It’s very interesting to me how the most important concept in Wittgenstein’s philosophy finds the best example in the realm of color. Color, through the many examples that Wittgenstein mentions, shows quite clearly how language can be sometimes severely limited. Talking about color and seriously considering the nature or the essence of what one is saying exemplifies how language is not much more than a game learned throw “show and tell”[1]. In this way, Wittgenstein shows us how color is something more complex than how it is normally recognized. Color escapes words. Speaking about color quickly shows the limitations of language to describe it.

The interesting part about this is that language is not the only human institution that is unable to grasp color. Basically all systems of human thought are unable to comprehend, describe and master the realm of color. It is even able to “elude complete philosophical treatment” as mentioned by Riley[2]. This certainly related to how color is something deeply personal. We can, more or less, name colors but the meaning behind them are always very different for every individual. As Roland Barthes proposes, they are intimately linked to our own pleasure[3]. How we react, relate and interact with color is shaped by the current context and our past which leads to different interpretations of how love may be symbolized by red or blue, or by how death may be related to black or white. The impossibility of an absolute system of color is limited by these interpretations.



[1] “When we’re asked ‘What do the word red, blue, black, white mean?’ we can of course, immediately point to things which have these colors – but our ability to explain the meaning of these words goes no further!” Pg. 70 Remarks on Color, Ludwig Wittgenstein.

[2] Pg. 44, Color Codes, Charles I. Riley. “By covering all the bases this way, the urges the reader on to a broader confidence in the basic ability of color to elude complete philosophical treatment”.

[3] Pg. 57, Color Codes, Charles I. Riley. “Barthes reminds us of the importance of pleasure, the most easily understood and possibly the soundest motive for placing color at center stage”