Subjectivity and Normativity in Colour-Distinctions

  • Pirmin Stekeler-WeithoferEmail author
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 388)


How is it like for you to see the blue sky? Applying Wittgenstein’s distinction between showing and saying to this questions – which plays a major role for example in the philosophy of Thomas Nagel and David Chalmers –, we recognize the priority of showing to saying, of knowing-how to knowing-that, and of subjective ‘experience’ to ‘objective’ facts. Not only Kant’s Ding an sich but also subjective qualia must be understood as merely limiting concepts (Grenzbegriffe) – by which we only vaguely point to well-known limits of intersubjectively reliable distinctions. Moreover, the use of colour-words is highly context-sensitive. They express plastic contrasts by which we (in many cases successfully) split up a manifold and continuum of colour-experiences into ‘discrete’ colours of surfaces of things. We do this in quite different ways, taking situations and relevant interests into account. Hence, assertions about colours are dependent from a generic system of relations and modal inferences – such that Wittgenstein realizes at this example why not only the assumption of logical independent colour-propositions is wrong but also a merely classificatory understanding of one place predicates or concepts altogether.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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