The Color Wheel: A Philosophical Conundrum

The color wheel is one of the few finite axioms that arises from human experiences, but rather than suggesting realism or objectivism, could it be evidence of the problem of ‘complete knowledge’?

The color wheel, as well as the light spectrum, provide perplexing riddles for philosophy enthusiasts to consider. The biggest question in all of philosophy is what is the ultimate nature of reality? Is it objects and phenomena, or is it entirely mental? Of course a dualist might say it is both, and a pluralist would add in some extra kooky abstraction(s) to muddy the picture further, but let’s put these fence sitters aside and focus on realism (matter) and idealism (mind) as they relate to the color wheel.

A realist might point at the color wheel as evidence that reality is a finite structure with objective qualities. Not only does the color wheel show all possible colors, it illustrates the relationship between them where primary and secondary colors blend into numerous combinations, aided by shade and intensity. Every possible color is right there in that simple axiomatic image. As a result, we will never be able to see a color that is not already known.

As an idealist I am skeptical that the color wheel represents all possible experiences of color until the end of time. Instead I would argue that the color wheel represents the shared creative experience of color of all mental entities. The color wheel represents what we have managed to create so far.

Here is where I would like to illustrate a reason for adopting idealism, regardless of what the ultimate nature of reality is, which we will unlikely ever be able to verify with absolute certainty.

If the color wheel, and all other contents of mental experience, are a product of inadvertent co-creation – then limiting the possibilities of what we can experience via realist beliefs prevents us from creating the seemingly impossible – like new colors. Nothing believed to be entirely impossible by everyone ever happens, and realists take this as confirmation, but I think we should test those boundaries before just hopelessly surrendering to them.

The first step towards being able to imagine and accomplish new possibilities is having a worldview whose totality of beliefs and expectations about reality makes novelty possible. Rejecting the assumptions of realism is the initial necessary precondition of testing the boundaries of reality, regardless of whether or not realism is ultimately true or false.

The next step would be, in this particular case, throwing out the color wheel. We would need to stop reinforcing a belief in the finite nature of color experiences in order to allow the flexibility to imagine possibilities outside of that limited selection.

Those who master knowledge and persuasion of finite models like the color wheel gain power over those who see those models as absolute. The history of intolerance, inequality and oppression arises as opportunist seek survival advantages by using the finite as rhetorical devices to modify and control the behaviors of those around them. Rejecting the realist model not only liberates us from things like a limited possibility of color experiences, it liberates us from one another by removing the ideological devices used to colonize individuals.

The most important question is not ‘What is true?’ – it is ‘What allows us the most freedom and possibilities?’. So get out there and cancel color wheels like the autocratic reality tyrants that they are! And you better watch your back, math, because I am sending them after you next.

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