If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it still exist?

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Nameless 23232
 
Reply Sun 30 Aug, 2009 03:32 pm
@richrf,
It's a question of ontology versus logic I suppose. I would say that the question makes no sense, but I'll apply my answer to the question: 'Can we know that any object exists outside of our perception?' To which I would reply that we can only know of those objects of which we have some prior knowledge, whether it be direct experience of indirect (ie reading about). In this case you have no ontological proof for the particular objects existence, however you are logically inclined to believe it does exist due to the fact that you have a logical structure supporting it's likely existence.
As an example; ontologically the world dissapears whenever we are unconscious, yet this doesn't stop us expecting it to reappear when we regain consciousness. It makes sense to us that it will reappear, as this has always been the case before.
Of course whether we are justified in making these assumptions is a different question altogether, but it is certainly the norm to do so. The question seems to be more common of whether we are justified to question these assumptions, given that there is more evidence to support them than there is to deem them unlikely. I'm a fence-sitter at the moment.
 
skulihar
 
Reply Sun 30 Aug, 2009 06:12 pm
@kennethamy,
Everything - A set that contains all elements

Nothing - A set that contains all irrelevant elements

Something - A set that contains a relevant element

Universe - A set that contains all elements relevant
 
Leonard
 
Reply Sun 30 Aug, 2009 06:35 pm
@dharma bum,
Good question... It mustn't have to be heard to exist. Sound waves are still existent whether or not someone is there. The tree may not necessarily exist to you, but it does relative to other trees and other trees exist relative to yet more trees, and those may exist relative to us. I can't really say, but as long as it is physically impossible for something to disappear while you are gone, I suppose it still exists.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 30 Aug, 2009 07:01 pm
@Leonard,
Leonard;87000 wrote:
Good question... It mustn't have to be heard to exist. Sound waves are still existent whether or not someone is there. The tree may not necessarily exist to you, but it does relative to other trees and other trees exist relative to yet more trees, and those may exist relative to us. I can't really say, but as long as it is physically impossible for something to disappear while you are gone, I suppose it still exists.


Why would a tree that fell not exist unless someone heard it fall?
 
PoeticVisionary
 
Reply Sun 30 Aug, 2009 10:00 pm
@dharma bum,
Hey maybe William Blake was on to something when he wrote these.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
William Blake
Art is the tree of life. Science is the tree of death.

The eye altering, alters all.

To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

All quotes by Willaim Blake
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 30 Aug, 2009 10:12 pm
@PoeticVisionary,
PoeticVisionary;87042 wrote:
Hey maybe William Blake was on to something when he wrote these.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
William Blake
Art is the tree of life. Science is the tree of death.

The eye altering, alters all.

To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

All quotes by Willaim Blake


Maybe he was. But I doubt it. For instance, medical science prevents a lot of death.
 
TheSingingSword
 
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 04:40 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;87043 wrote:
Maybe he was. But I doubt it. For instance, medical science prevents a lot of death.



Only "body-death" which may or may not be a good thing.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 05:13 pm
@TheSingingSword,
TheSingingSword;89469 wrote:
Only "body-death" which may or may not be a good thing.


What other kinds of death are there? Assuming of course you are including brain death in the same category as body death.
 
leafy
 
Reply Mon 21 Sep, 2009 03:33 pm
@dharma bum,
dharma_bum;76827 wrote:
To clarify, I mean 'know' as in completely certain.


Most people don't equate knowledge with absolute knowledge.The common definition of knowledge is "justified true belief" (Gettier problems aside). Are you saying that I can't know that gravity is always a downward force? Every observation is a data point, and holds much probabilistic force. You don't have any justification for concluding that gravity is an upward force. You can say that it's possible, but that doesn't mean that the mere fact of it being possible makes it probable or even remotely probable.

dharma_bum;76827 wrote:

And to be honest, in a way I DON'T think that we 'know' more than we did 100 years ago. Or even 1000 years ago.


Earth is round, and not the center of the universe. The universe is 13 to 14 billion years old. Evolution is the origin of species, with natural selection as the mechanism.

These are things that are known a posteriori, or through evidence. If the only knowledge you'll accept are a priori, absolutely true knowledge, then you'll have a very small set of known propositions. I would argue that you have none, so absolute knowledge isn't even a type of knowledge - they're exclusive.

dharma_bum;76827 wrote:

Science, in my opinion, can't prove anything. It can only make educated guesswork.

Again, this conflates the idea of "proof" to something only a priori. Do you need to prove a priori and absolutely that OJ killed his wife? No, you can present evidence to build up to a proof. Proof can be through induction as well as deduction.

dharma_bum;76827 wrote:

If I drop a ball 100 times and it falls downward each time, I can't be entirely sure that it will fall the same direction the 101st time. All practical reason and common sense would tell me that it will, but there will always be the doubt of reason.


See above. You have no justification for concluding that it'll fall in a different direction.

dharma_bum;76827 wrote:

My main problem with science, even though I will admit that it's useful, is that it's always too sure of itself. People hear "scientifically proven" and they automatically accept it as absolute fact.

I think this is more of a problem with people who dogmatically accept anything that science tells them. You didn't point to the methodology of science and say where it tricks people into thinking that it's absolute knowledge, you pointed to what people think.

dharma_bum;76827 wrote:

At times I almost think that science will never make any form of progress at life's tough questions in the long run.


That's because life's "tough questions" are not answered by science. Science can't tell you what the best flavor of ice cream is, as long as it's subjective, as well as other questions answered by philosophy. You can't use a screwdriver (in the way it was intended) to write on paper. Science isn't meant to answer questions that philosophy answers.

dharma_bum;76827 wrote:

Who's to say that, in 500 years, everything we think we know now won't be completely disproven and that people will look back and think "How stupid were these guys to think that diseases were caused by virus's and bacteria?" Smile


This is highly improbable. The evidence is so vastly in our favor that the probability of us being so completely wrong is almost 0. I drive my car every day to school and back. One day, I may discover that it was really a truck and that every time I looked, all of the millions of photons that enter my eye when perceiving it were somehow switched around.

That's not very probable, and you don't have very good grounds for concluding that.
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 21 Sep, 2009 03:36 pm
@dharma bum,
Basically I think you should ask him this:
What change in your web of beliefs do you think is the best to make when confronted with that (knowledge implies epistemic (=absolute) certainty) implies a whole lot of implausible things such as we don't know anything or nearly anything. Do you really think we should accept all those implausible implications? It seems to me that simply rejected that knowledge implies epistemic certainty is the best way to go.

Though you can confront him hardcore too, that just won't help. "Help" as in convince him.

Be sure to distinguish between two meanings of "certain".
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Mon 21 Sep, 2009 04:27 pm
@dharma bum,
dharma_bum;76809 wrote:
if we can't see, hear, or otherwise perceive something in the present moment, can we ever be truly certain that it's still there?


Would you suggest that everything has to recreate itself upon our return as an observer? Do we just walk around in a bubble of perception, as it were?

People who have been in car accidents often say, "I didn't see the other car." This may be true, but clearly, the other car existed prior to the collision . . . unless it just popped into existence for some indeterminate reason.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 25 Sep, 2009 06:18 am
@dharma bum,
Hey I've got it! I've got it!

The tree does not fall, but it also does not not fall.

The reason it seems so counter-intuitive is because the whole argument is about whether 'things really exist in consciousness'. If they do, and no-one is conscious, then we imagine that nothing happens.

BUT THAT IS NOT IT. What that is, is your imagining of it not-happening. You are trying to picture its non-existence. But this is ALSO something that is in consciousness.

So the tree does not fall, but neither does it not 'not fall'. It neither happens, nor doesn't happen. Because every eventuality - falling or not falling - is defined and understood by the perceiving consciousness. It's actual falling or not falling is not something you can even conceive of.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 06:21 pm
@dharma bum,
Truth is a property of sentences. Does it exist? Well, what you do mean by "exist?"

Language philosophy is arguably first-philosophy. Questions and answers are made of words. How do they work, these words? What are there limits? How many questions seem silly, if one examines them carefully?

None of the above thoughts are original. Just my spin on language philosophy as it applies to this question.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 06:27 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;92540 wrote:
Would you suggest that everything has to recreate itself upon our return as an observer? Do we just walk around in a bubble of perception, as it were?

People who have been in car accidents often say, "I didn't see the other car." This may be true, but clearly, the other car existed prior to the collision . . . unless it just popped into existence for some indeterminate reason.


I think that what they mean is not that they did not see the other car, but rather they did not see that there was another car. In other words, they did not realize that there was another car there. Clearly, they must have seen it unless they were blind.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 06:30 pm
@kennethamy,
I think everyone believes in a world outside themselves in a practical sense of the word "belief." The rest is mind-play, which I have no objection to.
 
 

 
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