Remarks on Colour

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Remarks on Colour (German: Bemerkungen über die Farben) was one of Ludwig Wittgenstein's last works, written during a visit to Vienna in 1950 while dying of cancer.[1] Believing that philosophical puzzles about colour can only be resolved through attention to the involved language-games, he considers Goethe's propositions in the Theory of Colours, and the observations of Philipp Otto Runge in an attempt to clarify the use of language about colour.[2]

Wittgenstein was interested in the fact that some propositions about colour are apparently neither empirical nor exactly a priori, but something in between: phenomenology, according to Goethe. However, he took the line that 'There is no such thing as phenomenology, though there are phenomenological problems.' He was content to regard Goethe's observations as a kind of logic or geometry. Wittgenstein took his examples from the Runge letter included in the "Farbenlehre", e.g. "White is the lightest colour", "There cannot be a transparent white", "There cannot be a reddish green", and so on. The logical status of these propositions in Wittgenstein's investigation, including their relation to physics, was discussed in Jonathan Westphal's Colour: a Philosophical Introduction (1991).

Although Remarks on Colour is considered difficult on account of its fragmentation,[2] his last work, On Certainty (German: Über Gewissheit) is considered to be his most lucid.


  1. ^ "Weaving the Rainbow: Visions of Color in World History" by Robert Finlay, University of Arkansas, at
  2. ^ a b McGinn, M. (October 1991). "Wittgenstein's Remarks on Colour". Philosophy. 66 (258): 435–453. doi:10.1017/S0031819100065104. JSTOR 3751218. 
  3. ^ Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1977). G. E. M. Anscombe, ed. Remarks on Colour. University of California Press. pp. 70–71. 

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