[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
Also, a culture that considers orange to be like red - because they don’t have a name for orange - must see colors differently than we do, since orange is not in their vocabulary.
I call many colors “orange” that you might well call “yellow,” for example, I consider School Bus Yellow to be a yellowey-orange, rather than yellow, and if I had to pick one of the terms to call it and I were not having to deal with other persons, I’d call it orange.
Does that mean that my eyes work differently than yours? No.
It means I have different names for things and different interests (I like pure yellow and am discerning of small differences from that, let along a very large difference as with School Bus Yellow, while you may have little to no interest there.)
Back when Volkswagen was putting a lot of New Beetles on the road with very light shades, my then-fiancee called various such cars “white” when I called them “blue” or whatever they actually tended toward.
If they had cars in four different such colors, she would have had one word for all of them – “white” – while I would have had four differing words for them.
Did that mean that her eyes worked differently than mine? No. Again, it meant that I used words differently and my interests in colors are different than hers: I am interested in subtle differences moving white away from neutral whereas she is not.
Did Isaac Newton have different vision than other people because he saw “indigo” inbetween blue and violet, whereas most people would skip over that hue and not bother naming it separately?
Nope. (His actual reason was that he wanted 7 colors, not six, and wanted a given set of spacings between these colors so as to match the musical scale, of all things.)
Now, this is where the whole conversation could get hateful – no such intent, but inherently this sort of thing may be quite disliked – for anthropology type people: the above general area is not soft science but is subject to objective, quantitative experimentation determining what the facts are in this matter. The cones of differing people’s eyes in fact have the same response curves to light. Their eyes generate the same responses. I could go into this a little further as it is interesting but would be getting too far astray.
While one can have a soft squishy theory that Eskimos may have a different perceptual system with regard to identifying snow (soft and squishy because completely unproveable and completely unfalsifiable), a much simpler explanation is that they have much more interest in it.
I think an analogous thing is seen in the English language with regard to bodyparts.
Have you ever noticed that bodyparts that people in general (not in reference to bb’ing) have no particular interest in will typically have one name, or maybe two? For example, an elbow is an elbow, and that’s it.
Whereas, how many words can you think of that refer to the nose? Let alone say the breasts.
We have little interest in types of snow; the Eskimos have great interest in it.
So what is the surprise that they have more words for it? How can that be interpreted as necessarily meaning anything more than that they have more interest in it, and more occasions where differences in snow may be relevant to them?
I’m perfectly able to see that snow is mushy, or soft and fluffy, or has grains of ice in it, and so forth. I don’t have specific words for these things because I have little interest and no practical need to often communicate these things.[/quote]
While I’m very sympathetic and basically agree, let me say one small thing in defense. While there is certainly an object matter-of-fact behind the various “cutting-up” we do of reality through language (or at least, I think so), this doesn’t mean that nevertheless the conceptual cutting we do of the world through language isn’t there. The point that I was trying to make earlier was that this conceptualization that happens through the use of language isn’t somehow fundamental–just because my native tongue leads me to conceptualize some aspect of reality one way doesn’t mean that I’m fundamentally stuck with that conceptualization and that I cannot come to an understanding of how some other person, via their native tongue, conceptualizes the same aspect of reality.
That’s why I was pushing people to explain what they meant by “see things differently”. Clearly if they mean that a different language will prevent people from seeing, say, orange, this is incorrect. But, if they mean that a different language will lead people to think and conceptualize things in different ways, that’s true. For a silly example, if Newton pointed to indigo and blue and asked people if they saw different colors, people not trained to see indigo probably won’t see indigo. But of course, as soon as Newton explains what indigo is and explains the difference he wants them to see, then everyone is happy and agrees with Newton that there is a difference–one shade is indigo and the other blue. In this sense anyway there seems to be a clear way in which language impedes conceptualization, although, as I point out, there’s nothing fundamental about this.
Or something like that…