If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it,

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

yes
115
65%
no
61
35%
 
Total votes : 176

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it,

Post Number:#1  Postby TurtleSpeaks » October 18th, 2010, 10:35 am

This one just pisses me off.

Of course it does.

That's not even counting the possibility of going there afterward and detecting changes in the environment.

Opinions?
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Post Number:#2  Postby Tylerium » October 18th, 2010, 10:40 am

No. Sound is the brain's perception of air molecules vibrating across a distance and for a duration. Yes, the tree still moves all those air molecules when it falls, but it makes no sound because there is nobody around to translate those vibrating molecules into sound.
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Post Number:#3  Postby TurtleSpeaks » October 18th, 2010, 10:43 am

The definition of sound should be reworded here...because that's not really the point of the question.

Actually, a better question would be:

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to observe it in any way, does it still fall?
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Post Number:#4  Postby Mark » October 18th, 2010, 10:47 am

A forest is usually filled with animals/bugs though. They tend to hear sounds.

But my interpretation of this quote is more like this: "is a fact a fact only when someone (human) can prove it/detect it, or can a fact exist anyway?" To me, the sound part is only a metaphor.

Therefore I believe it is YES, because a fact (action/sound/whatever) is still there (or has been there), even if it cannot be "proved". The fact in itself doesn't need to be proved, to exist.
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Post Number:#5  Postby Kapra » October 18th, 2010, 11:07 am

The answer can be yes or no.
The science = Sound waves travel when a tree falls.
The philosophy of language would ask you to = define a tree? define falling? define what sound means? In other words you could be defining tree as a bird, and falling as flying? Like a morse code. EG spys would ask this question but the answer isn`t anything like the play on words they use.

I need you to define what you mean by no one ]is around [/color] are humans none existant in this hypothesis? The word IS in that sentence implies no one "IS" ie the extinction of humanity
Is this a question about trees falling before man existed?
Could it be heard falling if no one was around no of course not because no one was around (here on earth) to hear it. By no one you are implying humans I presume?
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Post Number:#6  Postby Stev7467 » October 18th, 2010, 12:09 pm

Of course it does. Lets not make this any harder than it is. Just because no one is around to experience it dosnt mean that the physics change.
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Post Number:#7  Postby 美国g » October 18th, 2010, 12:14 pm

It's fun to think about "did the tree fall?".. I like that as the best explanation...

I'm having troubles relating it to a situation of relevance though. If an old man who no one alive has ever heard of dies, has he died? To the world, his existence is non existent, so his death has no effect- in a way of speaking. Does a non existent life hold meaning? I think this is the best question!

Okay, so here is my translation of the question. If a human being dies, and no one has ever heard of him, his deeds, or anything relating to him. Did his life have meaning? I mean... disregarding any things he could have done to leave a trace of his existence, I'd say that his life in itself was meaningless. Dust...

I think this can apply to almost all of man kind. If we don't do something that leaves our mark on the world, than millenniums from now, we never existed.
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Post Number:#8  Postby Kapra » October 18th, 2010, 12:22 pm

The only point I am making is that the sentence isn`t one that can be answered simply. I would need to read the entire reason for the questioner asking it. Who is the questioner? If this was a question of the tree falling in a forest in a sci fi novel, the tree and forest could be in outer space, which means they fall and float, without sound. If this question was asked by an international spy it could be a code and not literally mean what is being asking. If no one IS around then no one would hear it make a sound.

I think that if this is to be only a science question its not a philosophy question if it only means what science means by it.

It's fun to think about "did the tree fall?".. I like that as the best explanation...


Haha good analogy. It isn`t saying the tree did fall, its asking IF
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Post Number:#9  Postby 美国g » October 18th, 2010, 12:28 pm

Kapra wrote:The only point I am making is that the sentence isn`t one that can be answered simply. I would need to read the entire reason for the questioner asking it. Who is the questioner? If this was a question of the tree falling in a forest in a sci fi novel, the tree and forest could be in outer space, which means they fall and float, without sound. If this question was asked by an international spy it could be a code and not literally mean what is being asking. If no one IS around then no one would hear it make a sound.

I think that if this is to be only a science question its not a philosophy question if it only means what science means by it.

It's fun to think about "did the tree fall?".. I like that as the best explanation...


Haha good analogy. It isn`t saying the tree did fall, its asking IF


Haha, this is going to sound a bit rude, and I'm sorry to say it, but it's funny! Please don't be upset :P

I think this is a philosophy forum, so I think we can generally assume that the question is being asked as a philosophical question, and is not mean to be taken with regard to the questioner seeing as the questioner is, himself, a philosopher.

I highly doubt that this is a question meant to be taken literally.
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Post Number:#10  Postby Kapra » October 18th, 2010, 12:36 pm

I highly doubt that this is a question meant to be taken literally.


I was commenting to the OP Turtle who thinks it is a literal matter of fact and science. I found my comment is in context to the replies pertaining to the science as evidence. You were not being rude, you were misinterpreting my observation without asking who I was speaking to though. I highly doubt I have said it should be taken literally! In fact I know I didn`t say that, you did, out of context to what I was saying. IF the question is only one to be answered by science then it isn`t a philosophical question being placed by the OP.
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Sorry it's so long!

Post Number:#11  Postby Flikissimekado » October 20th, 2010, 8:21 pm

Mark wrote:a fact (action/sound/whatever) is still there (or has been there), even if it cannot be "proved". The fact in itself doesn't need to be proved, to exist.


If Schrödinger disagreed, but nobody was around to hear him, did he still have a point?

Or, to put it a little less facetiously, the work left in his wake is to the fact of his refutation as sylvan debris are to the fact of a tree's toppling in a forest. Forgive me for singling you out when in fact I respect what you're saying perfectly well; my tendency to philosophical ambivalence is easily overwhelmed by my enthusiasm for casual Elenchus. To whit, of all the rebuttals I might have chosen, indeed of all the positions I might have chosen to critique, these were simply the two most pleasingly paradoxical in their symbiosis.

In any case, what I intended to add has already been posited in its essentials; namely that I've always taken this to be a reminder of the semantic nature of much of what we take for granted as 'true' or real. We talk of sound as if it is a real world phenomenon(*) when in fact as a word it defines uniquely the sensation of such a phenomenon. I have always assumed, quite possibly incorrectly - I like some of the interpretations here - that the assertion that 'nobody is around to hear it' is an appropriately colloquial rendering of "there is no thing x such that x is capable of registering vibrations as 'sounds'". In effect I have tended to assume the question is something along the lines of 'is there any more to a sound (as distinct from vibration) than the fact of its being heard', to which I'm inclined to say 'no', but am always open to persuasion :)


(*)Here I lay aside questions of whether any such thing 'exists' given the neural nature of experience and mean simply to distinguish external/physical stimuli (eg an empty stomach) from internal/psychic perception (eg the sensation of hunger)
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Post Number:#12  Postby Tfindlay » October 20th, 2010, 10:16 pm

Of course it does.

A sound is, by definition, something that is heard. Vibrating air that is not heard is simply vibrating air. So if there is no one there to hear the vibrations in the air made by the tree falling it does not make a sound, it only causes the air to vibrate.

If a human being dies, and no one has ever heard of him, his deeds, or anything relating to him. Did his life have meaning?

Meaning is that which makes a difference. In the case of this or anyone else the meaning of a life is the difference the life has made. Every life makes some difference in terms of things like the food one consumes, the air one breathes, or the acts that one performs that affect other things (like picking a flower or stepping on a stick and breaking it). It is a question of the degree of difference one makes within a given context. In the context of my immediate family my life is quite meaningful but in the context of the world's population it is quite meaningless.
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Re: Sorry it's so long!

Post Number:#13  Postby Mark » October 21st, 2010, 2:28 am

Flikissimekado wrote:If Schrödinger disagreed, but nobody was around to hear him, did he still have a point?


Can you, with this quote, prove that he didn't have a point?
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Post Number:#14  Postby Belinda » October 21st, 2010, 6:11 am

George Berkeley pronounces that if the tree falls in the forest and nobody not even a sparrow is there to hear or see it, God still hears and sees it. GB was a tremendous sceptic and nevertheless a bishop so he would have had to say that God sees and hears even although no mortal (including bugs and sparrows) sees or hears. I think that GB was a bishop who really believed in God.

I like GB's scepticism very much but I dont believe in GB's God so I think that the tree does not fall in the forest if there is nobody(bug, sparrow or human) to whom this would have any meaning.

The corollary of what I think about this is that without consciousnesses that make meanings, nothing happens. There is no cosmos without consciousnesses.Without consciousnesses there may be some Tao thingy of which we conscious mortals cannot possibly have any notion.
TFindlay wrote
A sound is, by definition, something that is heard. Vibrating air that is not heard is simply vibrating air. So if there is no one there to hear the vibrations in the air made by the tree falling it does not make a sound, it only causes the air to vibrate.
so I think that TFindlay would have to agree with me to some extent. I'd go further though and say that vibrating air is a meaning and therefore presupposes consciousness.
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Post Number:#15  Postby reflected_light » October 21st, 2010, 8:12 am

Belinda, would you go as far to say that when you turn around, that which you were just looking at ceases to exist? (if no other stimuli is coming from that direction)
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