Kaz1983 wrote: ↑
Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:41 pm
Talking about definitions... I'm going by these 2 definitions of colour. The first one is from the Collins dictionary and the second is Cambridge's definition.
First, I'd say you can scroll down a little on the first one to a more detailed definition which includes clearly objective ones:
an attribute of things that results from the light they reflect, transmit, or emit in so far as this light causes a visual sensation that depends on its wavelengths
the aspect of visual perception by which an observer recognizes this attribute
the quality of the light producing this aspect of visual perception
Both a and c are more objective than the one you site.
The first deals with the attributes of the thing based on interaction with light, not observation, only limiting it ("in so far as") to the kinds of light that are visible (that is, we don't usually talk about the colors of UV light or microwaves because we don't have words for the colors outside our ability to see them).
C is talking specifically about the objective quality of light itself which is correlated to those perceptions (independently of whether it's perceived or not).
Could these definitions be more clear? Sure. But this isn't an encyclopedia of science or philosophy, thus the limitations you'll find -- which is to my main point here:
It's a fool's errand to try to use simplified definitions from an off the shelf dictionary to deconstruct philosophical or scientific concepts like this.
Take the common example of somebody who insists veganism is impossible because of something along the lines of everybody swallows their own saliva.
If a vegan is somebody who consumes no animal products, and humans are animals, and saliva is a product of us because we produce it, and swallowing is consuming... Do you see where I'm going here?
Standard dictionary definitions are good for learning a language because they don't give you more information than you need to get a general useful sense of the word 99% of the time, but if you attempt to apply these definitions to a complicated topic of philosophy their minor errors and inaccuracies will compound and lead you very quickly to absurdity (like being vegan meaning you can't swallow your own spit).
I could probably give you a small book-length lesson on prescriptive semantics, but the simplest way to understand it is this:
Language serves a purpose of communication. Definitions which further this purpose are correct, definitions which yield nonsense or fail to usefully differentiate different categories of things or concepts are wrong.
When it comes to usefulness, usage is very important, constrained only by coherence.
When we look at how most people use the word "color" and how most people would answer the paradox of an optical illusion, they would not say "Well the dress WAS white and gold, but now it's blue and black that you show it to me here" No. They would say. "Oh, I thought it was white and gold, I see now that it was really blue and black and my eyes were playing tricks on me"
People UNDERSTAND color as an objective property. It's a case where simple human intuition is actually backed up by the science too. People may not understand how optical illusions work, but they do understand that what they think they see isn't always what is.
In so far as it is possible to coherently define "color" as something that is conceptually compatible with the way people generally use and understand it then that is the most correct definition.
The bottom line is that the concept people have of color, while they may not understand much of anything about physics, is still more compatible with the definition used in physics and those other objective definitions than the definitions which limit it to a subjective qualia.
Make no mistake, I don't deny the validity of the definitions that deal with color as a qualia. They are secondary definitions based on usage and common understanding, but as long as we are precise as to whether we're talking about subjective qualia or objective physics then both of these definitions have great utility and further human understanding and communication on these issues. We really do need to have both definitions, because they both deal with important principles and help us understand those things. However, confusing the two definitions (the objective and subjective) or worse completely conflating them does the opposite of furthering understanding and communication.
If you ask what definition I use for color, it's either depending on the context. Physics is first, but I'm happy to talk about the qualia too as long as we're clear and nobody is denying the objectivity of the physical definition.
I wouldn't tend to follow a simplified dictionary definition, though. An encyclopedia of science or philosophy would be a lot more helpful.