Red is a Concept

Categories are “part of our experience”. “They are the structures that differentiate aspects of our experience into discernable kinds…the formation and use of categories is the stuff of experience.”

“What we call concepts are neural structures that allow us to mentally characterize our categories and reason about them.”

“The question of what we take to be real and the question of how we reason are inextricably linked. Our categories of things in the world determine what we take to be real: trees, rocks, animals, people, buildings, and so on. Our concepts determine how we reason about those categories. In order to function realistically in the world, our categories and our forms of reason must “work” very well together;”

In an attempt to enlighten the reader as to the nature of metaphor theory the author explains in some detail three kinds of concepts—color concepts, basic-level concepts, and spatial level concepts. In the book “Philosophy in the Flesh” the authors explain color perception in some detail in order to exemplify the meaning of ‘concept’. I will give a short rendition of color perception. For more detail of color perception one might examine:

“Our experience of color is created by a combination of four factors: wavelengths of reflected light, lighting conditions, and two aspects of our bodies: (1) the three kinds of color cones in our retinas, which absorb light of long, medium, and short wavelengths, and (2) the complex neural circuitry connected to those cones.”

One physical property of the surface of the object matters for color: its reflectance (the percentage of high-, medium- and low-frequency light that the object reflects). The actual wavelength reflected by the object do not remain constant it depends upon ambient light, yet the color remains relatively constant. “Color, then, is not just the perception of wavelength; color constancy depends on the brain’s ability to compensate for variations in the light source.”

Visible light is electromagnetic radiation like radio waves within a certain frequency spectrum. When the electromagnetic radiation impinges on the cones in our retina we perceive color. Color perception is the result of four interacting factors: “lighting conditions, wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, color cones, and neural processing.”

Colors are not objective nor are they purely subjective. “Color is created jointly by our biology and the world, not by our culture.” Color results from the interaction of biology and the world. “We have the color concepts we do because the physical limitations constraining evolution gave evolutionary advantages to beings with a color system that enabled them to function well in crucial respects.”

A nation has an infrastructure consisting of roads, bridges, rail lines, etc. The brain has mental spaces containing experiences and in these mental spaces there are infrastructure containing categories, concepts, inferences, etc. This is my understanding of the material I have studied in “Philosophy in the Flesh”.

why post a psuedo science thread in the philosophy section? Science explains how the world works not how you ought to live your life.

The book I am quoting from is “Philosophy in the Flesh”. It describes a new and revolutionary theory for cognitive science called metaphor theory. Metaphor theory is revolutionary because if accepted it will change dramatically all we have accepted in philosophical thought in Western society. In fact the book is co-authored by a philosophy professor and contains a great deal of philosophical theory.


I admire your philosophical enthusiasm. however, the book, at least the part you have quoted does not stand up to scrutiny.

All the above is saying is that humans can differentiate. We can differentiate between a keyboard and a mouse, a cactus and a bear, a man and a woman. My guess is ‘categories’ means universals, like a cat, dog, cloud. how do you define them? they are given to us psychologically, we have the psychological construct at recognising universals, they are called schemas. the above is just different words meaning the same thing.

Cognitive psychology call the structure schema, which can be automated. this is very antiquated theory.

I don’t understand a word of the above from a linguistic perspective.

Psuedo science

psuedo science

i know, i know… so does everybody

so are they objective or subjective? the quote above shows a very bad sentence, that means nothing because it is simply not certain. The author is not even sure of what he’s talking about.

This is again, highly speculative. Evolution does not explain anything really. if the thing is advantageous in one situation, and we are all struggling for advantages. how come not all of us have colour perception? if colour is a dominate advantage why can’t we all have colour perception. some would even say ultra sound is more advantageous than colour. so why don’t we see with ultra sound if evolution is at work?

The brain also contains brain cells, as far as I know.

That’s as much as I understand the book from your perspective.



I cannot duplicate the book on this forum. I can only hope to create a message so as to arouse your curiosity sufficiently to read and study the book itself.

For such a long opening post, you say suprisingly little coberst. After all the opening bumbf, we are left with your take on the whole thing of:

But this can’t actually be drawn from anything written above it. At no point is the structure of the brain even mentioned. Your conclusion is wholly unrelated to the rest of the piece!


Just how much can be placed on a forum page? I have talked about concept, categories and inferences as being structures. I have compared them to inferstructure. What else can be placed on a forum page. I hoped to arouse your curiosity. If I have failed then it is unfortunate for both of us.


I strongly disagree that

The limits of my language are the limits of my ability to express my understanding of the world.

for example, how do you describe a color you have never seen. In my infancy I may not know how to say ‘brown’ but that does not mean I can not see brown

and without the communicable expression of it, any “understanding” is non existent…


So, POR, how is that quote not able to stand up to scrutiny? You just explained what it says in your own words. You actually lend support to what it says.

Precisely, Imp. (It seems this must be one of the most difficult notions to grasp, even with a good explanation).

This is an interesting thread.


I’m going to agree with you on this one. At least in regards to what Imp said. Just because you don’t communicate a thought doesn’t mean your understanding is non-existant. Understanding is 2-fold: social and subjective.


Your threads are interesting because you just sort of talk, and then just suddently stop. This is not to say I don’t like them, just find them interesting.

As for this one, I gotta say… I don’t particularly like this theory all that much, which I guess is to say: I just don’t get what you’re saying here. Like what about a blind person? Does light follow a parallel to soundwaves in regard to the ‘concept’ part of the theory? Cause that seems scientifically troublesome.


why quote understanding? understanding, do you mean a linguistic understanding or a conceptual understanding? because there are many things we feel but can not express by language.

just because some blind person can pronounce the word red does he understand it? or if someone who sees red but does not learn the word to describe it, does he NOT understand red?

you ought to get a life like me

have you ever seen the movie “mask” with eric stoltz and cher?

the disfigured guy teaches a blind girl to understand colors in a most unique way…

her understanding of red is her understanding of red, but it is not visual

non visual understanding of color? perposterous… colors can only be understood by seeing them… mmmm…

but there is no “universal meaning” or “universal understanding” of red or anything else…



you mean with linguistic mumbo jumbo

then here understanding of the colour red is not a visual understanding, in that the word red does not imply colour but linguistic mumbo jumbo which was ruthlessly pumped into her.

there is, if you can see the color red, which is eternally universal to the visually unimpaired.


W.J. Wilczek

what do you mean? how do you know there are only different waves of radiation. you know because you see them. there is no meaning to what I am writing either because a rock can not understand it, so goes your reasoning. you see red. ok.


no difference