Clay Mosman's Reviews > Remarks on Colour

Remarks on Colour by Ludwig Wittgenstein
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May 21, 12

bookshelves: boox-i-ve-reviewed
Read from May 16 to 18, 2012

There are two quotations in this book that summarize its content really well: (1) "We do not want to find a theory of color (neither a physiological nor a psychological one), but rather the logic of color concepts. And this accomplishes what people have unjustly expected from a theory." (2) "That which I am writing about so tediously, may be obvious to someone whose mind is less decrepit."

Wittgenstein not only reflects on difficulties in our perception of color concepts (like imagining a grey flame that does not appear only weakly luminiscent or transparent white glass that does not make objects appear cloudy through it), but also on the difficulties in finding a logic within color theory ("If there were a theory of color harmony, perhaps it would begin by dividing the colors into different groups and forbidding certain mixtures or combinations and allowing others; and, as in harmony, its rules would be given no justification."). He has some pretty neat insights on the "-ish" language-game used to distinguish a yellowish brown from a brownish yellow that I have found useful when describing things outside of color.

Favorite remarks:
(1) "In a [black and white] film, as in a photograph, face and hair do not look grey, they make a very natural impression; on the other hand, food on a plate often looks grey and therefore unappetizing in a film."
(2) "A shine, a 'high-light' cannot be black. If I were to substitute blackness for the lightness of high-lights in a picture, I wouldn't get black lights. And that is not simply because this is the one and only form in which a high-light occurs in nature, but also because we react to a light in this spot in a certain way. A flag may be yellow and black, another yellow and white." What a weird way to end that thought!
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