Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Colours: in philosophy, the problem of coulour is, among other things, the question of how individual sensory impressions can be generalized or objectified. See also qualities, qualia, perception, inverted spectra, private language.
Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

Terrence W. Deacon on Colour - Dictionary of Arguments

I 116
Colour Words/Language Origin/Deacon: The development of color words in different languages and societies converges.
>Color words
In principle, the combination of colour tones and sounds can be arbitrary. In fact, however, the mapping relations are in some respects universal.
>Image, >Picture theory, >Word meaning, >Signs.
I 117
But that does not mean they are somehow built into the brain.
Colour word/colours/Berlin/Kay/Deacon: In different societies, black (dark) and white (light) are the first distinctions, later on the distinction red/green is added. If there are three or four colour terms in a language, yellow or blue will be added next. If there are more terms, the pattern is not so clear to predict(1).
Surprisingly, the colours that are considered to be typically red or green (best red/best green) are similar all over the world(2).
I 118
Explanation: this is where the brain's ability to differentiate or highlight differences comes into play, which goes beyond the specifics of the use of language in individuals or societies.
I 119
Language evolution/colour words: the patterns of typical errors contribute to the fact that the language use adapts itself to the neurophysiological conditions of perception. This is a case of neurological tendency as selection pressure in social evolution.
>Language emergence, >Selection, >Perception.
Suppose we wanted to introduce a new word for a very special hue of colour between known colours. In the long run, this new name will disappear again in favour of old colour words. Certain prominent colours will dominate. The tendency of our brains to remember certain colours better corresponds to the natural selection of certain variants instead of other variants. Thus, the reference of colour words will develop in adaptation to the human nervous system.
>Reference, >Nervous system.
I 120
However, this development is due to non-genetic forces. Without these social universals, the use of colour words would be idiosyncratic, i.e. limited to single individuals. Nevertheless, it is clear that colour terms are not firmly anchored in the brain. What is universally anchored is rather certain tendencies of the group, which are not linguistic. The division of colour terms as they are is not a necessary feature of language and is not an innate linguistic category.
>Classification, >Order, >Categorization.

1. Berlin, B., und Kay, P. (1969). Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.
(2) Rosch, E. (1978). Principles of categorization. In: E. Rosch, & B. B. Lloyd (Hrsg.), Cognition and categorization (pp. 28-49). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Dea I
T. W. Deacon
The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of language and the Brain New York 1998

Dea II
Terrence W. Deacon
Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter New York 2013

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