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The Enigma Of The Universe : Phenomenon of Colour

Published: 10.12.2014
Updated: 13.01.2015

In the preceding passage we discussed about the sensory qualities in general and "taste" in particular. The sensory quality of "odour" can be explained identically. But the sensory quality of "colour" is to be treated slightly differently. For here the sensory equipment (eye) does not come in direct contact with the object (as it is aprāpyakāri), but perceives it through the medium of light. Thus, the colour, which is comprehended in our perception, is created as a result of the interaction between the objective colour existing in the object, light and the optical equipment. Expressed symbolically, if

Cp denotes the colour perceived,

Co denotes the objective colour,

L denotes the function of light


S denotes the function representing sensory equipment,

Cp = f (Co, L, S).

Now, according to Eddington, colour must be regarded as "mere mind spinning". [1]This would mean that if we perceive grass as "green", there is no specialty whatsoever of the grass, but it is the mind, which spins the "green colour" on account of its own characteristic. But such a view does not hold good even on the basis of the present-day scientific theory of colour.

Modern science explains the phenomenon of colour on the basis of the wave theory of light. According to it, the normal white light from the sun contains the whole visible spectrum.[2] When the light from the sun falls on any material object, it absorbs some of the radiations and reflects the rest. The reflected radiations reach our eyes and we perceive the colour of the object corresponding to the wave-lengths of these radiations. Thus, when the light from the sun falls on the grass, it absorbs radiations of all other wave-lengths except one representing green colour. Consequently, the only radiations of wave-length representing green colour reaches our eyes. They stimulate the optic equipment and we see the grass as "green".[3]

It is obvious that the reflection of the wave-lengths representing green colour and absorption of the rest of the wavelengths grass is due to its own specific objective property. Thus, on the basis of the scientific theory of colour, it becomes clear that the perception of grass as green (or rose as red) depends upon the fact as to which wave-length is not absorbed by the object and this, in turn, is decided by the structure of the object-some objective peculiarity of the object itself.[4] Thus, Eddington's contention that colour is mere mind-spinning is completely blown into smithereens on the basis of the scientific theory itself.

On the basis of the Jain theory of colour, as we have already seen, it is clear that the green colour of the grass is the colour perceived by us (Cp), which is created in two steps: firstly, there is an interaction of light (L) with the objective colour of the grass (Co), and secondly, the resultant product interacts with the sensory (optical) equipment (S). Thus the colour observed ("green" in the case of grass) is not a "mere mind-spinning". In fact all the three factors-the object, light and the subject (sensory equipment)-play an equally important three factors gets slightly changed, there would be a corresponding change in the perceived colour. Thus, for example, say,

  1. A sees Grass in white light as Green,
    A sees Rose in white light as Red. (Example of change in object)

  2. A sees Grass in white light as Green,
    B sees Grass in white light as Red, (Example of change in the observer; B is supposed to be colour-blind)

  3. A sees Rose in white light as Red.
    A sees Rose in yellow light as Orange. (Example of change in light).

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Title: The Enigma Of The Universe Publisher: JVB University Ladnun English Edition: 2010 HN4U Online Edition: 2014

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  2. Eddington
  3. Science
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