I am not sure if this is the right place for this question, but this is a debate that has been going on between two colleagues for days and I need a resolution because it's driving me crazy. So any help would be appreciated.

It is a common philosophical argument that it is impossible for one person to know if another person is at the same place on the colour wheel (e.g. how I see blue and how you see blue could be different, and we will never know). By that reasoning, it is possible that some species see colours differently to us. However, black and white are not the colour wheel because they are not colours. So essentially, the question is, could another species that "sees" by sensing light with their eyes as humans do ever see an "absence of light" as a colour OTHER than black.

I am not quite sure what these two imbeciles are debating, but I believe they are arguing as follows:

  • Party 1: Black and white are shades not colours, and therefore, even if another species saw colours differently, they would always see black as black, white as white, and all shades of grey relative as usual to the colours they see.
  • Party 2: Black is only inserted into our vision by our brain to resolve the "problem" of not receiving any light. So, therefore, it is equally possible that another species could deal with this problem" differently, and they will see something other than black.
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ As to how humans define shades and colors is irrelevant. we can never look into the brains of an animal. We can't even verify if between-human differences exist between black and white. They are perceptual constructs. it's all in your brain. Therefore party 2 is the least incorrect. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 25 '15 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, my point exactly. Party 1 is arguing that it is impossible for such between-human differences between black and white to exist, because they simply indicate the "raw amount of light" I guess. $\endgroup$ – Raiden616 Mar 25 '15 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ Or are you simply saying we don't know enough about how the brain works to answer that question? $\endgroup$ – Raiden616 Mar 25 '15 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ What is incorrect about party 2's argument? Or is that the bit we can't tell? Sorry if I'm going round in circles.. $\endgroup$ – Raiden616 Mar 25 '15 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ it states "They will see something differently" - we can't tell. what experiment would tell you what an animal sees? we can't even tell apart what two humans perceive. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 25 '15 at 13:18

Yes, animals can see 'black' differently, in terms of different shades, similar to what you stated about humans perceiving different hues of 'blue'. It is all relative to the cones in the eye of the referenced animal. Animals that see in black-and-white see several different hues of both, black and white. Animals that depend on color to judge the ripeness of a food also see in several different hues of black. For example, a parrot differentiating between seeds that humans may perceive as both being 'black'. Here is a color chart showing the colors that bees can perceive in juxtaposition to humans; it indicates high differentiation between hues of black, as opposed to humans' low differentiation. enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Hues of black? That is grey shades. I don't see grey shades in the figure. If you are referring to the 340 nm peak in bees, that is ultraviolet... . -1 $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 25 '15 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ So, would the statement "Any animal that sees light as we do will see black just as humans do", be incorrect? If so, then in this sense, black is a colour like any other? $\endgroup$ – Raiden616 Mar 26 '15 at 12:03

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