Random opinions

Colour is all in your head

It used to be colour was considered to be a characteristic of a thing… part of its being. And many walk around thinking colour is a Thing in the world. A quality of an object like its shape and texture. We see it out there in the world and so it is out there in the world.

But it isn’t.

This is about perception vs. reality. And usually I am all about reality but in this case it is all about perception. Brains are tricky things and our perception of reality creates our reality which quite different than what reality really is. And that is what science is for. Perception can’t tell us much or we would think the world is flat… as some people now for some reason think it is… regression of thought at its finest, I suppose.

Colour is all in your head

Also we see differently, you and I, when it comes to colour

And we think when I see blue and you see blue, we both see blue. But in fact, we both Call it blue as we were raised to but maybe my blue is actually seen as red to my brain, and yours is seen as blue. So we don’t actually perceive colour the same way, which makes sense because it is dependent on vision and the brain. But it is weird though, eh? Colour is in the eye of the beholder. And it makes me always wonder what does the world looks like without eyes looking at it? What a weird thought to have

“That is the question we have all asked since grade school,” said Jay Neitz, a color vision scientist at the University of Washington. In the past, most scientists would have answered that people with normal vision probably do all see the same colors. The thinking went that our brains have a default way of processing the light that hits cells in our eyes, and our perceptions of the light’s color are tied to universal emotional responses. But recently, the answer has changed.

“I would say recent experiments lead us down a road to the idea that we don’tall see the same colors,” Neitz said.

Another color vision scientist, Joseph Carroll of the Medical College of Wisconsin, took it one step further: “I think we can say for certain that people don’t see the same colors,” he told Life’s Little Mysteries.

Live Science

Colour is that which is perceived by the eyes looking at it. Simple as that.

 but they don’t really exist in an “out in the world” kind of way.  Although you can make up objective definitions that make things like “green”, “art”, and “love” more real, the definitions are pretty ad-hoc.  Respectively: “green” is light with a wavelength between 520 and 570 nm, “art” is portraits of Elvis on black velvet, and “love” is the smell of napalm in the morning.

But these kinds of definitions merely correspond to the experience of those things, as opposed to actually being those things.  There is certainly a set of wavelengths of light that most people in the world would agree is “red” (rojo, rubrum, rauður, 紅色, أحمر, ruĝa, …).  However, that doesn’t mean that the light itself is red, it just means that a Human brain equipped with Human eyes will label it as red.


So it is weird that we do not see the same thing. But not that weird really. All species see differently. And variation in one species shouldn’t be shocking. But it is sort of shocking that what I call blue and you call blue, may be actually be seen entirely different. Your blue may be my yellow. That is messed up. It changes the certainty of reality. But colour is not certain IN reality at all.

Colour is perception.

Colour does not exist outside of the mind.

Point is, light comes in a lot of different wavelengths, but which wavelengths correspond to which color, or which can even be seen, depends entirely on the eyes of the creature doing the looking, and not really on any property of the light itself.  There isn’t any objective “real” color in the world.  The coloring of the rainbow is nothing more than a shared (reliable, consistent, and kick-ass) illusion.


Perception is reality. And we cannot know the real reality out there because our reality is our perception. All we know about reality is through science. Not us. We are limited by our perceptions… and that is all we know about reality out there and that is very little indeed.

If you need more detail read this thread it is fun “Take a red apple, for example. The skin of the apple, when viewed in white light, will absorb most frequencies of incoming light and reflect back only red frequencies. The apple is not actually red. In fact, red light is not actually red. It is merely light of a certain frequency that we have evolved to interpret as red (the same goes for any other color within the visible light spectrum, for that matter). Our eyes capture this reflected light and cone cells at the back of the eyes respond to the incoming light, sending electrical signals to brain which creates an image in our consciousness, with appropriate colors. In our mind, the apple appears red, even though it is not actually red.”

Without any eyeballs and brains to interpret those signals… there is no colour. It is not a quality or property in the world or in the object. Although, philosophers for quite some time thought just this.

This is what boggles my mind. I get colour exists in the mind and is perception of reality. That the apple is not really read. That my brain is interpreting it as red. Fine. What boggles my mind is what if the universe had no eyeballs in it anywhere… what would the apple look like then? Grey? Translucent? What does the apple Look like In Reality without Perception.

The answer is, they do not actually know. Some speculate it is black and white and grey. Some speculate there is some sort of objective reality to be perceived… but not what. And that is the answer I actually want to know… if anyone out there knows it or knows a theory about it… I’d like to know about it. I am more interested in what reality looks like than my perception of reality looks like. But such is life, not all questions have answers within the limitations of our brains.

One could say the frequency ‘red’ exists outside the mind, and we can even measure it and define it and detect it… ergo colour exists outside of the mind. I have heard the argument from a few people, and my dad, and several old philosophers that believed colour was a property of an object inherently. But if a frequency is never picked up then it is just a frequency… nothing would ‘see it’ as red or any other colour. It needs to be received and interpreted in some way, by eyes and brains, or machines and tools, to be seen as a colour. I do understand this argument but as you have read about I do not agree with it on a philosophical or physics level.

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