Inverted Spectrum Thought Experiment

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Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 09:34 am
The inverted spectrum thought experiment is considered an argument for the existence of qualia. For the sake of this discussion, I do not wish to speak for or against qualia. The point of this thread is to investigate the inverted spectrum theory, and consider whether it is plausible or not.

For those who aren't versed in what the inverted spectrum thought experiment is:
[INDENT]"Inverted spectrum is the apparent possibility of two people sharing their color vocabulary and discriminations, although the colors one sees - their qualia - are systematically different from the colours the other person sees.

Imagine that we wake up one morning, and find that for some unknown reason all the colors in the world have been inverted. Furthermore, we discover that no physical changes have occurred in our brains or bodies that would explain this phenomenon."
[/INDENT]My friend started off by inviting me to consider two children, Jim and Jay, just born, with no past color experiences. Both children are presented with a green crayon and are told that the crayon is in fact green. From this, both children learn to call the green crayon green. Though Jim and Jay both call the same crayon green, Jim experiences the green crayon as blue (or any other color); he experiences it differently than Jay. Neither Jim nor Jay ever realize that Jim experiences the color of the crayon differently, because they both share the same color vocabulary.

Now, first I considered that colors are simply wavelengths which the eye responds to. Green, for instance, has a wavelength range from 495-570nm. Thus, no matter who you are, you should be experiencing X when you see the wavelength range of 495-570nm. If we're both seeing and interpreting the same wavelength of light, no matter what we call it, aren't we experiencing the same thing?

Next, I began to consider other examples of sensory perception where this inverted theory could be applied, and I immediately thought of sound. Could it be plausible that someone's highs were my lows and vice versa? I didn't see how this was possible because I realized that there were other, what I decided to call, validators - things which verified that one is in fact having an experience. In the case of sound, if you experience a low enough sound, you actually begin to feel a physical vibration. I began thinking of many other examples of sensory perception and the plausibility of inversion, but most, if not all, had these validators (again, things which verified said experience). With color, though, I could not think of anything which could validate that I'm experiencing a color, besides believing that I'm experiencing a specific wavelength.

Soon after, I stumbled across one of Daniel Dennett's arguments against this inverted theory. We read and reread Daniel Dennett's argument against this, but he only speaks of the inverted spectrum with the consideration that one has had past color experiences (much of his argument deals with qualia memories). What my friend and I were discussing, however, was the plausibility of someone being born with the inverted spectrum, with no past experience. Dennett, from what I've seen, doesn't address this.

It ended with a standstill, with my friend still believing that it's possible that we could both be experiencing two different colors and still call it the same thing.

Thoughts?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 10:02 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;107817 wrote:
The inverted spectrum thought experiment is considered an argument for the existence of qualia. For the sake of this discussion, I do not wish to speak for or against qualia. The point of this thread is to investigate the inverted spectrum theory, and consider whether it is plausible or not.

For those who aren't versed in what the inverted spectrum thought experiment is:[INDENT]"Inverted spectrum is the apparent possibility of two people sharing their color vocabulary and discriminations, although the colors one sees - their qualia - are systematically different from the colours the other person sees.

Imagine that we wake up one morning, and find that for some unknown reason all the colors in the world have been inverted. Furthermore, we discover that no physical changes have occurred in our brains or bodies that would explain this phenomenon."
[/INDENT]My friend started off by inviting me to consider two children, Jim and Jay, just born, with no past color experiences. Both children are presented with a green crayon and are told that the crayon is in fact green. From this, both children learn to call the green crayon green. Though Jim and Jay both call the same crayon green, Jim experiences the green crayon as blue (or any other color); he experiences it differently than Jay. Neither Jim nor Jay ever realize that Jim experiences the color of the crayon differently, because they both share the same color vocabulary.

Now, first I considered that colors are simply wavelengths which the eye responds to. Green, for instance, has a wavelength range from 495-570nm. Thus, no matter who you are, you should be experiencing X when you see the wavelength range of 495-570nm. If we're both seeing and interpreting the same wavelength of light, no matter what we call it, aren't we experiencing the same thing?

Next, I began to consider other examples of sensory perception where this inverted theory could be applied, and I immediately thought of sound. Could it be plausible that someone's highs were my lows and vice versa? I didn't see how this was possible because I realized that there were other, what I decided to call, validators - things which verified that one is in fact having an experience. In the case of sound, if you experience a low enough sound, you actually begin to feel a physical vibration. I began thinking of many other examples of sensory perception and the plausibility of inversion, but most, if not all, had these validators (again, things which verified said experience). With color, though, I could not think of anything which could validate that I'm experiencing a color, besides believing that I'm experiencing a specific wavelength.

Soon after, I stumbled across one of Daniel Dennett's arguments against this inverted theory. We read and reread Daniel Dennett's argument against this, but he only speaks of the inverted spectrum with the consideration that one has had past color experiences (much of his argument deals with qualia memories). What my friend and I were discussing, however, was the plausibility of someone being born with the inverted spectrum, with no past experience. Dennett, from what I've seen, doesn't address this.

It ended with a standstill, with my friend still believing that it's possible that we could both be experiencing two different colors and still call it the same thing.

Thoughts?


You might find the following enlightening:

Inverted Qualia (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
 
Kielicious
 
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 02:13 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;107817 wrote:

Now, first I considered that colors are simply wavelengths which the eye responds to. Green, for instance, has a wavelength range from 495-570nm. Thus, no matter who you are, you should be experiencing X when you see the wavelength range of 495-570nm. If we're both seeing and interpreting the same wavelength of light, no matter what we call it, aren't we experiencing the same thing?



Not necessarily.

Color processing happens in both the eye and the brain. People who are color blind lack a certain gene activation, I think, and while they still receive the same wavelengths as 'normal' people but dont perceive similarly because the lack of appropriate cone receptors in the eye. Color in the brain however involves much more processing and it is well known that we, as humans, dont see with our eyes per se, but we instead 'see' with our minds. This is easily noted by several different types of illusions and what is called 'after-effects'.

What's even more interesting is in studies where patients who have had their entire striate cortex (primary visual cortex) removed can still maneuver, discriminate, and 'see' objects and patterns. This is known as blindsight. The patients lack available visual information and yet can still locate the intended objects (Weiskrantz et al. 1974). But that is obvious structural damage and you talked about this in one of your opening paragraphs so maybe the point is null, but then again having identical participants for this thought experiment would be getting close to a confirmation bias. I think the point of all this is that different mediums promote different perceptions when given the same stimuli. So what would be green for one subject could be 'green' for another.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 02:27 pm
@Zetherin,
Kielicious wrote:

I think the point of all this is that different mediums promote different perceptions when given the same stimuli


In other words, different brains can perceive the same stimuli differently, right? Well, if this is true, then do you think it's possible your green could be my blue, but we both just call it green because we share the same color vocabulary?

Do you think, auditorily, that it's plausible that my highs could be your lows? That is, when I hear your lows, I experience them as highs, but we both still call them lows (because I was taught to call X, lows)?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 03:04 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;107881 wrote:
In other words, different brains can perceive the same stimuli differently, right? Well, if this is true, then do you think it's possible your green could be my blue, but we both just call it green because we share the same color vocabulary?

Do you think, auditorily, that it's plausible that my highs could be your lows? That is, when I hear your lows, I experience them as highs, but we both still call them lows (because I was taught to call X, lows)?


It is a possibility, but since we all have roughly the same physiology, not very probable.
 
Kielicious
 
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 10:29 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;107881 wrote:
In other words, different brains can perceive the same stimuli differently, right? Well, if this is true, then do you think it's possible your green could be my blue, but we both just call it green because we share the same color vocabulary?


I think its possible but highly unlikely seeing how we both have relatively similar anatomy and physiology. But if we are talking about people with color deficiency then yes its entirely possible. People with tritanopia see greens as blues:

Color blindness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Zetherin wrote:
Do you think, auditorily, that it's plausible that my highs could be your lows? That is, when I hear your lows, I experience them as highs, but we both still call them lows (because I was taught to call X, lows)?



Again we are so genetically similar that I would have to say no, but whenever I think about the vast imagination of evolution I cant say for sure.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 10:55 pm
@Zetherin,
I agree with both of you, and this is actually the stance I took during the initial discussion with my friend. There's a lot to digest in the article that kennethamy posted, and I think in order to build a better argument, I'm going to have to do much more reading.

Thanks for your input, guys.
 
vajrasattva
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 01:16 pm
@Zetherin,
I think that it is possible that we are perciving different collors and experienceing the same wave length as a matter of fact I think that it is plausible.

The perception of color that I posess is the best possible perception of color that I can imagine. My perception of color makes perciving the world easier for me. The contrast in color the definition of objects and the perception of depth found in my perception of color allows for the best use of my eye sight.

However the person next to me may need a different set of perceptions in order to make the best of his or her personal eyesight. This may be because of different biologcal functions or different experiences with color.

But ultimately we will never know what the next man sees.
 
 

 
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