The Instigator
Con (against)
1 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Does light have color

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/1/2016 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 666 times Debate No: 85871
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (6)
Votes (1)




I will be attempting to prove that light itself has no color and that color merely exists in the mind.


I accept Furyan's challenge and will be arguing that light has an objective color, independent of the mind. No structure was laid out by Con, so I will be making my opening arguments immediately.

I will be making two different points. The first concerns the physical nature of color, the second concerns a non-minds ability to "recognize color".

1. Color is a physical property of light.

One could make the specious claim that heat does not exist in reality, but only in the mind. That objects have no temperature unless a mind exists to interpret this temperature. However this argument is obviously flawed, as our ability to perceive temperature has nothing to do with the reality of the existence of heat. Paper still burns upon being introduced to enough heat, regardless of whether a mind exists to perceive this or not.

Similarly, color is another objective and physical property of the universe, and is specifically a property of light. Light itself is nothing more than an electromagnetic wave. Color refers to the specific wavelength this wave posseses. The human color spectrum is relatively small, including only a small portion of the EM spectrum. Other animals are capable of seeing color that humans are not, like infrared and UV light. It is not impossible to imagine a creature could exist that has the ability to see color in even more extreme parts of the EM spectrum.

It could be argued that the color we see and the physical property of "color" are two different things. Our eyes transform the EM wave into something our mind can understand, just as our nerves transform heat into something our mind can understand. This "reality to mind" transformation done by our brain does not disclude the objective existence of what we are perceiving.

In a world in which living creatures did not exist, the sun would still produce yellow, orange, and ultraviolet light, even though no one would be capable of seeing it. This entire topic harkens to the commonly quoted, "If a tree falls in the woods..." conjecture. Based upon our understanding of physics, we know that a tree still makes a sound when falling, regardless of whether a mind is present. Similarly, color still exists regardless of whether a mind is there to see it.

2. Robots are capable of detecting color.

If it can be demonstrated that color can be recognized without the existence of any mind, then the opponent's central position cannot be defended. First, it is necessary to understand that a robot does not have a mind in any sense. A computer is a complex array of simple physical reactions, incapable of original thought (or anything that could be considered thought in the first place.)

Next, we can see that there have been multiple instances in which a computer has been programmed and equipped with special sensors to differentiate color. In other words, a robot could be programmed to beep a high tone whenever it sees blue and beep a low tone whenever it sees red.

The robot's ability to do this directly shows that color can be "seen" without a mind. As such, the premise that "light itself has no color" cannot be defended.


In this brief introductory argument, I have made two arguments. The first concerned the objective, physical properties of color and demonstrated that color is not simply an illusion created by the mind, but is a physical property of light. In the second argument, I demonstrated that color can be "perceived" by robots (which do not possess a mind), clearly showing that a mind is not necessary to recognize color.

I look forward to my opponent's case and rebuttal.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for accepting this debate.

Heat is not color. One can't compare apples to oranges. And robots detect different wavelengths of light, not different colors. This is also what the cones in the human eye detects. When sunlight, which is made up of all wavelengths of light, strikes an orange, it absorbs all the other wavelengths except those between 590 and 620 nm which it reflects. When this light strikes our retina it is detected by cones which only detect light of this wavelength. The cone then sends a signal along the optic nerve to our brains imaging center where the signal is converted into an image. This is where color is created.

Light which does not strike our retina directly is invisible to us, that is why we don't see "orange light" radiating away from an orange in all directions. This is because light has no color, only different wavelengths which or brains interpret as color.

The best example I can think of is a TV antenna which recieves radio waves. These waves are not visible as pictures or images. The antenna sends a signal to your TV which converts this signal into images and sounds. Without a antenna and TV the images and sounds won't exist.

So yes, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, it doesn't make a sound. It only creates sound waves which require ears and a conscious brain to be converted into sound.

Thanks. I look forward to seeing your counter arguments.


The opponent is making a broad, ill-defined philosophical argument regarding what color "really is". I will be defending my position and demonstrating the flaws in the opponent's rebuttal.

The Definition of Color

For the purposes of this debate, I will be considering "color" to be a scientific property, specifically one of light. The opponent would find it difficult to provide an alternative definition, as "what we see when light comes into our eyes" is not an objective or accuratey measurable phenomenon.

For instance, some people are color blind, some have regular vision and some have extraordinary color vision. In the minds of each of these people, "red" would be interpretted very differently. As such, it is useless to define a color like "red" based upon the mind's interpretation of the particular wavelength of light hitting a person's eyes. If that were the case, there would be no objective "red" and we couldn't accurately say that "trees are green" or "water is blue".

Because of this, we need some other basis for the definition of color. The best definition would concern qualities that are objective in nature and do not change. As such, we define color as being based upon the particular wavelength of an electromagnetic wave.

Since we have defined color as being based upon the wavelength of light, it is clear that a mind is not necessary for light to have the property of color. In a universe without thinking minds, grass would still reflect green, because the wavelength emitted would be around 550 nm.

Robots and Their Many Abilities

Considering our "best definition" of color, it is equally as clear that robots are capable of detecting unique colors. Seeing as color is a physical process involving no higher "thinking power", it is easy to see why robots are capable of doing this.

The fact that a robot can do this only further goes to show that a mind is not a prerequisite to the existence of color.

The Opponent's Case

Or specifically, the lack thereof. The opponent rebutted my arguments and included a brief synopsis of how the human eye works, but otherwise failed to in any way attempt to prove that a mind is necessary for the existence of color. In Round 1, the opponent promised that he would be proving this and has yet to do this.

Along with my opponent's case, I imagine there will be a definition of color different from my own. If this is the case, I advise that the definition be as well-founded and unchanging as my own.

I look forward to my opponent's response.
Debate Round No. 2


My oppopponent is correct in stating that what we see when light comes into our eyes is not an objective and accurately measurable phenomenon. There is no way of knowing how each individual persons brain interprets a particular wavelength. In fact people that are color blind are proof that we percieve colors differently. But if your brain interprets light of the wavelength x as the color y, it will interpret all light of the wavelength x as the color y. It's irrelevant whether my y and your y are the same.

Synestesia is a phenomenon which allows certain individuals to see sounds. Their brains interpret different notes as different colors. If color was a property of light, this would be impossible as light waves and sound waves are completely different. The only common ground between color and sounds is the impulses that travel from ears to auditory center and the impulses that travel from our eyes to the visual center. In people with synestesia there is obviously a crossover of this signal.

What further proof do you need that colors exist only in the brain? Now I know this is contrary to your current understanding of light and color. At one stage I believed that color was a property of the object. That the skin of an orange is orange. I was wrong. As Newton said, color is not a property of an object. The object either absorbs or reflects light of a certain wavelength. Well neither is color a property of light. Color is merely how our brains interpret different wavelengths.


Again the opponent casually dismisses large swathes of my case in favor of unsubstantiaed assertions and misused facts. I'll rebut his case, then briefly summarize my own.

Color: An Experience or a Property

The opponent largely references how our brains interpret color throughout his speech without realizing that he is missing the point. I do not deny that our brains process color information, just as our brain process various other physical stimuli. As I've said before, the mind's ability interpret physical information does not mean said physical information cannot exist independent of the mind.

In his speech, my opposition actually bolsters my definitional argument by providing even more examples of how our brains differently interpret color. My definition of color was considered to be superior because it was not subjective in nature. By defining color as a physical property, we are able to accurately measure and interpret the color of light in a useful, scientific way.

The opponent failed to produce any counter definition, despite my request for one, meaning we are forced to assume that my definition holds. Understanding this, it's easy to see that the opponent is just regurgitating the same statement that "light doesn't posses the quality of color" without backing it up with any tangible evidence or convincing logic.

The only argument presented was that "If color was a property of light, this [synesthesia] would not be possible." This doesn't make much sense when analyzed. We have already agreed that each mind interprets physical stimuli differently than every other mind. It is not surprising that some minds interpret said stimuli very differently from the "typical mind".


The opponent did not present a counter-definition, did not present a case (only a rebuttal) and certainly did not prove that light does not have color, as he originally stated he would do.

It is clear at this point that the only correct vote is for Pro, as I have demonstrated that color is a physical property of electromagnetic waves that exists whether or not a mind does. The fact that a mind can interpret color does not preclude the existence of color in the first place.
Debate Round No. 3


The tree that you see is not the tree that you see.
This sentence is illogical to anyone who does not understand qualia.
Perhaps watching the following clip will enlighten you.

I am not here to argue the definition of color. There are numerous definitions and no 2 are the same. Everyone just picks one that most agrees with their understanding of how light works and how the eyes work. I can't drag you into the light, no pun intended. To me, color is the blue of the ocean, the green of a lush tropical forest and the bright red of ripe strawberries. The blue is more than just a visual stimuli. It actually alters my state of mind. Like red invigorates or excites me. Color is my internal experience. My Qualia.

The definition of color is irrelevant in this debate as we are not discussing color but light and whether color is a property of light or not.

"The main sensory organ of the visual system is the eye, which takes in the physical stimuli of light rays and transduces them into electrical and chemical signals that can be interpreted by the brain to construct physical images."

Taken from

Light clearly is not red, blue or any other color. It is merely called red light because that particular wavelength produces that sensation in our mind.


I think the opponent completely misses the mark here. I will briefly rebut, then give two reasons that should show I have won this debate.

The Rebuttal

The opponent argues that color is a qualia -- a philosophical term which basically refers to something that is a subjective, personal experience. While the opponent may claim that he does not need a definition of color, his entire "qualia argument" necessariy assumes that color is defined as being a qualia. The opposition fails, however, to demonstrate why his definition is preferable to my own.

I'll briefly mention that the opponent states roughly that, "the definition of color is not relevant, we're not debating color, we're debating whether color is a property of light". This statement is logically self defeating, as we cannot talk about whether "color is a property of light" without knowing what "light", "property" and "color" mean. We are clearly using common sense terms for "light" and "property", leaving us with the burden of defining color. I have done this, as has the opponent (even if in implication only.)

The two following points will demonstrate why I have won today's round.

1. The opponent cannot fulfill his burden of proof.

In this debate, the opponent accepted the burden of proof in the first round. In this particular round, he claimed that he would "prove that light itself has no color". If he is unable to do this, he cannot win the round.

Refer to his previous argument in which he states that, "There are numerous definitions [for light] and no two are the same. Everyone just picks the one that most agrees with their understanding of how light works..." In this statement, the opponent agrees that color can have many different, conflicting definitions.

In ceding this fact, the opponent is effectively admitting that he cannot prove his qualia definition of light is anymore correct than my physics-based definition of light. And while I cannot prove my definition is any more correct than his on an objective level (see argument two), that is not my job, as I did not accept the burden of proof upon my own shoulders like the opponent did.

Since the opponent cannot (and has not) demonstrated his definition to be objectively true, he has failed to uphold his burden of proof. Because he has failed in this, he cannot win this debate. And since he cannot win, I am the natural alternative.

2. Even if we were debating a slightly different topic, I would still win.

Let us suppose that we are not debating whether color is an objective quality of light, but instead we were debating which of our two definitions was a better definition. In this case, I would still win this debate. Allow me to explain.

As qualia is a definitionally subjective experience, defining color as a qualia necessarily makes color a subjective idea. In fact, without a mind to comprehend it, color wouldn't exist at all. (A claim the opponent has made.)

From a scientific standard, this definition is a mistake. Philosophically speaking, categories are extremely important, as they allow us to differentiate different objects. Categories are often best determined by looking at two objects that differ in a single way. For instance, if you had two 1 cm in diameter wooden balls next to each other, you would find it difficult to determine any category. But if one wooden ball was 1cm wide while the other was 2cm wide, you'd easily be able to define the category of "size".

In another instance, on might be a wooden ball while the other might be a wooden cube. In this case, the obvious category would be "shape". In determining whether a category should be made, you imagine the "nearly identical" object test and see if the proposed category creates any useful distinction between the two objects.

The opponent would have you believe that if a human mind wasn't present, there would be virtually no different between two otherwise identical objects that have only a different color. In fact, he would laught at the notion that objects have real color at all. (When I say color, I am referring the color of the reflected light off that object.)

However we know this is not the case. Even without a mind to see it, two otherwise identical objects possessing two different colors can have noticeable impacts on the world around it. Consider shirts, identical in every way except there color. One is black, one is white. If you were to wear the black shirt, you'd find yourself getting much hotter than if you had worn the white shirt. This shows that the color of the two objects creates an objective difference between the two such that a category can safely be determined.

Of course, the explanation behind the differences in shirt temperatures comes from physics, which is non-coincidentally where my definition of color comes from. Both philosophically and scientifically speaking, basing color upon physics helps to create an objective category that cannot otherwise exist if color was thought of only as a qualia.

We live in a world such that the better we can explain it in objective terms, the better off we are. In defining color as merely a qualia, we are left unable to accurately or adequately describe the color of something. For this reason, my definition of color is preferable to my opponent's.


I have demonstrated that the opponent has failed in upholding the burden of proof he set for himself in the first round. On this alone, he has lost the debate. Beyond that, I endeavored to show that my definition of color was preferable to his, as it creates an objective standard for color, something more useful and preferable in terms of both science and philosophy. I look forward to the final round and I thank the voters for reading this far.
Debate Round No. 4


Black is not a color. According to science, black is the absence of light. The reason a shirt appears black is because it absorbs all light and reflects none. This is the reason a black shirt feels warmer than a white shirt. Heat is a property of light, but color is not.

There are two types of people in the world. Those who believe we see the world as it is and those who know that the world we see exists only in our mind and that this world only vaguely resembles reality in shape and size. I say vaguely because size depends on distance and even shape. When it comes to color, our image of the world is an illusion.
This is not a belief but rather fact. They have even discovered the precise location in the brain where these images are produced and have determined that they occur on average 30 times a second. Ever wondered how dreams occur? It's your brain creating images and no, it doesn't combine old memories. The brain can create images you have never seen in real life. Who drew the first unicorn? Where did they see one?

So yes, basing color on physics does help create an objective category that wouldn't exist if we regard color only as qualia but the fact remains that it is. I could say "the citrus fruit with a surface that reflects light between 597 and 622nm wavelength" or I could say "the orange". For simplicity sake we use the latter, but do not let it confuse you into believing that in reality, an orange is not orange.

Thanks for an interesting debate.


Cobalt forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Furyan5 2 years ago
Correct. Both sight and sound have physical and physiological components which combined allow us to see and hear. Once you understand the physiological side you begin to understand how light and sound waves work. Color is a process that begins in the real world but ends in the mind. It doesn't exist objectively.
Posted by diarrhea_of_a_wimpy_kid 2 years ago
Well you have the task of explaining why the definition of color only applies to the perception from an observer and not the name given to identify a frequency band in an electromagnetic spectrum. Much like the sound wave is a measurable vibration of air molecules rather than contact with an ear drum and the translation into meaning in our brains. I guess it's two ways of looking at it, but physics is separate from egocentrism.
Posted by Furyan5 2 years ago
My calculator can multiply 3568423 by 24357 but it does not know what 5 times 5 is. It does not know anything. It merely responds to input. A robot doesn't know what colors are. It merely responds to light of a specific wavelength with a preprogrammed response.
Please note, I am not saying light of different wavelengths doesn't exist. My argument is that color is not a property of light but rather a physical reaction in our brain to that specific wavelength.
And Raskuseal, this merely proves that "white light" contains all wavelengths of light and can be separated into different wavelengths. You don't see a rainbow of light coming out of the prism. Only when that light strikes something (usually a sheet of paper) does the light get reflected towards your eyes. If light had color, it wouldn't need to be reflected to be seen.
Posted by diarrhea_of_a_wimpy_kid 2 years ago
Strong opening differentiating the physical nature of light waves and need need to perceive those. Robotic identification creates an impartial observation of the phenomenon outside of human eye-brain perception.
Posted by raskuseal 2 years ago
I must say, what about when that a-hole Isac Newton shown light through a glass prism and created a rainbow? I think that is pretty good, solid evidence that plain white light is composed of multiple colours.
Posted by vi_spex 2 years ago
a rainbow is pure light
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by ssadi 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: FF