Sunday, January 6, 2013

[PHI 3000] Appearance and Reality

The distinction between appearance and reality is supposed to be the distinction between "what things seem to be and what they are." Perceptual illusions, such as the checkerboard illusion, illustrate the distinction. It appears that the shades of squares A and B are different; that square A is darker than square B. However, the shades of the two squares are really the same.

Or so we think. How do we know that squares A and B are of the same shade? After all, to figure out that the two squares are of the same shade, we still have to rely on what we see. That is, we have to rely on the way things appear to us, or how they seem to be, rather than on what they are. In other words, the "square A and square B are the same" is just another appearance, just like "square A is darker than square B."

Saying that we can sample the shades in Photoshop and determine their RGB values seems to push the problem merely one step further. For, we would still have to rely on the way things appear to us in order to figure out that the two squares are the same shade of gray. In other words, "squares A and B are the same shade of gray" is just another appearance. Can we break out of this infinite regress of appearances?


  1. "Can we break out of this infinite regress of appearances?"

    I don't believe so, at least in this situation. The issue lies within the question itself. "Are squares A and B the same shade of gray?"

    The idea of "gray" can ONLY be recognized by the sense of sight. To ask if we can determine a color without judging its appearance is like asking someone if they can recognize a noise without hearing it. The definition of "gray" implies recognizing it through sight, and to take that away would be to deny any way of identifying it, thus removing any chance to definitely conclude that the two squares are in fact the same.

  2. The perceptual illusion, the checkerboard illusion, boggled my mind. I was very stern at first in believing that the shades of square A and B were the same. But the research stating that with the use of Photoshop the RGB values are shown to be the same, I cannot argue with the illusion. It may be hard to believe but the facts presented show that they are the same. Perceptions often are not what they appear, because it just what the brain reads it as to make sense of what is going on. In the shadow, square B looks of a lighter shade than square A, but when square B comes out of the shadow it is actually the same shade. By technical terms, they are the same shade, and by practicing how shades look in shadows and out of shadows, I would say that I would be able to perceive it better. We can break out of this infinite regress of appearances by specifying that is by technical terms like with the use of photoshop and determining if they have the same RGB values.

    -Samuel Geffen PHI1045 1:50pm Tuesday

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sammy. Isn't the belief that A and B are the same shade also appearance-based?

    2. Yes, it is appearance-based but there is a standard made by using photoshop to get the RGB values. When people, like myself, view the shades of A and B it appears to be different but it is just the brain connecting the surrounding views together. It is shown by the example using the two lines of same length, but appears to be different by how our brain is affected by the sounding short lines( If the surroundings were not there it would be significantly easier to see that they are identical. On a computer, specifically Photoshop, it shows what is rather than what it appears to be. It gives numbers and pure data that is not affected by the environment, rather than our brains being affected by multiple aspects. People can use the RGB values as a base for inquiries on the true shade of an object.

      -Samuel Geffen PHI1045 1:50pm Tuesday


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