Today's Ontology Quiz

Are rainbows real? Discuss.


  1. Rainbows are physical phenomena...On the other hand, if you are asking whether colors really exist or are something 'created' by our perception, I don't know.

  2. Yes. To rule them out because they are not "as real" as, say, the dining room table is to commit a crude materialistic fallacy.

    (Gene if you start arguing with me on this one too, I'm quitting.)

  3. Tongue-in-cheek answer from optics: no. (There's no place to put a screen on which the rainbow is formed.) However, a photograph of a rainbow is real.

    More serious answer: what does "real" mean?

  4. Jim's question was the crux of this post: What do we mean by "real"? Rainbows are an interesting case, because they were examples used by some in the "secondary qualities" school (Galileo, Descartes, Locke, etc.) as something that was not real. (I forget offhand which of them used it, so please don't take me to mean those three I mentioned did so.)

    Now, my favorite definition of "real" omes from -- and this is going to be a big surprise to Bob -- Oakeshott, who said (I quote from memory), "Everything is real if not taken for other than what it is." In other words, "real" and "unreal" apply not so much to the world but to our ideas. The rainbow is perfectly real if we look up and think, "There is some light being beautifully broken up into its component wavelengths by some rain." It's unreal if we think it's a bridge in the sky we might cross under.

  5. "Everything is real if not taken for other than what it is."

    Is a square circle real?

  6. "Is a square circle real?"

    Sure, it's a real impossibility.


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