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The Wordsmiths: The Green We Both See

Jay Curtis / KEDM
Freshmen Ashish Dev, Leah Huber, Titus Stowe, and Lieke Rolvers explore objective and perceptive reality through differing meanings of words.

Why do different people see different shades of green?

What if someone perceived the color red like you perceived green?

Questions like these are explored by Ashish Dev in "The Wordsmiths,"  featured essays by Honors English Students at the University of Louisiana Monroe.

I see green, and you see green. We both call it green. However, there is no way to know for sure that you perceive green the same way I perceive green.

Mike McHargue, in a podcast by The Liturgists, notes that color is an example of qualia: a state of mind that can only be experienced, not described.

One example of this phenomenon is when we are seeing the same color but perceiving them differently. Maybe you are perceiving the color green in the same way that I perceive the color red , but we both describe what we each perceive as “green”.

In this scenario, using the word green doesn’t convey my actual neurocognitive experience to you. Rather, the word green is a neurological label that refers to the stimuli of color that you and I experience individually. There is no telling whose personal experience is more correct, or whether either is correct at all.

So how can we say which one is real? As a matter of fact, what is reality?

Sorry to inflict any unnecessary existential crises, but the Oxford English Dictionary defines reality as the quality or state of being real. But actually, reality has two states. First is objective reality. That reality that exists in nature. The next is perceived reality, what we form in our mind through the information we receive from our senses.

words are actually insufficient communicators of any reality, whether objective or perceived

So, we can perceive colors because they are visible light of different wavelengths. But, the way a person perceives the color green may or may not be the green that exists in an untainted, objective reality.

Words play a big part in this game between realities. According to Carlos Cornejo, words are the labels we use to attempt to link the elements of the perceived reality with those of objective reality and then use our shared experience to build a bridge of communication. However, there is no guarantee that we will succeed in creating this bridge.

Therefore, words are actually insufficient communicators of any reality, whether objective or perceived. I simply cannot convey my neurological experience to you accurately using the word green.

This begs the question: if all of us are only capable of communicating our own personal realities, are we ever truly communicating? You can never fully receive the message I’ve tried to convey because words aren’t the perfect representation of my perceived reality. We are trapped in a battle between intention and reception that we can never escape.

Freshmen at the University of Louisiana at Monroe Ashish Dev, Leah Huber, Titus Stowe, and Lieke Rolvers collaborated to question the idea of objective and perceptive reality through the different meanings of words for different people.

Students performed research under Vanelis Rivera at ULM, wrote the essays, and chose a narrator.