Sunday, December 19, 2010

Creating New Palettes

THE COLOUR-BLINDNESS OF THINKERS. -- How differently from us the Greeks must have viewed nature, since, as we cannot help admitting, they were quite colour-blind in regard to blue and green, believing the former to be a deeper brown, and the latter to be yellow. Thus, for instance, they used the same word to describe the colour of dark hair, of the corn-flower, and the southern sea; and again they employed exactly the same expression for the colour of the greenest herbs, the human skin, honey, and yellow raisins: whence it follows that their greatest painters reproduced the world they lived in only in black, white, red, and yellow. How different and how much nearer to mankind, therefore, must nature have seemed to them, since in their eyes the tints of mankind predominated also in nature, and nature was, as it were, floating in the coloured ether of humanity! (blue and green more than anything else dehumanise nature). It is this defect which developed the playful facility that characterised the Greeks of seeing the phenomena of nature as gods and demi-gods -- that is to say, as human forms.

Let this, however, merely serve as a simile for another supposition. Every thinker paints his world and the things that surround him in fewer colours than really exist, and he is blind to individual colours. This is something more than a mere deficiency. Thanks to this nearer approach and simplification, he imagines he sees in things those harmonies of colours which possess a great charm, and may greatly enrich nature. Perhaps, indeed, it was in this way that men first learnt to take delight in viewing existence, owing to its being first of all presented to them in one or two shades, and consequently harmonised. They practised these few shades, so to speak, before they could pass on to any more. And even now certain individuals endeavour to get rid of a partial colour-blindness that they may obtain a richer faculty of sight and discern ment, in the course of which they find that they not only discover new pleasures, but are also obliged to lose and give up some of their former ones.
-Nietzsche, "Daybreak (426)"

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