The Instigator
fullofhopkins
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
Hkg
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

If A Tree Fell In A Forrest With No One Around To Hear It, It Would Still Make A Sound

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/29/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 464 times Debate No: 74431
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
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fullofhopkins

Pro

Definition of sound: vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person's or animal's ear.

No need to define anything else.

I'm opening this back up since there was some confusion in my last attempt. This is meant to be short and fun, but I also want it to be a real debate because it is an interesting metaphysical question. You can accept and then I'll get right into it.
Hkg

Con

If a tree fell in the forest and no one was around to hear it, it would not make a noise.
If there were no sentient beings in the surrounding areas to perceive to sound waves then they simply would not exist. In order for something to exist they have to be perceived.

Sorry if I don't make sense. I'm new to this.
Debate Round No. 1
fullofhopkins

Pro

The definition of sound is, "vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person or animal's ear." In other words, the vibrations made by an object and the auditory stimulation that we receive and call sound are logically identical. In other words, there is no change in the sound itself between sound as a vibration and sound as something to be perceived - it is the same vibration whether it is heard or not. This is obvious given the definition of the word and the law of identity.

So let's examine a hypothetical case. Suppose a tree falls in a forrest and no one is around to hear it. But the vibrations it made are somehow trapped in a pocket of air or a tree trunk, vibrating and bouncing around endlessly. (I'm aware this is not practical as the vibrations would be absorbed by the tree, but it is a logical possibility and is not impossible.) A few days pass. Then a person walking through the woods stumbles into that air pocket and hears the sound of the tree falling because those vibrations finally end up in someone's ear. That would mean he heard the vibrations of the tree that it made when it fell over BEFORE anyone was around to hear it.

The vibrations he is perceiving at this time are the same ones the tree made when it fell. Therefore, given what I said in the first paragraph, the vibrations he heard are numerically identical to the vibrations made by the tree when it fell. So to say, "It made a sound when he heard it, but not when it fell" would be to violate the law of identity - because what he heard and the vibrations produced when the tree fell are logically identical things. They went through no change between the time the tree fell and the time at which the person heard it. So to say, "It didn't make a sound, it made a vibration" would be to deny the law of identity. The sound IS the vibration, and whether anyone is around to perceive it is secondary.

You might say this example seems absurd. But all I've done is explicate the slight time delay between a tree falling and creating vibrations and us hearing it if we're standing 100 yards away. The vibrations must travel through air before they reach our ears. But it's incoherent to say that the tree didn't make a sound until the vibrations reached our ears - of course it did (we know because we hear it). In my example this concept is exaggerated but still applies in the same way. The vibrations made at time T are the same vibrations traveling at time T1, and X hears the vibration at T1, he is hearing the vibrations made at T before anyone could perceive them. But of course, they are the same vibrations, having gone through no change between T and T1.

Therefore to maintain that a tree wouldn't make a sound just because no one heard it would be to say that the sound we hear and and the vibrations made are different things - but they are not. The tree had to make a sound when it fell in order for the sound and the vibrations to be logically identical, which they are by definition. Interpretations of those vibrations and the vibrations themselves aren't two different properties of sound - the former exists independently of sound.

And this is no different than something like light. Light is a particle or wave emitted by something - let's say a star in this case. But many stars are far enough away that it takes years (or millennia) for the light to reach our eyes. (In fact, it takes 8 minutes for light from the sun to reach us.) But no one would say, "If a star burned and no one was around to see it, would it make light?" Of course it would. And we know this because some stars that we now see began emitting light before life on earth existed. Does that mean it was not light until human beings or animals came to be? How could that be the case if the same light particles that we see are the ones that left the star before we could see them? For their identity to persist over time, which it does, it has to be the same light. The same holds true for sound.

In conclusion, we've seen good evidence that the vibration a tree makes when it falls and the sound we hear are numerically identical. Therefore to say a tree would not make a sound if no one were around to hear it - just a vibration - would be to suggest that sound and vibrations exist independently, as distinct things - but they do not. Therefore in order to remain logically consistent and to adhere to the definition of "sound," we must conclude that when a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, it still makes a sound. Thank you.
Hkg

Con

you can say "what if the sound is trapped in side the trunk of a tree." if you'd like. but that's not the case. it just does not happen. because as you stated previously "The definition of sound is, "vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person or animal's ear.". so if the tree falls and makes sound waves or vibrations and there is NO conscious being in the surrounding areas to perceive these vibrations then they simply would not exist as there was no perception. now lets just ignore that in order for something to exist it needs to be perceived. if the tree fell and no one was around, it would create vibrations that eventually disappear, they would be absorbed by the surrounding objects, like trees, grass, etc.. so there was no organ or anything to perceive the vibrations as sounds. which means no sound was made
Debate Round No. 2
fullofhopkins

Pro

The key part of that definition (that con seems to have missed) is that it CAN be heard when it reaches a person's ear, not that it has to be in order to be sound.

Con argues that these vibrations would not exist if no one was around to perceive them. But this is absurd. If this is the case, con must agree that the vibrations a tree makes do not exist before/until they reach a person's ear if a tree falls a hundred yards away from a person and there's a slight time delay in the vibrations making it into the person's ear. Con must also agree that the light from stars that began traveling before human beings existed did not exist until there was someone to perceive them. But this is to assert something that is totally unsupported and, indeed, contradicted by science. We know the distance of e.g. the Andromeda Galaxy from our own - it's a little over 2 million light years. If the light it emitted did not exist before we perceived it, it would literally have had to spring into being at the exact moment that someone first observed it. But this is manifestly absurd.

The same would hold true for the sound a tree makes. Unless con wants to agree that the vibrations a tree makes when it falls and the sound we hear and numerically non-identical and literally spring into existence when someone is around to perceive them, he must concede my position. But since that view denies what we currently understand about the fundamental properties of light and sound as given to us by science, con will have quite a case to make.

I'll use another analogy to help make this clear. Some people who are colorblind cannot see the color red. By con's logic, the color red literally does not exist for these people, but it exists for me. But surely the color red (that is, the wavelengths of light that we perceive as red) either exist or they do not. Con has no grounds to tell me that red does not exist to me, because I perceive it and I know it does. And just because a colorblind person does not perceive it, that does not entail that it therefore does not exist.

I'll reiterate my argument. The vibrations a tree makes when it falls are logically identical to the sounds we hear when we perceive those vibrations. Thus, when a tree falls in a forrest, it makes a sound, whether anyone is around to see it or not. Con has done nothing to refute this point except to take an extraordinarily controversial metaphysical stance, namely things do not exist outside of perception, but he has provided no evidence for this. Therefore my argument still stands.
Hkg

Con

Here is a quote from Andei Linde, a physicist at Stanford university "You may ask whether the universe really existed before you start looking at it, That's the same Schrodinger cat question. And my answer would be that the universe looks as if it existed before I started looking at it. When you open the cat's box after a week, you're going to find either a live cat or a smelly piece of meat. You can say that the cat looks as if it were dead or as if it were alive during the whole week. Likewise, when we look at the universe, the best we can say is that it looks as if it were there 10 billion years ago. The universe and the observer exist as a pair, You can say that the universe is there only when there is an observer who can say, Yes, I see the universe there. These small words " it looks like it was here" for practical purposes it may not matter much, but for me as a human being, I do not know any sense in which I could claim that the universe is here in the absence of observers. We are together, the universe and us. The moment you say that the universe exists without any observers, I cannot make any sense out of that. I cannot imagine a consistent theory of everything that ignores consciousness. A recording device cannot play the role of an observer, because who will read what is written on this recording device? In order for us to see that something happens, and say to one another that something happens, you need to have a universe, you need to have a recording device, and you need to have us. It's not enough for the information to be stored somewhere, completely inaccessible to anybody. It's necessary for somebody to look at it. You need an observer who looks at the universe. In the absence of observers, our universe is dead." The physical universe does not physically exist with out the observer.
Look up the double slit experiment.
The vibrations a tree may or may not make when falling with nothing aground is not sound. The ear of a sentient being is what associates those vibrations with sound, there for creating the sound.
Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Furyan5 1 year ago
Furyan5
He never said all stars. if a star collapsed 100 years ago and its light takes 200 years to get here we will only see the collapse in a hundred years from now.
Note: objectively the star collapsed alteady but subjectively it is still shining. In our perception of realty the star exists.
Further proof that our reality is an illusion. Although realities is a more accurate description.
Posted by fullofhopkins 1 year ago
fullofhopkins
Bogcha: what? Are you saying all stars have burned out that we can see? That's demonstrably false. Red dwarfs, for instance, have a life span of some 10 trillion years. The universe has not existed that long, so it's patently false to say that the light-emitting body in that case would dissipate before we see it. That only applies to some stars. So I'm not sure I follow your point. Even if it WERE true that all the stars we see have since burned out, it would still be the case that they existed at some time or else we would have no light to perceive.

Furyfan5: Okay, I see what you're saying. I misunderstood you the first time.
Posted by Furyan5 1 year ago
Furyan5
In english.... a sound can only exist if someone hears it.
Posted by Bogcha 1 year ago
Bogcha
Hello fullofhopkins,

I would like to interject the Pro/Con debate on the matter with the 2 following observations from your first round.

Observation based on : "let's say a star in this case. But many stars are far enough away that it takes years (or millennia) for the light to reach our eyes. (In fact, it takes 8 minutes for light from the sun to reach us.) But no one would say, "If a star burned and no one was around to see it, would it make light?"

The time it took for light to reach the rods&cones (eyes) of a sentient being is determined by time. If it took 8 million years for the light to reach Earth (as example) and be perceived, the light emitting body would have dissipated or disappeared in the mean time. If that light was not perceived during the "sources life span" then that light emitting source would not have existed. Therefore, the existence of the light emitting body can be questioned only based on it being perceived or not (google Evidence of absence). Same applies to sound and tree.
Posted by Furyan5 1 year ago
Furyan5
Wrong. The organ doesn't hear the sound. It creates the sound. The eye transfers impulses to the brain and the brain creates the image.
Posted by fullofhopkins 1 year ago
fullofhopkins
Sight is not the thing you see. Sight is the ability to see. What is it you're seeing? You're seeing light bounce off of objects and hit your retinas. An organ isn't needed for sound to exist, just for sound to be heard.
Posted by Furyan5 1 year ago
Furyan5
Depends on which dictionary you reading. Some say the vibrations are sound. But logically a sound is the thing you hear. Like sight is the thing you see. Not the light waves traveling from the object to your eye.
Posted by Hkg 1 year ago
Hkg
Im defining sound wrong?
Posted by Furyan5 1 year ago
Furyan5
Your definition of sound is wrong. You are defining sound waves. These are merely the way sound is transfered from one place to another. A organ or device is needed to perceive those sound waves/vibrations and convert them into sound. That is why no sound is heard in a vacuum. There is nothing to transport the sound waves to your ears.
Posted by vi_spex 1 year ago
vi_spex
its already implied that the tree falls in reality, therfore it makes a sound
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