[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Re: Homing Pigeons? Try Homing Crocodiles...

Since we've drifted so far off topic I'm going to pull the discussion
of color off of the list...  Call this message an official end to the
thread per section 8h of the DML's administrative rules:


I do plan to continue the discussion off-list, though.  I'm going to
send a message to all who have participated (under the assumption said
participation means you're interested in the topic).  If you didn't
write publicly but would like to see more of the discussion, please
write to me.  If there is enough interest I'll suggest we continue on
the Killed-Threads list so that the discussion can remain public.  I
will not have time to write again today, though.

All that said, I feel compelled to take one last shot at clearing up
major issues and giving people a sense of where the off-list
discussion might lead.

Nick Pharris <npharris@umich.edu> wrote:

> Some languages lump green and blue, others lump green and yellow,

I'm pretty certain that Nick is wrong about that second part.  Nick,
if you know of a language with a color name that combines things that
English speakers would generally call green or yellow, please tell me
what that language is!

> and I suspect some would put the dividing line between "yellow" and
> "blue" somewhere in the middle of what we call "green".

Note how I phrased my bit "would generally call".  There's actually a
lot of inter-observer variation (as I described in a previous
message).  There is a raging debate as to how individuals and
societies come to assign color names -- are there biological features
that enforce particular categorizations, or does culture play a large
role, shaping even the way things appear in our heads as a result of
re-calibration of the meaning of sensory data... re-calibration driven
by the input of other people telling children what colors particular
objects are.  Difficulty in interpreting all the relevant data make it
certain that the debate will rage for quite a while.  Part of that
difficulty, though, comes from some mushy thinking.  Look carefully at
what Nick has written (no offense, Nick).  There is an implicit
assumption that "yellow", "blue", and "green" are things out in the
world.  Like people here generally think of clades.  And then
developing color names is like developing a phylogenetic nomenclature.
In that taxonomic philosophy, clades are "real", and the job of
scientists is to recognize them.  Some clades can then be given
names.  In this analogyl, Nick is essentially implying that green,
blue, and yellow are clades and some languages allow polyphyly or
paraphyly.  Although some philosophers would find this analogy very
satisfactory, virtually no scientist studying color vision would.  For
very good reasons, biologists and psychologists studying color reject
the hypothesis that colors are real things out in the world.  And
hence the implications of how Nick phrased his message (and I really
don't mean to single him out here -- it is quite possible that he
doesn't accept these implications) sound naive.

Mickey P. Rowe     (mrowe@lifesci.ucsb.edu)