If a tree fell and no one was around, would it make a sound?

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gaia
 
Reply Fri 15 May, 2009 03:29 pm
What would hume say regarding this answer?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 15 May, 2009 05:36 pm
@gaia,
gaia wrote:
What would hume say regarding this answer?


I hope he would say, yes. But tape recorders had not yet been invented to prove it.
 
Ultracrepidarian
 
Reply Sat 16 May, 2009 10:15 pm
@kennethamy,
His writings on the sounds of vegetation do not help us make a determination here, but seeing as how he was given to making all kinds of tree noises, not solely of tress falling, and in cases where no one was around him, I think smart money is on his giving an affirmative.
 
Lily
 
Reply Sun 17 May, 2009 10:47 am
@gaia,
I think he would have said that it was possible, but that it was impossible to know
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 17 May, 2009 11:06 am
@Lily,
Lily wrote:
I think he would have said that it was possible, but that it was impossible to know


He might have said that, but he would have been wrong had he done so. We have all kinds of evidence that it makes a large thump (depending, of course, on the size of the tree).
 
Dewey phil
 
Reply Sun 17 May, 2009 10:13 pm
@gaia,
gaia wrote:
What would hume say regarding this answer?



(I wonder why those other people are just joking. They probably know a lot more epistemology than me. I'm probably being played for a fool!)

In accord with his skeptical "primacy of conciousness" belief, I think Hume would have said that no one could know one way or the other.

(How did I miss Lily"s answer? It's like mine! I'm pretty dam'd smart!)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 17 May, 2009 10:15 pm
@Dewey phil,
Dewey wrote:
(I wonder why those other people are just joking. They probably know a lot more epistemology than me. I'm probably being played for a fool!)

In accord with his skeptical "primacy of conciousness" belief, I think Hume would have said that no one could know one way or the other.


I bet he would not have. Why would he?
 
Ultracrepidarian
 
Reply Mon 18 May, 2009 07:18 am
@kennethamy,
( Is he talking to me? )

Trees make noises? - Hume, Sounds of Vegetation, pg. 437

If you're not sure if trees make noises, can you have an opinion on trees' noises you can't even hear? This is asking too much, is it not?
 
William
 
Reply Mon 18 May, 2009 08:29 am
@gaia,
gaia wrote:
What would hume say regarding this answer?


Are we not capable of philosophical thought, or are we only able to study the thoughts of dead philosophers.

William
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Mon 18 May, 2009 09:22 am
@Lily,
Lily;63558 wrote:
I think he would have said that it was possible, but that it was impossible to know


[SIZE="3"]Exactly so, except . . .

This question seems to have descended from the idealistic philosophy of George Berkeley. His view, like all idealism to one degree or another (I mean philosophical idealism Idealism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), is solipsistic in that it fails to fully realize the notion of objective reality. If a factor under consideration is not an object of the human mind or perception, then for all intents and purposes the idealist assumes it does not exist. This perspective might have some practical value in terms of limiting oneself to what one has/can experienced, but as a description of reality it sucks. Today most everyone agrees there is an objective reality separate from our perception of it, but as you say, we only can know any aspect of reality if we perceive it.

However, the answer to the question of if there is a sound when a tree falls undetected is not quite so straightforward if we understand that "sound" is a term for human perception. When a tree falls, it vibrates the air and if those vibrations do not strike our eardrums, then "sound" perception has not occurred. Of course, objectively speaking a felled tree normally causes the vibration of air molecules whether or not our eardrums are correspondingly vibrated.[/SIZE]
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 18 May, 2009 09:49 am
@William,
William wrote:
Are we not capable of philosophical thought, or are we only able to study the thoughts of dead philosophers.

William


I think the question about Hume is really a jumping off place for discussion. Whatever answer we think he might give, it would be nice to say whether we think he would be justified, and why. So, we would really be talking about what Hume should say, rather than what he would say. What do you think he should have said, whatever you think he would have said? Of course, that does not mean you cannot take off from what Hume would have said, but you should not remain there.
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 12:21 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
I hope he would say, yes. But tape recorders had not yet been invented to prove it.


If no one is within earshot when the tree falls, but there's a tape recorder present, the tree does not make a sound when it falls. It makes a sound when someone listens to the tape recorder, or rather, the tape recorder makes a sound which to us sounds like a tree falling.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 06:35 am
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
If no one is within earshot when the tree falls, but there's a tape recorder present, the tree does not make a sound when it falls. It makes a sound when someone listens to the tape recorder, or rather, the tape recorder makes a sound which to us sounds like a tree falling.



Hmm, that's strange. In the law courts, judges and juries accept as evidence tape recordings of (say) people plotting crimes. They don't say that what is heard on the tape recording is only a sound tht sounds like people talking about plotting crimes. You must have higher standards of evidence even than the law. So, when would you accept evidence of the sound made by the tree falling. I mean evidence other then directly hearing it fall?
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 09:48 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;64013 wrote:
Hmm, that's strange. In the law courts, judges and juries accept as evidence tape recordings of (say) people plotting crimes. They don't say that what is heard on the tape recording is only a sound tht sounds like people talking about plotting crimes. You must have higher standards of evidence even than the law. So, when would you accept evidence of the sound made by the tree falling. I mean evidence other then directly hearing it fall?


[SIZE="3"]He doesn't have "higher standards," he is simply applying correct terms to the problem. You are not carefully distinguishing between the term "sound" and the event of a tree falling. In my earlier post here I discussed the notion of "sound," which is not an objective event, but rather a description of a function of consciousness (it's personal, not business Smile ). A "sound" is what we call our experience of the ear drum being vibrated by a medium like the atmosphere. So if no consciousness is present when a tree falls (and therefore no consciousness experiences a vibrating eardrum), then no "sound" happens.

However, if we ask the question differently, say we ask, "have air molecules been excited by the energy of a tree falling if no one was present to experience it?," then a different answer would be appropriate. As Lily pointed out, the molecules have been excited (whether or not anyone experienced it), but we'd not know that without some means, such as a tape recorder, to observe or otherwise detect the event.

Beyond all that, the original question actually stems from the assertions of idealism (see my earlier post). It is sort of a Western version of a koan in that it asks if all events are mental, or if there is a reality outside of mind. Today no serious thinker accepts idealism, it is considered both solipsistic and without practical value to understanding reality. So this question that so often pops up at philosophical websites is rather anachronistic.

I personally think a better Western koan is the question "is there one reality or many?" because it directly focuses on how solipsism can be a major problem to aspiring philosophers. The solipsist often reveals himself by answering the above question as "there are many realities, each person has his own reality." In a sense he is admitting to living in his own little world, and placing a higher value on his interpretations and beliefs than on the discovery of objective truth. In contrast, the person who answers "there is only one reality" is more likely to understand that reality exists apart from his interpretations and beliefs. The consequences to philosophizing are that the solipsist tends to develop self-serving philosophies while the objective thinker looks for general principles that applies to all.[/SIZE]
 
Ultracrepidarian
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 02:05 pm
@LWSleeth,
No, sound means the physical thing leading up the perception. The word can have either meaning.

This is an issue of language. If you don't say the tape recorder recorded the sound of the tree falling, what do you say (in court or at home)? More to the point, if only eardrums, brains, or minds make sounds, what do we say the birds outside my window are doing?

We could say they are making vibrations I guess. If a bird sings in the woods, and no one is around, does it make a vibration? I didn't hear the tree, I heard the sound its vibrations were making. I don't know, does any of this sound right?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 03:28 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
He doesn't have "higher standards," he is simply applying correct terms to the problem. You are not carefully distinguishing between the term "sound" and the event of a tree falling. .


So, does that mean that the court should not accept the evidence of the tape recorder, and hold that the only evidence acceptable would be testimony to do with hearing the voice directly. (How about a phone?) My point is that since we know the tree makes a sound when we are there, why should not the tree make a sound when we are not there (under normal conditions)? Why should the fact that there is no live present hearer make a difference.

I, myself, think that the facts of physiology that you bring up are irrelevant to the answer to the question. In any normal, ordinary sense, it seems to me that it would be perfectly correct to say that there was a sound, but that no one heard it. What you say implies that there are no sounds that are unheard, and that seems to me plainly false, since we can have a great deal of evidence that there was an unheard sound. It is not true, I think, that the only evidence there is for the occurrence of sound is the direct hearing of it. But that is what you seem to be saying.
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 04:40 pm
@Ultracrepidarian,
Ultracrepidarian;64056 wrote:
No, sound means the physical thing leading up the perception. The word can have either meaning.

This is an issue of language. If you don't say the tape recorder recorded the sound of the tree falling, what do you say (in court or at home)? More to the point, if only eardrums, brains, or minds make sounds, what do we say the birds outside my window are doing?

We could say they are making vibrations I guess. If a bird sings in the woods, and no one is around, does it make a vibration? I didn't hear the tree, I heard the sound its vibrations were making. I don't know, does any of this sound right?


Think about it, if there were absolutely nothing that on planet Earth that had the sense of hearing, would the concept of "sound" exist? No. If there was no sense of smell, would the concept of odor exist? No. If there was no sense of sight, would we have the concept of visual images? No.

Yet, birds could still vibrate air molecules, foods could still emit gases, light could still reflect off of objects. Those events are completely independent of our perception of them.

Technically speaking, no sound exists unless ears are stimulated and brain perceives (as you know, the deaf actually can experience some of the same vibrations the ears "hear" but to them it is not sound).

The proper question is really, if a tree falls in the woods, and no one observed that, then did it actually occur? Tossing in the term "sound" complicates the question, and takes it off the point the question was intended to make, which as I've explained, was simply to highlight one variety of philosophical idealism.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 05:26 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
Think about it, if there were absolutely nothing that on planet Earth that had the sense of hearing, would the concept of "sound" exist? No. If there was no sense of smell, would the concept of odor exist? No. If there was no sense of sight, would we have the concept of visual images? No.

Yet, birds could still vibrate air molecules, foods could still emit gases, light could still reflect off of objects. Those events are completely independent of our perception of them.

Technically speaking, no sound exists unless ears are stimulated and brain perceives (as you know, the deaf actually can experience the same vibrations the ears "hear" and to them it is not sound).

The proper question is really, if a tree falls in the woods, and no one observed that, then did it actually occur? Tossing in the term "sound" complicates the question, and takes it off the point the question was intended to make, which as I've explained, was simply to highlight philosophical idealism.


There would be no concepts if there were no people, since it is people who produce concepts. But that has nothing particularly to do with the concept of sound. There would be no concept of tree or water either.

But, there need not be a concept of sound for there to be sound, nor a concept of tree or of water for their to be trees of water. I am sure there are now things in the world of which no one has any concept, nor may we ever have any concept of it. The absence of concepts has nothing to do with whether there are objects. There may be concepts without objects (unicorn) or objects without concepts, as there was 10,000 years ago when there was electricity, but no concept of electricity.

The question of whether if a tree falls but no one observes it, did it fall, is obviously yes, since you already said the tree fell. To say that the tree fell, and that then, there is a question of whether the tree fell, is to contradict yourself. How can you both assert the tree fell, and then question whether the tree fell? And what has whether anyone observed the tree fall to do with whether the tree fell? What it has to do with is whether anyone is aware that the tree fell, not with whether the tree fell. I may be that if no one saw the tree fall, then no one would be aware that the tree fell, but not that the tree did not fall. And, of course, the same is true of sound. If no one hears the sound, then it may be that no one will be aware that there was a sound. But, how could it follow that there was no sound because no one was aware of it?
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 06:01 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;64071 wrote:
There would be no concepts if there were no people, since it is people who produce concepts. But that has nothing particularly to do with the concept of sound. There would be no concept of tree or water either.


[SIZE="3"]I am not talking about the ability to conceive, I am talking about the basis of some particular concept. [/SIZE]


kennethamy;64071 wrote:
But, there need not be a concept of sound for there to be sound . . .


[SIZE="3"]Lol, exactly! There need not be a concept, but there does need to be the ability to hear for there to be a sound.[/SIZE]

kennethamy;64071 wrote:
The question of whether if a tree falls but no one observes it, did it fall, is obviously yes, since you already said the tree fell. To say that the tree fell, and that then, there is a question of whether the tree fell, is to contradict yourself. How can you both assert the tree fell, and then question whether the tree fell? And what has whether anyone observed the tree fall to do with whether the tree fell? What it has to do with is whether anyone is aware that the tree fell, not with whether the tree fell. I may be that if no one saw the tree fall, then no one would be aware that the tree fell, but not that the tree did not fall. And, of course, the same is true of sound. If no one hears the sound, then it may be that no one will be aware that there was a sound. But, how could it follow that there was no sound because no one was aware of it?


[SIZE="3"]You are missing my point either because you don't understand what the term "sound" means, or you are projecting a trait of human consciousness onto external reality, or you are not carefully following my point (which, by the way, has been made zillions of times in philosophy discussions around the world). Try one more time to get what I am saying, and you will see I agree with most of what you say, but I am pointing out that throwing "sound" into the question unnecessarily complicates the answer.

Sound is a function of hearing, so how could there be sound if there is no hearing? If we had absolutely no sense of taste, do you think we'd have a term called "flavor"? The basis of the term flavor is our ability to taste. If there were no such thing as the ability to taste, there would be no flavor . . . it literally would not exist. However, food would still possess the chemistry that the sense of taste (when it exists) responds to, so we could say there are such and such chemicals whether or not they result in a "flavor" experience.

Sound likewise would not exist if there were no hearing experience. There would be vibration of air, but there would be no process that vibrates an ear drum and stimulates the brain in a particular place for us to perceive what we label "sound." So when someone asks this very old, traditional question and adds "sound" to the mix, it opens the door to a completely different issue than what the question was intended to ask.

What was the question intended to ask? Just what you said: "whether if a tree falls but no one observes it" . . . did it really occur? This question was raised in order to bring out the ideas of philosophical idealism, and so was asking the greater question of if there is existence outside of mind. As you and others point out, of course reality is not dependent on our perceptions, only our knowing reality is dependent on perception. That is why radical philosophical idealism is considered nonsense.

But when you ask if a sound occurs if no consciousness is present to hear, then the answer has to be no because a sound requires a conscious hearer. Sound only happens within consciousness, not in external reality.
[/SIZE]
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 06:39 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:


Lol, exactly! There need not be a concept, but there does need to be the ability to hear for there to be a sound.





Sound is a function of hearing, so how could there be sound if there is no hearing? If we had absolutely no sense of taste, do you think we'd have a term called "flavor"? The basis of the term flavor is our ability to taste. If there were no such thing as the ability to taste, there would be no flavor . . . it literally would not exist. However, food would still possess the chemistry that the sense of taste (when it exists) responds to, so we could say there are such and such chemicals whether or not they result in a "flavor" experience.

Sound likewise would not exist if there were no hearing experience.



But that sound is a function of hearing is just what I am disputing. So that for you to repeat that, is pointless, and is question begging. As I have asked, why cannot there unheard sounds? We can infer that a tree made a sound when no one was present to hear the sound. We can use a tape recorder. We can, from far away, notice that when the tree fell, all of the birds flew away in terror. Most importantly we can recall that we heard a large thump when trees fell when there were people to hear it, and infer from that it made a large thump when people were not present to hear it. So I don't see that you have shown that there would be no sound if no one heard the sound. I agee, by the way, that unless there is someone to hear a sound, no sound will be heard. But that does not mean there will be no sound unless there is someone to hear it. You are confusing hearing a sound with there being a sound. When you do that, you are well on the road to Idealism. The confusion between the awareness of X, and the existence of X.
 
 

 
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