

The OP made me instantly think of the movie "Mask", the scene where the main character tries to show through analogy of touch what the experience of color does for the appreciation of objects as it pertains color.

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Ken Wilber has a very similar approach on subjective experiences.

Here is the passage I was thinking about. I'll leave it to each reader to find the epistemological connections with the color-blind problem:

>

There is a fascinating passage in his [Nathaniel Branden's] book, The Art of Living Consciously where he presents an idea by Ken Wilber that deals with precisely the kind of thing that is necessary to back up Rand's statements. (The book by Wilber he mentioned is Eye to Eye.) Branden was discussing mysticism and Wilber's idea of "eyes" of knowledge, but the following creeped in bearing a form that can be standalone. I believe it deserves more exposure and exploration. It actually comes from Wilber, but NB said he chose it because, "I regard it as the most ingenious [argument] I have encountered."

I don't want to deal here with NB's comments on Wilber's defense of mysticism. The idea below, or at least the way NB phrased it, is the golden nugget. It cuts to the very core of what knowledge is on a fundamental level. From pp 203-204

... Wilber argues, the principles by which knowledge is validated in the three domains [flesh, reason and contemplation] are ultimately the same--this is his key point. Three steps are always involved in the verifying of knowledge. First, there is the instrumental injunction--"if you want to know this, do this." If you want to know if it's raining, go look. If you want to know how much is 36 times 36, go do the calculation. Then there is the cognitive grasp--the mind's appreciation of the data and its meaning. I see water falling; it is raining. I see that 36 time 36 equals 1296. Then there is the communal confirmation--checking the objectivity (the "intersubjectivity" would be Wilber's preferred term) of our knowledge by determining that others who traced our steps see the same things and arrive at the same conclusions.

All scientific conclusions reflect these three steps: we take actions of one kind or another that bring us into contact with certain data; we apprehend the meaning of the data; we ascertain that colleagues trained to reproduce our experiences--do the experiments, do the math, or whatever--arrive at the same final point. And thus is our knowledge confirmed. (And thus may it be disconfirmed--or at least put into question--if others who are qualified to reproduce our actions do so and find a different result.)

However--and here is a central point for the thesis--a person who is unable or unwilling to trace the scientist's steps is unqualified to pronounce judgment on the scientist's conclusions. Or, on a more primitive level, if I look out the window and say it's raining, and you refuse to look out the window while insisting it is not raining--your qualification to hold an opinion in this matter is not equal to mine.

Note that he says scientist, but this also applies to philosopher. (Or mystic for Wilber.)

Michael

Thank you for the informative post. I should probably put Branden on my reading list. Would this be the one book you would recommend? Mind you I have little free time with 4 kids, 13 and under including 2 Russian sisters who arrived here 6 weeks ago and a corporate exec wife who works 60+hour weeks. Hence my cooking duties.

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