Physics Van 3-site Navigational Menu

Physics Van Navigational Menu

Q & A: Color Perception

Learn more physics!

Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
Does everyone see the world in the same way? For example, is green for me, green for everyone else, or might they see it as I see blue, but just have learnt to call it green?
- nick (age 16)
sixth form college, uk
A:
Nick -


You've raised a famous question that occurs to almost everyone who starts to wonder about philosophy. The standard answer is that we have absolutely no way to know. That's true for now, but you could imagine that perhaps it might change in the future.

Perhaps someday we will have detailed enough measurements of brain states to see if the same things are happening in the brains of two different people seeing the same color. If you assume that whatever subjective sense we have of greenness, blueness etc is associated with a particular physical state of the brain, then we would know if two people are having similar subjective experiences of the colors. Of course there's no way to prove the assumption that the subjective sense is uniquely determined by the physical state, but it is at least reasonable, and agrees with what we know of brain chemistry and emotions.

(published on 10/22/2007)

Follow-up on this answer.