Philosophizing on Light, Darkness and Color



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DarkGrey Heroine

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While searching for different philosophical views on art, I stumbled across one of Goethe's theories on color that I found particularly worthy to think about some more:

"Light and darkness, brightness and obscurity, or if a more general expression is preferred, light and its absence, are necessary to the production of color…
Color itself is a degree of darkness."

Even if these sentences speak from a scientific point of view, the quote can me interpreted in a philosophical way, too.
Basically, Goethe perceived the darkness as an important element in the creation of colors, unlike most great minds of the Age of Enlightenment, who only saw the light as an active factor in the process. Thinking about it more: it's true that light comes from light-sources, like stars, and that these sources can "die" or fade. If all light-sources were to stop producing light, what's left would be the darkness. All light-sources have a certain 'life-span', so their "death" is in the end inevitable, the space around them falling back into darkness. Yet new light-sources will form and history repeats itself, but before any light-sources existed, there was only infinite darkness, perhaps already containing things no one could see or find, but they all began their existence in darkness.
This sounds familiar, doesn't it?

"All worlds begin in darkness, and all so end"

Connecting the inference with the universe of Kingdom Hearts, what Ansem SoD said gains in meaning. But this is not really a discussion about KH, it's a general discussion for a mix of philosophy and science that is not really science and is not meant to be serious science anyway...

Moving on to the second sentence, "Color itself is a degree of darkness"...

I was thinking, what if darkness is in truth the element that contains all colors? You can't hide colors in most powerful light as the light causes all the colors to fade, to disappear. It's a similar situation with darkness, but, even in pitch black darkness, we know for sure that there are objects wearing colors. The darkness hides them, envelops them. What if it is in fact the darkness that contains all colors? And, if light is make of lots of colors, why wouldn't darkness consist of a multitude of colors, too?

It is where there's is a certain amount of darkness left, untouched by light entirely, that color is created and objects take shape. It takes the right amount of light invading the darkness to reveal things without them being devoured by either light or darkness completely.

The only thing that freaks me out is the concept of "colorful light", as in red light, green light, yellow light and so on. Even if the light-source is not artificial, taking stars as perfect natural examples, differences in their light's color can be observed. How can this be? Is it that there is darkness even in what seems to be pure light?

Again so many KH references can be made, but I shall not discuss them here since the forum section says "We do not speak of Kingdom Hearts in this place", but if you got some interesting ideas, analogies or theories to share, it's best to just write them down, right?


I hope that my inconsistent reasoning was at least a nice read if not something stimulating enough for you mind (which I hope it was though, I think this stuff is worthy of some pleasant philosophizing!)
 

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There's certainly a lot of deep philosophical nature in both the words and in ties to Kingdom Hearts. Actually dozens of games delve into the concept but it's more prominent in the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series than others.

In old Final Fantasy games light & dark tend to take turns in a sense of equilibrium. In Kingdom Hearts the balance is destroyed thanks to the hearts of people.

It's always fascinating how close to real life games or even anime/manga/tv series can get with the philosophy. One of the best comparisons I ever read was by the member Sephiroth0812 who listed at least five different mythologies and references in KH alone.

On the topic of "color being a degree of darkness". I think thats absolutely true. If you didn't have shades or hues all you would see is white void.
The whole thing of colors can get even deeper when you take into account that how one interrupts colors can vary. Some people with eye conditions see things such as red and green inverted. (meaning to them a strawberry is what we call green)

I'm rambling now lol but theres so many series and real life things you can dig into with that quote.
 

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Not to sound nitpicky, but where's the connection between what you're saying and philosophy or, more specifically, aesthetics? I mean, I can understand Goethe's quote. It seems to me that he wanted to point out the importance of the absence of color in art; an attempt to steer thinking away from art being a series of colors on a canvas, and instead approaching it as the manipulation or ruination of perfect white, as it were. To take the white canvas and slowly remove that very white from it to make the painting.

But when you connect it to Kingdom Hearts, you've lost me. I'm not sure what about the nature of reality you are trying to snatch from this bit of aesthetic insight. Because, frankly, it seems more like a misunderstanding of optics and astronomy than anything else.

In terms of light, white light contains all colors. In fact, white light frequently contains much more than just what you can see (especially if we're talking about stars). If you remove light, you have no color. You cannot have color without light. Color comes from objects reflecting certain wavelengths of light into our eyes. The part that's reflected is the color that we see. Sure, it's just a "part" of the light, but the light still has to be there.

Now if we're talking about paints and dyes and such, the opposite is true... kind of. It's not technically different in that light is obviously behaving the same way; but with dyes, it's about creating the thing that is reflecting the light. So, if you have white paint, it obviously reflects all of the light (which is why it's white). But if mix in blue paint, then all of the light won't be reflected back out anymore. Add enough colors (essentially all of them) and you'll arrive at black (which is to say that no light is reflected back out).

At the end of the day, color is just our eyes interpreting wavelengths of light within a particular range. Without us, in a sense, color doesn't really exist. The wavelengths that we interpret as color exist, of course, but they're just wavelengths. Signals oscillating about the universe as they please. As far as colors go, they don't really mean anything until they're interpreted by some manner of device which can perceive them as such (i.e., animals).

And as for stars, they're always white. Kind of. One of the things you have to understand is that our atmosphere messes with the light that passes through it regardless. Second, the light that all stars emit contains the entire spectrum, including the visible range (obviously). And since that's true, you could say that they're white. But that's kind of misleading. See, there's another thing called Wien's law; which put really simply, means that stars of certain intensities peak at a certain range of the spectrum. They still emit the entire spectrum at light, it just peaks at a certain point along that range. So, depending on their intensity, it'll look like a certain color (blue is hot, red is "cold"). There are also things like Doppler shifts, but I'm not sure how necessary that really is to the discussion at hand.

But yeah, color isn't a huge mystery to us, so I'm not really sure what of particular use to philosophy as a whole we'll find approaching it from your angle. The branch of aesthetics specifically? You could pull something out of that (though it would probably just be a reiteration of what Goethe said). But the nature of things in general? I'm not too convinced.

The whole thing of colors can get even deeper when you take into account that how one interrupts colors can vary. Some people with eye conditions see things such as red and green inverted. (meaning to them a strawberry is what we call green)
I'm assuming you are referring to color blindness; in which case, that's not really how it works. As far as I know, there hasn't been a case where someone can perceive the whole visible spectrum and merely has two from almost opposite ends swapped. We don't really perceive color that way. There's variations in how we perceive colors (that's why some call a tennis ball yellow and others call it green). There's a little wiggle room where we don't agree on what a color is. But even then, they aren't swapped. Instead, it's more like some might have a broader range of greens that they can interpret and a smaller range of yellows, whereas it might be the opposite for another person. In that area "between" green and yellow is where you'll see the difference in color perception.

Now color blindness refers to a problem with the cones in the eye. Either one doesn't work at all or only works a little, which gimps perception of the wavelengths associated with that particular type of cone (of which we have three; red, blue, and green). The colors aren't inverted, they just literally can't perceive those colors in the same way that we can. Deuteranopia (red/green color blindness, the most common) causes people to see something similar to what dogs see: Shades of blues and browns and yellows.
 

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The vague connection with philosophy I had in mind was formed only by analyzing the specific terms "light", "darkness" and "color" from what they symbolically mean to us. That's what KH uses, their symbolic meanings, that being the reason I put those connections there. I didn't want to mix in pure science, but make some analogies for the fun of discovering the symbolic chains sustaining this world. What Goethe said wasn't about color as a term from the Arts field, but color in general. I started with some research on Art, then arrived at that unsure and incomplete science from those centuries, a mix of ideas, facts and speculations, and after that I just continued thinking about it, it was all spontaneous and entertaining. Even if I know the actual facts behind the creation of colors, I wanted to ignore them for a bit and let my mind play with the vast words of light and darkness, not only for their physics definition. That's what part of philosophy does, it tackles a subject from all possible angles, even if its knowledge doesn't cover all the fields that connect with the subject.
My words were ambiguous, that's true anyway, and I understand what you mean. I myself didn't know where I would arrive when I started thinking about the quote some more, taking it from all kinds of perspectives, not only the artistic or scientific side fully. I didn't intend to discuss about art in any way, actually. I think too much science and wisdom makes the world less poetic and I wanted to return to that kind of discussions full of speculations, ambiguities and hidden spiritual meanings that the Greeks enjoyed in antiquity
This is why my approach was light-hearted and vague... and it's more fun for it to be that way (occasionally~)
 

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I'm assuming you are referring to color blindness
Your assuming wrong then. It was another condition that I saw on a science channel once. I can't remember what it's called though...
 
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I think another important philosophical concept to note is balance. The idea that light and darkness are codependent of each other and the fact that it would be impossible to see color without both. On one hand, color can only exist in darkness, but on the other hand we need light to make the color visible and reveal its true nature. Could not the same be said of people? After all, how can one know being selfish is wrong if he's never experienced generosity? On the flipside, if you've only ever given and been around people who give, how would you know that stealing is wrong? I could go on about this for hours, but in my opinion, the reason evil/darkness exists in the world is to help us better understand kindness/light.
 

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The Beginning

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

If you want to go to the essentials of the universe, then darkness predates light and even sound.

 

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Not too surprising that the matters of light and darkness can go this philosophical. It's probably humanity's most commonly-used theme and duality since forever.

So darkness predates light in almost every culture's origin story. There's always that primordial state of formless void somewhere, and on a smaller scale, life tends to begin in darkness too. And from how I see it, you must have one to define the other. We can't really comprehend light without its opposite, darkness, to define it, and vice versa.

Urgh, I am not in the right mindset to write out something long and profound. But I've had this philosophical debate about this topic in the past more times than I can remember.
 

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Not too surprising that the matters of light and darkness can go this philosophical. It's probably humanity's most commonly-used theme and duality since forever.

So darkness predates light in almost every culture's origin story. There's always that primordial state of formless void somewhere, and on a smaller scale, life tends to begin in darkness too. And from how I see it, you must have one to define the other. We can't really comprehend light without its opposite, darkness, to define it, and vice versa.

Urgh, I am not in the right mindset to write out something long and profound. But I've had this philosophical debate about this topic in the past more times than I can remember.
A fun thought. Most cultures have darkness predating everything but sometimes beings, usually gods, rise from this void. BUT in nearly every culture with such symbolism the current world doesn't truly begin till light illuminates that darkness.
Light adds the contrast to what was initially a hollowed existence. Light, dark, color, life, and death all begin when Light illuminates adding the contrast and giving darkness it's title as "darkness".
 

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The Beginning

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

If you want to go to the essentials of the universe, then darkness predates light and even sound.

Being a man of religion and a huge fan of KH, then this kind of philosophy is more than enough to form a strong correlation with Xehanort's statement.
 

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I'm not sure if darkness may "predate" light. Without light, there wouldn't even be the need for the word or definition of "darkness" at all. There was no darkness before the light was "created", even if you stick to God or anything.
 
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