Our panel of 91 professional philosophers has responded to

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Question of the Day

According to the internet, the sun rose at 6:02 this morning in Washington. I was awake and when I got around to opening the blinds I could see that the sky was blue. The sheets on the bed are blue too, though not the same blue. They're a few years old and I like the way they feel when I touch them.

But the sun doesn't rise, does it? Although centuries ago, people thought it did, they were just wrong. And there isn't really a sky—no dome or roof or thing of any sort. There are sheets, but they're made of atoms, which aren't colored, nor are collections of them.

And touching the sheets; don't get me started on that.

Except…

If someone says the sky is blue, they've said nothing false, nothing wrong. Same goes for telling you the color of their sheets; likewise for telling you they touched them. People may be mistaken about what being a blue sheet amounts to, or a blue sky, or about what's going on under the covers, so to speak, when we touch a sheet, or anything else. But that doesn't make the ordinary things they say false.

Of course, if someone says that the sun doesn't rise, or that there isn't really a sky, or that it isn't really blue, nor are anybody's sheets, or that you can't really touch your sheets, we know what they mean, or we can be brought to know. Given what they mean, they aren't wrong though they are pedants. But the sun did rise this morning and the sky is blue. Sheets can be blue, and some of them feel lovely to the touch. There's no contradiction here and no paradox. We can use words in more than one way and we don't need to be scientists to say true things with ordinary words used in ordinary ways.