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.