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The Colour Paradox -- The Flaw of Human Logic -- How Synthesis Is Key For Greater Understanding

Updated: Apr 22

A beautiful sea with colorful castles.

The Illusory Objectivity of Color

Colors are traits of perception that we often mistake for objective facts. We take it for granted that apples are red or green, oranges are... well, orange. But what if our perception of these colors is as subjective as a single person's opinion on a video game?

The answer lies in the uniformity of human vision. Most of us perceive the same wavelengths of light as the same colors, although in different variations, depending on how our brains uniquely filters information. This common ground creates the illusion of objectivity. Think of it like a shared language. And languages should also be known as capable of biasing our understanding, and deter ourselves from looking both ways.

We all agree that the word "red" describes a specific range of light. This is highly practical because of color psychology, which associates the color "red" with different, yet shared values. However, the actual experience of that redness - the electrical signals firing in our brains - is unique to each individual. It's just that most people's brains interpret those signals in a similar way. What creates loneliness in certain people is the fact that their understanding of the world is not understood/recognized by others.

Bridging the gap betwen perceptions is how empathy can be nurtured between individuals, by being able to relate to their unique ways of perceiving reality. By willing to study the perceptions of those who are dear to us, we can reduce their overall suffering.

This extends far beyond color. Music, art, entertainment, even the meaning of words themselves -- their value is subjective because it's filtered through the lens of human experience. Much of the human experience and behavior is unique to each individual, although to different extents. Both are subject to genetic variations. However, it's difficult to imagine these things existing outside of our perception, leading to the undoubted delusion that other people experience reality the same way we do.

So, how do we know if an orange is truly orange? If humanity vanished in a cosmic puff of dust, would it still be orange? Here's the "hypocrisy" of shared subjectivity: the concept of "orange" wouldn't exist. Objectively, the orange color would be a specific combination of light wavelengths.

But without a conscious observer to interpret those wavelengths, there would be no "orange" to perceive. If we all or most of us had the "Alice in Wonderland Syndrome", which alters our perception of bodies and other objects, then our perception wouldn't be canceled out as "incorrect" or even as a "syndrome".

In other words, much of what we deem as objective is a product of the ad-populum fallacy. We assume something has certain characteristics, but it's only because many others perceive it the same or similar sa we do.

Therefore, much of our understanding is fallacious by default. This correlates with the fact that humans are designed to be logical, but social, in order to survive. To quote David McElroy:

As long as you believe that formal logic is all you need to understand about the world, you’re going to miss the fact that understanding human psychology will give you a base of understanding that will change how you interpret what people do and why they do those things. Until you understand human nature, the only people you’re going to understand (and approve of) are those who happen to share your values and who are pursuing goals that make sense to you.

A World Without Color

Imagine a world filled with shades of grey. Not because of a lack of light, but because this is the full spectrum of human vision in this thought experiment. In this reality, the concept of "color blindness" wouldn't exist. Everyone would see the world the same way, their limited vision being the unquestionable norm.

Now, introduce a rare mutation. A single individual, or perhaps a small group, who possess the ability to see the vibrant colors we experience. To them, the world would be a breathtaking revelation, a vibrant orchestra of light unseen by the majority.

They wouldn't be "colorblind" – that term wouldn't exist in a world without the concept of color itself. Instead, they would be these unique, outstanding people, the outliers experiencing a reality beyond the common understanding. This thought experiment highlights the limitations of "objectivity", and also how we collectively choose to see those who are more unique than ourselves despite their virtues or shortcomings.

What? You thought seeing colors is exceptional in this case? It's only in relation to those who are colorblind. Not in of itself.

The Duality of Perception

We base our perception of the world on our own limited senses and cognitive abilities. True objectivity, completely independent of human experience, may be an impossible ideal.

Sure, we strive for neutrality in some situations, but even that attempt is colored by our biases, and our unawareness of their existence. We are prisoners of our own perspective, unable to fully escape the subjective lens through which we interpret the world. The only way of reducing it is to be prepared for two actions, whether done by us or by someone else: To be prepared to be proven wrong, and to be lambasted for being wrong.

Otherwise, we wouldn't necessarily enjoy being right. We would enjoy the mere thought of being right, and the emotion that stems from that thought.

Does this render subjectivity superior to the facts that exist beyond it? Not necessarily. Subjectivity can be isolating, leading to misunderstandings when experiences differ vastly. However, it also allows for rich diversity in interpretation and appreciation.

The example of an orange illustrates this. We all agree it's "orange" because most of us perceive that specific wavelength of light the same way. But what if someone with a different visual experience claimed it was "green"? Objectivity, in this case, provides no definitive answer, because we cannot view reality outside the prison of the mind. Nonetheless, reality is not a democratic vote, and majority opinion doesn't guarantee truth. Furthermore, opinion, publicly held or not, often contradicts the truth.

The key takeaway lies in acknowledging the limitations of both objectivity and subjectivity. They are not opposing forces, but rather two sides of the same coin. While objectivity could arguably exist without subjectivity, subjectivity necessarily stems from objective reality. Similarly to how A.I works today, subjectivity must base itself on something other than what it perceives. Nothing exists in a vacuum. That includes free will.

Why Philosophy Embraces Uncertainty

Philosophy, at its core, thrives on disagreement, done in harmony. It's a field where ideas clash, perspectives collide, and "basic truths" are constantly questioned. This might seem hopeless and even useless, as a never-ending discourse with no definitive answers. However, this very relentlessness, and willing to hear and synthisize the thoughts of others, is what fuels philosophical inquiry, towards greater depths of understanding.

Imagine a world where everyone saw eye-to-eye. Where everyone saw and experienced color, and generally reality, the very identical way. Philosophy, then, would be a rather dull, rendering the need to learn from others' experiences, useless. It's the very existence of opposing viewpoints that compels us to refine our arguments, challenge assumptions, and deepen our understanding.

Terms like "pretentious" often mask a discomfort with disagreement, and a poor excuse to not understand other perceptions better, to refine that of our own. As such, our own ad-hominem and strawman's fallacy can dismiss an actually-refreshing, unique experience, to that of belonging to an alleged pseudo-intellectual. And it's all because some of us may refuse to understand reality can be better understood by the research of additional perceptions.

Philosophy isn't about promoting our perception as the most superior one. That would be the purpose of many ideologues, not of philosophers. Rather, it's about relentless examination, even if it means questioning long-held beliefs, of either ourselves or others.

This discomfort of entertaining several and contradicting viewpoints, extends to the nature of truth itself. Is the orange truly orange, or is it simply perceived that way by our limited senses? As we saw with color perception, "objectivity" can be elusive, as well as uncomfortable when we realize much of our own perception is false.

How Paradoxes Exist Despite Our Sense of Logic

Logic, the cornerstone of philosophy, is there as a tool for navigating uncertainty, for identifying fallacies and constructing sound arguments beyond our tendency to commit skewed falsehoods.

Logic acknowledges paradoxes, like the bitter-sweetness of dark chocolate. How come furthermore? Some paradoxes are in fact true, despite our usually-unchecked logic, which we use to dimiss all paradoxes as non-existent.

A paradox allows for the possibility that two seemingly contradictory statements can coexist. Think of Osho's notion of truth being intrinsically paradoxical. Think of what I called in an another article, the "Grey Problem" in the human mind. An orange might appear different to someone with colorblindness, yet both experiences hold validity within their respective frameworks, thus rendering all subjectivity, objectively equal.

Reality is experienced in different layers, filtered through the lens of our individual consciousness. We can't escape our own minds, and our logic is inherently human, and therefore, limited, flawed, and imperfect necessarily.

The key in traversing this paradoxical and seemingly absurd world, lies inin embracing flexibility. Recognizing, for example that another person's argument, however different, could still hold a component of truth.

In conclusion, philosophy doesn't necessarily seeks a singular, universally accepted truth. Instead, it delves into the complexities of human experience, acknowledging the limitations of both pure objectivity and subjective perception. It's a continuous exploration of the worlds within and around us, and how these these worlds interact, despite their distinctions.

Within this universe, there's room for a multitude of perspectives, even if some, like the precise height of a tower, are demonstrably more accurate than others. Synthesis is key to improve our perception of reality, using the perception of others.

Mr. Nathan Lasher's Feedback

Aren’t all things a matter of opinion until enough people have the same kind so that it is considered fact? Before the color orange was invented I wonder what their words to describe it were. “I shall describe the color of this banana as sunny delight!” Makes one curious. How many people have to agree on something for it to become a matter of social knowledge?
Taking into account the education system. How much agreement is needed for it to be deemed worthy to be taught to the young of the world? What points in history did people decide that it was worth documenting as a part of history?
It leaves me curious what problems are faced by a modern day historian. Are they nothing more than recorders of actions? Summarizing the news of the day so that 100 years from now they will understand exactly what humans have been through.
Objective facts are those which are in response to actual matter, the material object of all things. Point in case. Go into a room, put a blindfold on and walk around. To a wall doesn’t exist. Objective reality is understanding just how real it is if you were to walk into [an actual wall].


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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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