One of the more interesting relations to ponder on philosophically is the one between thought and perception. Perception, taken as the field of what can be perceived, actually or potentially, sketches out a territory for thought to scan, to overfly, to map. What we ordinarily perceive is a world that we receive fully formed, populated by objects that we haven’t created. Thought thus becomes an instrument to categorise what is there, and ultimately to legitimise the world as it is. Critical thought, if it is to exist, implies a fundamental reconsideration of perception, an un-linking of perception from what is perceivable. Evidently, such an endeavour is far from self-evident. The perception of colour is bound to a setting of limits, infrared and ultraviolet in our case, which cuts the continuum and introduces a certain coarseness that allows us to see different colours. But what lies beyond the limit? Everything.
In that sense, the impossible task of imagining a new colour is not the dead end that it pretends to be. It is impossible in as far as it is senseless, because it does not set out to render something visible that has until now remained beyond our reach. But if you are to distinguish two mushrooms, one of which is poisonous while the other one is the real gourmet shit, but whose difference is but a slightly nuanced shade of red, you are not only engaging in the wild act of inventing a new colour, but also reconnecting perception to what it is: a series of problems. Colour-perception is inseparable from the field of solutions that the problem of visibility sketches out, so that each species that introduces its own cuts in the colour continuum, by which it becomes a spectrum in the first place, needs to be understood as a a new way of populating the world. Perception is inseparable from invention, and it is in this way that it can give back thought its critical powers. The visible is inseparable from the invisible, but the latter is not that which is ‘just there’, but a field of pure potentiality waiting to be actualised. Everything. You can say that there was smell before the invention of noses, but smell only becomes a problem (something that I need to hide) once there are beings that have invented a way to populate a world of smells as something that can be sought.
Our grave error is to assume that these vital distinctions are either mere copies of ‘natural’ differences independent from this incessant activity, or that they are imposed from the outside to a universe of indifference. Thought emerges from this neither-nor, where the world as it is works only as long as it it gives us the tools to live the activity that we are.