Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Interaction of Thought

Here are some notes on reading Josef Albers' Interaction of Color.

Thought is the most relative medium in expression.

Albers talks sometimes of colours in an apparently absolute sense. But this is always only shorthand for “coloured pieces of paper”.

He will talk of making three colours look like two colours, or three colours look like four colours.

What he means is: two pieces of paper that look different on the same white background may look the same if arranged on different backgrounds.

Or: two pieces that look the same on the same white background may look different when arranged on other backgrounds.

That is, the pieces of paper and “their colour” are quite different matters. What colour we see depends on what other colours impinge upon them.

There is a coloured “whole” that assigns a specific colour experience to each region of the visual field.

In philosophy, we use words and sentences to “express thoughts”. Two identical sentences may express very different thoughts; two different sentences may express the same thought. Also this can be demonstrated under specific circumstances.

Learning to philosophize, i.e., learning to express thoughts properly (learning to notice concepts, learning to write them down correctly), is a matter of learning to deal with these circumstances.

In real life the circumstances under which words are made to express thoughts change without our being able to do much about it. (Just as our actual colour experiences depend on the ambient and direct light in a room, over which we may have very limited control.)

In the classroom, however, where a time and a space for experimentation may be arranged, effects can be produced that clearly demonstrate the availability of specific “thought contents”.

Albers’ students will later in life be better suited than most to design the colour content of rooms and buildings in real life. They will understand the relativity of this content: its relation to the larger colour context (the neighbourhood, the city, the country, the natural world) through specific effects achieved by relating colour samples (pieces of paper).

So too should the philosopher emerge from an education in philosophy better suited to arrange the logical content of experience in relation to the broader linguistic context in which it goes on.

There are no paradoxes of colour because colour is pure surface-appearance (colour is imaginary).

There are likewise no paradoxes of logic (as Wittgenstein showed). Logic is pure language (it is imaginary).

It is impossible to arrange colours in an “impossible” way (i.e. invisibly). All colour arrangements can be seen.

It is also impossible to arrange thoughts in an impossible way (i.e. illogically). All conceptual arrangements can be thought.

Paradoxes arise when we refuse to see (or think) the way the arrangement resolves itself as an arrangement. This resolution is always prior to the paradox, which you can only see by squinting at it.


Laura Carter said...

Thanks for this.

Laura Carter said...
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