The development of color perception and ancient Greek writers.
3 round debate followed by a poll.
Vandaler: Advocate for an evolution in color perception over time
In this debate, I will demonstrate the likelihood that color perception of ancient Greek writers may not have been the same then what we experience today. I will rely on ancient writings which many researchers have analysed before.
Since these researches have occurred, the science of how we perceive colors has evolved and may breathe new life to the debate.
Ancient Greek writers perplexing choice of words.
It has been studied and catalogued that ancient Greek writers described colors in manners that is perplexing to us modern readers.
Homer (8th Century BC) : Homer only used 4 colors in his writings roughly translated as black, white, greenish yellow and purply red. (1)
Empedocles (490-430 BC) : An early color theorist identified between light or white, dark or black, and red and yellow which is fairly consistent with Homer. (2)
Aristotle (384-322 BC) : He described all colors to be gradations of light and shadow. (3)
Xenophane (570-480 BC): described the rainbow with three colors; a purple, a yellow green, and a red (4)
It's plain to see that the bluish color is ignored altogether by those writers.
How we perceive colors
Color vision is the capacity of an organism or machine to distinguish objects based on the wavelengths (or frequencies of the lights they reflect or emit. The nervous system derives color by comparing the responses to light from the several types of cone photoreceptors in the eye. These cone photoreceptors are sensitive to different portions of the visible spectrum. For humans, the visible spectrum ranges approximately from 380 to 740 nm, and there are normally three types of cones. (5)
Graph showing the receptivity of all three cone photoreceptors.
The graph demonstrates, all three receptors do not account for the whole range of the spectrum. In spite of this, we can seamlessly see all colors. This is because the information from these cones are relayed to the brain and interpreted. This is an important point since color perception is not only dependent on the receptors in the eyes but also in the “decoder” in the brain which interprets what the eye sees and how the brain processes the information the eye perceives. (6)
The possibility in a Darwinian shift in color perception.
The information above to the effect that color perception is effectively as much a matter of the brain processing then it a matter of retina perception of wavelength is important since a Darwinian shift in the color perception does not imply necessarily a mutation of the eye over time but rather a refinement in the code that processes the information sent to the brain.
Also considering that the color perception has mutated rapidly among primates (7) we can see that an evolution is in fact a very interesting likelihood.
There is enough information to hypothesize a conclusion.
Consider the case were two color axis interpreted as conjoined by the brain, supposing the red/green axis were at some point aligned with the blue/yellow. The result would be a perceived range of colors going from a purply-red to a greenish-yellow. The result would be the now-familiar color scheme of the early Greeks. (8)
(1) (2) (3) (4) (8) Language and Perception of Color among the Ancient Greeks - Rebbeca Bird
(6) Thompson, Evan, Color Vision; A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception (London, 1995), 53
(7) Thompson, Evan, Color Vision; A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception (London, 1995), 164