The Colour Wheel and the Octave

[NB, I’ve been thinking about this stuff for months now, and am gagging to talk about it all :smiley: ]

The world-as-representation is spatially and temporally extended. This “scaffolding” is furnished with (essentially) four types of sensory material: colour, sound, smell, and feeling. I’d like to talk about the first two.

Looking at things purely physically, vision is based on the detection of a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. This spectrum is “colourless” for a while, then goes through the colours {red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple}, and then becomes colourless again. Looking at it like this, one wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that the “EM spec” is inherently colourful, or that that strip of light is deeply special in some other regard. I don’t think so - I think that that strip of radiation was chosen for evolutionary reasons by proto-brains, and that colour was then associated with it. Further, the rainbow isn’t a strip, it’s a LOOP, with red-purple being just as “connected” as green-blue. So whence comes colour? I’d like to tender my half-baked idea. I believe that the colour wheel is what could be called a “transcendental artefact”, and that the association with light and the red-purple split are arbitrary and secondary. Colour therefore enjoys the same a priori status as Pythagora’s Theorem, for example.

The same way of thinking can be applied to sound. (There’s nothing special about the 30-30000 Hz range of sound waves.) The octave is similarly a “transcendental artefact”, but one that’s more complicated. It has more “nodes” and it repeats itself.

I like to think that the colour wheel and the octave sit “halfway between” the world-as-representation and the thing-in-itself. Looking at the world, it seems to me that these two things are crying out to be identified as the ingredients of our experiences.

I want this post to be short. I’ll finish by making an observation about the numbers involved (NB the way Kant liked things to be numerically “nice”). There are SIX nodes on the colour wheel, which are in TWO groups of THREE (and with B/W there are EIGHT colours). There are TWELVE notes in an octave, and EIGHT nodes in an octave (the notes in a scale). These are all nice numbers, and I believe there’s something wonderfully subtle at work here.


Is there anything anyone wants me to go into more detail over?

Does anyone have anything to add that they think I’d like to hear?

Are there any philosophers who’ve written about “this sort of thing” specifically?

I am not sure where color comes from? I believe it has to do with how quick it reflects back light or something.

Different animals see different colors.

sidenote: Dogs can smell things taht we will never understand.

So you’re saying reality is generated by DMMD of a TI DLP chip? :astonished:

Two strange responses…

What I’m saying is that colour is neither part of light, nor something created by the brain. The colour wheel is a “transcendental artefact” that’s used by the brain to colour in the field of vision.

Interestingly, the colour requires spatial extension to be expressed: something that we can’t associate with the thing in itself. And because, just as we’ll never draw a perfect circle, we’ll never get a perfect colour wheel in the world, I say that it lies “halfway between” our world and the thing in itself.

(I’m not addressing the question “what is colour?”)

why do humans love the octave so much. In music (at least western) the jump of an octave can be really pleasing. Why the hell is this?

(for non-musicians, the octave is the distance between 2 notes that are exactly the same, but one is higher. For example the note E may vibrate 440 times per secound, and a higher E will then vibrate twice as fast (880). Our ears can easily pick up on this, and it can be very pleasing to the ear.)

(sorry, I don’t mean to hijack the thread, but it seems pretty open ended anyway)

All I can say is this:

“White” light is undifferentiated because the wavelength involves all colors uniformly. Black is not color, it is absence of color, as when wavelength falls below discernable frequency.

“Color” is simply wavelength versus refraction and photoreceptor sensitivity within the wavelength known to allow us to discern differentiation. Ostensibly, “color” does not exist.

SirMike: What you’ve brought up is very interesting, but it isn’t what this thread’s about, so I won’t reply to you… :slight_smile:

Mastriani: I say that black and white are both colours. Even though black is physically the absence of light, visually it’s a colour. I would similarly argue that silence is a sound, because being aware of total blackness and being aware of total silence are things that can only be done by seeing- and hearing-beings respectively.

(I think the colour wheel would be better called the colour cylinder, where the top rim is white, the bottom rim is black, and the colours are graded between the two.)