Consider the concept of green and the color green. Is it right to say that the concept of green is also green? I would think not, since the concept merely reports what the color green is like. It itself is not green. Concepts seem to be analogous to, say, a cardboard box that you put a piece of bread into with a list of facts about the bread on the front. You would never say that the box is like the bread; it only contains bread and describes the bread. This question could probably be expanded to any concept, including justice and the like.

  • Good question. A hundred years later, we are on the course of re-discovering the Theory of Types. Oct 29, 2016 at 13:45
  • A simpler model of a concept is that it is a pointer or a reference, the name John is not a person named John, but in a given context it constitutes a pointer to such an individual. (It is an improvement because eliminating the containing box, the bread could still be used, even eaten, and although now gone, it can still be pointed at. Concepts don't isolate their referents in the process of describing them. Imagining that they somehow do gives us a false security relative to changes in meaning.)
    – user9166
    Oct 30, 2016 at 3:07

1 Answer 1


It's been said that "colorless green ideas sleep furiously" but this is nonsensical - possibly poetic.

Are Concepts Colorless?

Yes, concepts have no color. It would be a category mistake to describe them as so, else it is poetry. Unlike color, which is prismatic range, concepts do not exist - they are only to be found in language.

Is the list of all cats a cat? No. Is the list of all lists a list? Yes. Is the list of all lists that don't list themselves a list? That's a question worth answering in letters...

  • ah, but colors are concepts too, only found in language.
    – user20153
    Oct 29, 2016 at 17:26
  • @mobileink not quite. Color is prismatic range. For example, perception of the color green - like the perception of heat from a stove - is the result of cause, not volition (conception). Big difference.
    – MmmHmm
    Oct 30, 2016 at 21:26
  • it's a fascinating question, which fortunately has been the subject of much research, both philosophical and empirical over the past few decades. philosophically: all precepts are already concepts. see Brandom and McDowell. Scientifically, there are no color universals with the possible exception of black and white, but even that is dubious.
    – user20153
    Oct 31, 2016 at 0:03
  • iow just because you have a physical input like some wavelength of light does not mean you get the same concept across languages. green being a case in point: there are cultures that do not recognized any difference between what we (English speakers) designate as blue and green.
    – user20153
    Oct 31, 2016 at 0:06
  • @mobileink non-sequitur does not change the case that prismatic range is found outside of language.
    – MmmHmm
    Oct 31, 2016 at 0:43

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