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‘Reddish Green’ – Wittgenstein on Concepts and the Limits of the Empirical

Bernhard Ritter
Published Online: 2017-01-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cpt-2016-0001


A “concept” in the sense favoured by Wittgenstein is a paradigm for a transition between parts of a notational system. A concept-determining sentence such as “There is no reddish green” registers the absence of such a transition. This suggests a plausible account of what is perceived in an experiment that was first designed by Crane and Piantanida, who claim to have induced perceptions of reddish green. I shall propose a redescription of the relevant phenomena, invoking only ordinary colour concepts. This redescription is not ruled out by anything the experimenters say. It accounts for certain peculiarities in both their descriptions and their subjects’, and suggests that instead of discovering forbidden colours the experimenters introduced a new use of “-ish”. Still, there is a point in speaking of “reddish green” in their context, which can be motivated by invoking what Wittgenstein calls a “physiognomy”.

Keywords: arbitrariness; concept; Crane-Piantanida experiment; reddish green; Wittgenstein


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-01-03

Published in Print: 2017-01-01

Citation Information: Conceptus, Volume 42, Issue 101-102, Pages 1–19, ISSN (Online) 2196-9523, ISSN (Print) 0010-5155, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cpt-2016-0001.

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