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Iris visits

A fragment of rainbow over downtown, northeast of here. Thunder in the background, on its way to Chicago. The damp of fresh rain carried through the upstairs windows by a languid breeze from the northwest. A few minutes later the rainbow has dimmed, but by way of compensation it now extends over a sixty-degree arc.
It’s not difficult to understand why people thought that the rainbow must be a sign. Spectral hues, in order, set against the heavens: how often does inanimate nature offer such a spectacle? Even level-headed old Kant could not resist the interpretation of colors:
[Colors and sounds] are the only sensations which permit not merely of a feeling of the senses, but also of reflection upon the form of these modifications of sense, and so embody as it were a language in which nature speaks to us and which has the semblance of a higher meaning. Thus the white color of the lily seems to dispose the mind to ideas of innocence, and the other seven colors, following the series from the red to the violet, similarly to ideas of (1) sublimity, (2) courage, (3) candor, (4) amiability, (5) modesty, (6) constancy, (7) tenderness (Critique of judgment §42, 161 Meredith = Akad. 5:302). Denn diese sind die einzigen Empfindungen, welche nicht bloß Sinnengefühl, sondern auch Reflexion über die Form dieser Modifikationen der sinne verstatten und so gleichsam eine Sprache, die die Natur zu uns führt, und die einen höhern Sinn zu haben scheint, in sich enthalten. So scheint die weiße Fabe der Lilie das Gemüt zu Ideen der Unschuld, und nach der Ordnung der sieben Farben, von der roten an bis zur violetten 1. zur Idee der Erhabenheit, 2. der Kühnheit, 3. der Freimütigkeit, 4. der Freundlichkeit, 5. der Bescheidenheit, 6. der Standhaftigkeit, und 7. der Zärtlichkeit zu stimmen.

LinkMay 23, 2004 in Æsthetics · History of Philosophy