The toilets at a local police station have been stolen. Police say they have nothing to go on.

~ Ronnie Barker ~

Unsolved Philosophical Questions: Why Is The Sky Blue?

August 1st, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 48 secs

Unsolved Philosophical Questions? Why Is The Sky Blue? Who cares?

Clearly some people have a lot of time on their hands. Or, they are just incredibly curious. Many children inevitably ask, “Why is the sky blue?” That’s a good question. But then, having reached university, the question gets rephrased into an issue of thinking. So it becomes one of those unsolved philosophical questions.“Why is the sky blue?” isn’t about the nature of rainbows, particles reflecting blue light from the Sun’s white light striking the Earth’s atmosphere or some other scientific findings. It has to do with the differences we all share, which sometimes makes it difficult to know exactly what we mean.

I better explain. Aside from philosophers loving nothing more than to shoot the breeze over a glass of red and some very nice cheese, they also enjoy pondering the logic of meanings. This combined with a few too many glasses of red, leads to epistemology. Yes, this rather evocative word is really all about the nature of understanding. How can that have anything to do with the whole unsolved philosophical questions/why is the sky blue issue? Well, because it’s hard to know if one individual’s perception of something as common as color is the same as the next person’s.

Big deal! Hand me the cheese instead,” you say. And fair enough too (I’ll have a slice with you). But philosophers use this example to highlight a crucial point about communication. Raw experience can’t be precisely measured. So one guy looks up and says to his boy, “See, son. The sky is blue.” Even though his child at three sees it as a pale green, from now on he associates the word blue with the color he has really seen.

That’s why it’s one of those unsolved philosophical questions.“Why is the sky blue?” and other head in the cloud questions might be completely irrelevant to the day you’ve just had. But they do give you a clue as to what philosophers get up to. Plus, they show that even the most commonly accepted things aren’t always what they seem to be. Overindulging philosophers are also likely to go further, brandishing words like qualia, Agrippa’s Trilemma, and a pithy thing called Infinite Regression (which could easily leave us huddled in a corner, making funny noises in the fetal position). Somewhere in all of this thinking gymnastics we usually try to find some common sense (which usually involves clearing up the glasses and plates). Only trouble is, common sense isn’t quite as common as we’d like to think.


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