Black and white are not colours. They are tones which affect how we see colours.
First off I'd like to clarify what "Black" and "White" can be defined as. Black is, in essence, the absence of color (IE: the absence of light, since the color we perceive is determined by light waves of varying lengths interacting with the light receptors in our eyes.) White, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. White occurs when the receptors in our eyes are confronted with light from three different sources which all equally stimulate those receptors. In nature, only objects that do not reflect light are black (IE: objects that absorb all, or the majority, of the light waves being directed at them.) In the purest definition of the word, true black only occurs in a light devoid environment. On the other hand, white occurs much more often in nature than black does.
I find it interesting how many more colors some people see than others.
Also, how many more colors we have nowadays than in ancient times.
As the human consciousness evolves so does its awareness - or does it just create new colors?
As for the viewing of colors, the reason why some people see "more" colors, or see colors differently (more/less defined) than others could have a lot to do with the size of the persons eyes, and the way in which their light receptors accept light waves. Now this obviously doesn't explain why ancient cultures weren't able to see as wide a spectrum of colors as we can today, our eyes didn't evolve in the biological sense in a mere few thousand years.
One explanation for the shift in the way in which we see our world (from ancient to modern), as well as the way in which we perceive existence in general, is centered around the human brain. The most prevalent theory of why we see colors the way we do is that there are color channels that transmit color from eyes to our brain and that these channels are influenced by our own biology. And since everyone has slightly different biological traits, it stands to reason that these traits would effect our perception of color. And since certain traits are kept and other eliminated over time, it could be that our perception of color today is due to the trends of selection in the gene pool.
Of course there isn't any definitive scientific evidence to conclusively point to the color channels as being the sole way in which we perceive color, and the debate is left to philosophy. It is argued that biology isn't the only defining factor in the ways we perceive.
This leads us, of course, to the question of "Qualia". Qualia is the term used to describe the subjectivity of each individuals conscious experiences, the debate being "Is our perception of reality entirely subjective?" or "Is our perception of reality, as well as that of everyone else, based on the same foundations?", at least that is how I interpret it.
Personally, I believe that each individual's perception of reality is subjective. Which is where I will stop talking and propose a few related questions.
1. If everyone's perception of reality is subjective then how can we be sure that we are even talking about the same colors? For example, if I say to you "the apple is red", how can I be sure that you don't interpret my definition for red as my definition for green? We could all be seeing a different spectrum of color and not even be aware of it. And while you could say this doesn't matter, I'd argue that it would account for our different tastes in colors. Why people have different favorite colors. Why I love orange where as my sister can't stand it... Thoughts?
2. If an object that normally reflects light, say a yellow shirt, is placed into a completely dark room (devoid of all light) does it still have a color? Is an objects color based on the light it's reflecting at that moment or the light that it normally reflects when lit?
Also feel free to chime in on the topic of Qualia. I'd be pleased as punch to see the opinions of members with more education on the topic than myself.
-James (Rubix Cube)