An abstract quality such as the color “green” will never change! ... we would normally say that the object's appearance has changed rather than the object itself.

I also think that color is intangible and a paint (thing) is concrete but a color (property) is abstract. Isn’t ‘color’ itself an abstract noun? I cannot imagine a red color but only a red-colored thing.

  • The quote doesn't imply that 'colour' isn't also an abstract noun. Also why did you post this here? What does it have to do with philosophy? Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 23:51
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    @curiousdannil Abstract concrete issue is related with philosophy
    – user002020
    Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 23:55
  • Who is the quote from? You must give a citation, and possibly expand it to include more context. And then please edit this to explain the specific relevance to philosophy as compared to linguistics or the study of the English language. Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 23:56
  • You should read: 'Could colour be a fundamental thing about the universe?' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/73253/…
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 13:48

3 Answers 3


The color of an object change if different colors of light fall onto it. The infalling light can't have a color. There is no light coming from it. Colors appear in the brain only. They are caused by brain activity and as such they tell you nothing about the object except that the object has reflected certain wavelength photons. But for a color blind person, this color would not be present. The perception would be different. For an alien (or a bee) the pereption could be different from ours. But referring to the same property as our color refers to. Luckily, we all have the same perception of color and when you use the word green I' m pretty sure you mean (see) the same as I do.

So it's an abstract thing related to processes in your brain. These processes are concrete but the experience not. It does refer to an object but doesn't define an internal state of affairs of the object. Only a relative propery, namely how it responds to light that shines on it.

  • "infalling light can't have a color" We can define colour as having been produced, eg a given temperature of black body, knowing what we don't see will be the same colour (& behave the same through prism, photoelectric effect etc). So it depends on language game, like whether a falling tree makes a sound if there's no one to hear. Colour differentiation in language has changed over time, & this affects perception of shades en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Also, colourblindness.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 9:13

Colour references the frequency of light. A physicist will talk of red light, meaning light of a frequency within a certain range. Some astronomical phenomena are named with terms such as "redshift". In this context, colour is very much an objective measurable property of something physical - the photon of light.

Colour as we perceive it is constructed by the brain and is in this sense an abstraction, however the sensing of a given colour is also (at least in principle) detectable from the activity in the optical-processing region of the conscious brain; so in this sense colour retains an objectively measurable aspect.

Then, there is the notion of "colours which do not exist", reported by some people with visual disturbances, such as when on hallucinogenic drug trips, and also referred to in some F&SF stories. A colour which "does not exist" may be thought of as abstract in itself, but the neural correlate of the experience still exists. Further, it highlights the implication that a colour which does actually exist must have some additional concrete physical property in order to do so.

So ultimately, whether one regards "colour" as abstract or not depends heavily on the context in which the term is used.

  • Some fairly common colours like mauve are considered 'impossible', being an artifact of stimulating receptors at opposite ends of the spectrum simultaneously en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impossible_color
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 9:20
  • @CriglCragl Every artist and primary schoolchild knows that you can mix colours. Every physicist knows that these mixed colours can be defined in terms of multiple frequencies of light. Yellow is the most fun because although it is a pure colour we detect it as a mixture of red and green and manufacture the yellow experience, while physically mixing red and green lasers actually recreates detectable yellow light according to the formula sin a + sin b = sin (a+b) + sin (a-b). See also single-sideband (SSB) radio for a similar application of frequency mixing. How 'impossible' is all that? Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 10:06

a noun denoting an idea, quality, or state rather than a concrete object, e.g. truth, danger, happiness. - first google search of abstract noun

So redness is an abstract noun.

But this answer probabaly doesn't satisfy you so let me elaborate a little

I will compare colors to numbers.

You can generalize for example number 2 from looking at two apples, looking at two trees and so on.

You can also get an idea of color red by looking at red apple, red pen and so on.

But there is a difference between numbers and colors.

Numbers behave exactly the same no matter what we are doing with them and no matter what we are refering to using them (no matter if we know everything about described thing or nothing), which seems to make them outside of space-time and abstract objects.

Color seems to be an abstraction in our brains describing only certain streams of photons. And that doesn't imply them being an abstract object (in the same sense as numbers).

So there is more than one kind of abstract things.

I am oversimplifying things a little bit (but it should not matter) cuz it is only a stackexchange post.

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