[visionlist] Robert Musil and the Color Wheel

Andrew Parker andrew.parker at dpag.ox.ac.uk
Wed Mar 27 13:17:10 -04 2019

Isn't that "spectral" in the sense of ghostly?


Professor AJ Parker, MA, PhD, ScD, FRSB
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On 27/03/2019 16:49, Tsao, Doris Y. wrote:

I bet Musil was thinking about his colorimeter, spinning away and engaging intricate sets of levers inside the brain in different combinations to produce a misleadingly simple percept of colorful reality, when he wrote this passage in Man without Qualities:

"The fact is, living permanently in a well-ordered State has an out-and-out spectral aspect: one cannot step into the street or drink a glass of water or get into a tram without touching the perfectly balanced levers of a gigantic apparatus of laws and relations, setting them in motion or letting them maintain one in the peace and quiet of one’s existence. One knows hardly any of these levers, which extend deep into the inner workings and on the other side are lost in a network the entire constitution of which has never been disentangled by any living being. Hence one denies their existence, just as the common man denies the existence of the air, insisting that it is mere emptiness; but it seems that precisely this is what lends life a certain spectral quality—the fact that everything that is denied reality, everything that is colourless, odourless, tasteless, imponderable and non-moral, like water, air, space, money and the passing of time, is in reality what is most important."

From: cvnet-bounces at lawton.ewind.com<mailto:cvnet-bounces at lawton.ewind.com> <cvnet-bounces at lawton.ewind.com><mailto:cvnet-bounces at lawton.ewind.com> on behalf of Qasim Zaidi <qz at sunyopt.edu><mailto:qz at sunyopt.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, March 26, 2019 8:07 PM
To: Macleod, Donald
Cc: Sandro Krasic; serge NICOLAS; cvnet at mail.ewind.com<mailto:cvnet at mail.ewind.com>; visionlist at visionscience.com<mailto:visionlist at visionscience.com>
Subject: [cvnet] Re: [visionlist] Robert Musil and the Color Wheel

Musil wrote his dissertation on color vision. When I was at Columbia I asked the library to get a microfilm of the dissertation from Berlin, and Sophie Wuerger and I tried to read it. It turned out to be almost entirely philosophical, not scientific.  The precision of Musil’s descriptions in The Man without Qualities is often attributed to his scientific training, but I suspect that this is not based on knowledge of his dissertation.

On Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 18:58 Macleod, Donald <dmacleod at ucsd.edu<mailto:dmacleod at ucsd.edu>> wrote:

BTW the inventor of that interesting and useful contraption was the Austrian writer Robert Musil (who studied engineering first, then rejected academia to write important novels):


The inner workings of “Musil'scher Farbkreisel” are described in the catalog of Spindler &Hoyer, online at



From: cvnet-bounces at lawton.ewind.com<mailto:cvnet-bounces at lawton.ewind.com> <cvnet-bounces at lawton.ewind.com<mailto:cvnet-bounces at lawton.ewind.com>> On Behalf Of Sandro Krasic
Sent: Tuesday, March 26, 2019 1:13 PM
To: Alan Gilchrist <alan at psychology.rutgers.edu<mailto:alan at psychology.rutgers.edu>>
Cc: serge NICOLAS <serge.nicolas77 at gmail.com<mailto:serge.nicolas77 at gmail.com>>; cvnet at mail.ewind.com<mailto:cvnet at mail.ewind.com>; visionlist at visionscience.com<mailto:visionlist at visionscience.com>
Subject: Re: [cvnet] Re: vieux instruments de psychologie

Dear all,

thank you very much! With your help we identified all apparatus.

Best regards,


uto, 26. ožu 2019. u 20:33 Alan Gilchrist <alan at psychology.rutgers.edu<mailto:alan at psychology.rutgers.edu>> napisao je:


Figures 7, 8, 12, and 13 show an episcotister, I believe.  It is a color wheel that allows you to change the proportion of 2 colors (say white and black) while the disk is spinning at high speed. Can’t touch German machines!


Alan L. Gilchrist
Psychology Dept
Rutgers University
Newark, NJ

On Mar 25, 2019, at 7:13 PM, serge NICOLAS <serge.nicolas77 at gmail.com<mailto:serge.nicolas77 at gmail.com>> wrote:


Here some indications:

Figures 12-13 : Farbenkreisel zur beliebigen Verstellun der Sektore, während der Rotation (Couloured disc on which the size of the sectors may be varied during rotation) may be E. Zimmermann, I do not see details on the photos but it is an handvariator.

Figure 6 : Graphische chronometer nach Jaquet (Jaquet's graphic chronometer)

Figure 7 : Einfacher Farbvariator (simple colour motor variator)

Figures 4 and 5 : Tourenzähler (Speed indicator)

Figure 9 : Deprez signal type (but I am not sure)

The other instruments are unknown to me. But photos do not indicate details.

I have not in my possesion the Heinrich Diel catalogue. I think you can find informations into this old catalogue.

Best wishes,


Le lun. 25 mars 2019 à 22:07, Mark Wexler <mark.wexler at gmail.com<mailto:mark.wexler at gmail.com>> a écrit :

Cher collègue,

Chercheur en psychophysique à l'INCC (ex-LPP, ex-LPE) et visiteur à votre exposition de vieux instruments de psychologie au siège de l'Université (très intéressante, mais j'aurais apprécié plus d'explications), je viens de recevoir ce message d'un collègue slovaque sur CVNET, une liste de diffusion sur la vision :


From: Sandro Krasic <sandro.krasic.sk at gmail.com<mailto:sandro.krasic.sk at gmail.com>>

Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2019 21:17:32 +0100

To: visionlist at visionscience.com<mailto:visionlist at visionscience.com>, cvnet at mail.ewind.com<mailto:cvnet at mail.ewind.com>

Hello everyone!

At the faculty we are doing exhibition of old psychological apparatus for which we need to find out their names and functions. We found many of them, but some of them are still unknown to us. If someone has any information for any of them, I would be very grateful if you shared it with me.

link to images: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1hAfd9usAknstFhiESKqbJhIogUEUmMwX<https://nam02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fdrive.google.com%2Fopen%3Fid%3D1hAfd9usAknstFhiESKqbJhIogUEUmMwX&data=02%7C01%7Calan%40psychology.rutgers.edu%7C8c05cd06a0834a31edfb08d6b184b428%7Cb92d2b234d35447093ff69aca6632ffe%7C1%7C1%7C636891580878975760&sdata=FoRWSOVV%2F3%2BpMofj51lJvSB18uk7M0TzXsvHqUA7XAM%3D&reserved=0>


Je me suis dit que si quelqu'un pourrait l'aider, ce serait vous.

Très cordialement,

Mark Wexler


Mark Wexler
Integrative Neuroscience and Cognition Center
CNRS - Université Paris Descartes
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