The Instigator
muffin8or
Con (against)
Winning
7 Points
The Contender
tmar19652
Pro (for)
Losing
6 Points

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

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
muffin8or
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/2/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,289 times Debate No: 29798
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (22)
Votes (4)

 

muffin8or

Con

What ho, what ho! The age old philosophical question brought up once again!

Round 1 will be for acceptance. If you accept the debate, you are arguing that the tree DOES make a sound. I will argue that it does not.
tmar19652

Pro

I will argue the tree does make a sound. Since you are the instigator I will make it clear that the burden of proof rests solely on you.
Debate Round No. 1
muffin8or

Con

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof does not lie with the instigator. The burden of proof normally lies with whoever makes the positive claim (i.e. the tree DOES make a sound). However, in this case the burden of proof is shared as both claims require argument and evidence. Such a questionable shifting of the burden of proof is indicative of bad faith. Hopefully the matter is settled and my opponent will put forward arguments for a tree making sound when it falls. It is hard to see how he will win the debate if he does not.

Introduction

One may look at this question and conclude that there is no actual answer; after all, the question has remained for hundreds of years. The crux of the debate, according to me at least, though my opponent may disagree, is the following: 'What is sound?' Is sound the wave or is it the perception of certain qualities? The conclusion that there is no definitive answer takes both definitions of sound as equally valid and sufficient. However, I will argue that the definition for sound as merely the wave is insufficient as compared to the definition of sound as the sum of subjective qualities.

1 - The qualities of sound

When we say the word 'sound' we are referring to a phenomena with certain qualities. The qualities of loud or soft, high pitched or low, rumbling on smooth etc. Where do these qualities exist? They cannot be found in the wave. Of course amplitude is part of the wave but loud/soft is not. The following argument illustrates.

P1: Person A, hard of hearing, perceives sound X to be very faint.
P2: Person B, with an acute sense of hearing, perceives sound X to be very loud.
P3: Due to the law of non-contradiction sound X cannot be both loud and faint.
C: The quality of loudness/faintness is subjective and exists within the perceiver's mind.

From this argument we see that the qualities of sound and thus sound itself exist within the mind of the perceiver and not in the external world. Thus, without a perceiver there is no sound, merely sound waves; compressions in the air that have no qualities of sound but instead the qualities of a wave.

2 - Insufficiencies of sound as a wave

The reply to the above argument (Note, I'm not not wishing to create a straw man) is normally that the description of sound stated above is in fact the perception of the wave which is in actuality sound. If sound is the wave, the qualities above refer to 'sound-perceived' rather than just sound. However, this is an insufficient definition.

We are able to perceive sound (i.e. hear) without the presence of a wave. We can have auditory hallucinations; tinnitus is an example of this widely present in much of the older population. Schizophrenic people hear voices with qualities of sound but without the presence of a wave. Under the definition of sound as a wave we would have to conclude that no sound is being perceived when we have auditory hallucinations or hear voices in out head. This is obviously insufficient; we are perceiving a sound that is phenomenally indistinguishable from any other (more on this in later rounds). A more sufficient definition of sound is the qualities that exist in our mind. This allows there to be sound with or without a wave.

Conclusion

The conclusion is that the most sufficient definition of sound is the subjective qualities that make up sound; i.e. loud/soft/high/low etc. Because of this definition, there is no sound when a tree falls and no one hears it; there are only compression waves that propagate through the air.

In the next round I will extend the second point through doubt from phenomenal indistinguishability. More on that later. Over to my opponent.
tmar19652

Pro

Sound (1): Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing.
No-One(2): No person; nobody
Nobody(3): No person
Person(4): A living human
1.The term "nobody" represents humans
This debate was limited to no-body around the tree, which definitions show to mean no person. However, there could still be squirrels, deer or panoply of other woodland creatures around to hear the tree fall. Since squirrels have very sensitive hearing (5), then they could hear the tree fall, and therefore the tree would make a sound. Even though there is no person in the woods, the squirrels, deer, bears, or any other thing with a sense of hearing can count as the perceiver. Therefore the tree would still make a sound.

Sources:
1.http://en.wikipedia.org...
2.http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
3.http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
4.http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
5.http://www.backyardnature.com...
Debate Round No. 2
muffin8or

Con

My opponent has seen it fit to read the question literally rather than in the spirit of debate. This is betrayed his statement:


"However, there could still be squirrels, deer or panoply of other woodland creatures around to hear the tree fall."


The fact that he says 'could be' reveals his ignoring of what the debate is really about. In any case, if he were to read the question even closer he would find his argument to be invalid. The following conditions are known in this thought experiment:


1. Existence of a forest - A dense growth of trees, plants, and underbrush covering a large area. [1]


2. Existence of a tree - A perennial woody plant having a main trunk and usually a distinct crown. [2]


3. Presence of No-one - Nobody [3]


Under no definition of the conditions in the title is there included 'squirrels', 'deer' or a 'panoply of other woodland creatures'. As such, introducing entities such as 'squirrels', 'deer' or a 'panoply of other woodland creatures' is to skew the thought experiment. The exclusion of people does not imply the inclusion of everything that does not include people. This is a wild assumption that goes beyond the defined parameters of the experiment.


My opponent then states that as animals were there to hear the tree falling, a sound was produced. However, as stated above, there are no animals in this thought experiment. Thus, by my opponents own reckoning a sound was not made; nothing in the thought experiment was there to hear it.


We must both therefore conclude that since a perceiver is required for sound and there are no perceivers outlined in this experiment, there was no sound.


----


[1] - http://www.thefreedictionary.com...


[2] - http://www.thefreedictionary.com...


[3] - http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

tmar19652

Pro

My opponent has now tried to impose a set of restrictions that were not set-forth in round 1. The experiment was "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?". Your own source states that no-one is defined as "no person or nobody", and that nobody means "no person". Where does it state that animals are excluded from the experiment?
My opponent then talks about the implied meaning of the experiment, but this is irrelevant. You feel that animals should be excluded from the experiment, but you did not state that they were, so I am not bound by that rule.
As my opponent stated, a perceiver is required for sound to be heard, but their thesis and first round only excluded a human perceiver. Any other animal with a sense of hearing was not excluded from this debate, and they all count as perceivers to the sound of the tree falling. Therefore, a sound was both produced and heard. Vote Pro!!!
Debate Round No. 3
muffin8or

Con


I will entertain the semantic game now that my main point has been proven (my opponent agrees that perceivers are required for sound).


Reductio ad absurdum - assumptions lead to absurdity


My opponent has missed the point; one cannot make an assumption about what is or isn't in the thought experiment. I shall illustrate.


Assumption: Woodland creatures exist on the forest.


Conclusion: A sound was perceived by the woodland creatures.


This is just as philosophically flawed as:


Assumption: God/unicorns exists on the forest.


Conclusion: A sound was perceived by God/unicorns.


We can then conclude that anything exists in the thought experiment. The implication of the tree falling then becomes that God or unicorns, or indeed whatever we choose, exists. Of course, this is absurd. One cannot assume the existence of anything just because it suits you to do so.


Validity of assumption over acceptance?


Furthermore, my opponent has not argued that assuming woodland creatures exist is more valid than accepting the explicit parameters of the question. Why is it that woodland creatures should be in the forest and not dragons? Is it because my opponent subjectively considers forest to entail woodland creatures? This is not philosophical reasoning, this is primary school assumptions and conjecture. The definition of forest is a "dense growth of trees, plants, and underbrush covering a large area" and does not include animals.


Conclusion


If my opponent would consider his semantic game, he would see that assumptions of what exists within the forest are, by nature of being conjecture, are philosophically flawed. Having established this, he must concede that a sound is not produced as he stated a perceiver must exist for sound to exist. My opponent claims that he is not bound by any rules not set forth in the initial question. However, he has seen fit to also unbound himself from the structures of philosophical argument and reasoning; a debilitating move that leaves his arguments invalid as seen above. Thus it only makes sense to vote con.


tmar19652

Pro

My opponent tries to critique my argument by saying that I simply "assumed that there would be woodland creatures in the forest. However US geological studies have shown upwards of 100 million animals (including insects) per acre of land (1), and most insects do have the ability to hear (2) so therefore any one of those 100 million+ insects could hear the tree falling. I also want to state that 100 million animals per acre of land was on the low end, as some areas showed upwards of 400 million animals per acre. So considering these facts, my opponent is making a logically and factually flawed argument by saying that there are no insects in the forest, as they would have to prove that there are no insects or animals in the forest for their argument to be true.

My opponent defines forest as "dense growth of trees, plants, and underbrush covering a large area" and states that because animals are not included in this definition that they should not be included in this debate. However according to this logic, a forest would contain no air (rendering the forest dead and gone), so this point is invalid.

Even though there is no person in the woods, the squirrels, deer, bears, or any other thing with a sense of hearing can count as the perceiver. Therefore, the tree would still make a sound. I have shown that over 100 million+ animals typically reside in a forest, and for my opponents case to be true, they would have to prove that there were no insects or animals in this hypothetical forest. Therefore because I have produced more evidence, more sources and a more logical case I urge the voters to vote Pro!

Sources:
1.http://www.si.edu...
2.http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 4
22 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by muffin8or 4 years ago
muffin8or
Did you read my arguments? I agree; a sound wave is made. However, a sound wave is an insufficient definition of sound. Sound perceived is sufficient.
Posted by bkron95 4 years ago
bkron95
Of course a sound is made. It does not matter if anyone is there to hear it, there is a solid force (the falling tree) meeting another solid force (The earth). and you can test it thousands of times by cutting down thousands of trees. They will always make a sound and therefore if a tree falls on its own it will make a sound. If you do the same thing multiple times and get the same result, and then do it again expecting a different result, you might be classified as insane.
Posted by muffin8or 4 years ago
muffin8or
I'm not denying that a sound wave is made. I'm arguing that sound is sound perceived as the way in which we use the word sound (to have the qualities of loudness, pitch etc.) is as 'sound perceived' rather than 'sound wave'. The video camera records sound waves into digital data. However, there is no concept of loud/quite or high/low and thus it doesn't have the properties of what we call sound. This debate is not about some 'to be is to be perceived' idealism-like theory of perception but rather 'what is the definition of sound as we use it?'
Posted by NezyFezy 4 years ago
NezyFezy
Now here's something to think about. Suppose there is a video camera nearby? The video camera is obviously not a person, so it does not violate the "and no one is around to hear it" part. The sound recorded by the video camera(assuming it is on) would definitely prove that there is sound, for it cannot simply create false sound in the absence of sound waves. I doubt whoever thought this up was knowledgeable of this day's technology, and therefore did not know what a video camera is. Although this answer might be viewed as cheating the riddle, I prefer to say I found a loophole. :) (This and the other science crap)
Posted by Deadlykris 4 years ago
Deadlykris
Sound is sound, whether perceived or not. A sound heard without an accompanying wave isn't a sound at all, it's a hallucination.

This isn't a philosophical debate, now that we know the actual and true answer.

Now shall we ponder the sound of one hand clapping?
Posted by muffin8or 4 years ago
muffin8or
What are you arguing for? On the one hand you insist that sound is a wave and on the other you're mentioning sound being created by and thus being contingent upon perceivers. And it is naive again to suggest the sound will be perceived by animals because the whole idea of the thought experiment is that the wave is unperceived.

My argument is that the definition of sound as just the wave is insufficient as we can perceive sound without there needing to be a sound wave. Again, you seem to think that it's important to state that a sound wave must be made - THIS ISN'T AN ISSUE. No one contests that a wave is being made so an argument for your position (that sound is solely the wave) cannot be stating that a wave must be made.

You claim 50 years experience and then say this; "We all acknowledge that sound = energy waves of varying frequencies" >>>>NO WE DON'T<<<<. The whole issue is what a sufficient definition of sound is!
Posted by ando9 4 years ago
ando9
The subject has not been misinterpreted ... it's just a silly old riddle.
1) We all acknowledge that sound = energy waves of varying frequencies (Pitch), or oscillations and pressure travelling through air.
2) they are measured when they vibrate against the Timpanic membrane in mammals, lateral line in fish etc ... or meet a recording / monitoring device
3) The laws of physics and thermodynamics define that the energy of the falling tree MUST be converted into other forms of energy. In this instance that would mainly be sound. the sound would be created by the pressure blast when the weight of the tree strikes the ground, rather like a droplet of water in slow-motion.

Summary ... of course a falling tree would make a sound ... ALWAYS! .... and my point earlier was that if your angle was "would sound still be sound if nobody was around to hear it?" then my hypothesis was YES because the plethora of insects, molluscs, bacteria, mammals etc ... in the area would have certainly detected the sound, frequency fluctuations and the pressure change, therefore this silly bygones old question should be put to bed finally.

BSC Hons Music Production - 15 yrs
HND Sound Engineering - 18 yrs
Emergency Medical Technician - 14 yrs
Posted by muffin8or 4 years ago
muffin8or
These are philosophically naive positions. You cannot argue that a sound is a mechanical wave and that perceivers are required for it.
As for the neatorama article, it misses the point. This is not a discussion about whether or not a sound WAVE is made or not (unless you think that unperceived things don't exist a la Berkeley). If you think he issue can be reduced to detecting the presence of a wave, you're an idiot. The discussion is about what a sufficient definition of sound is. The qualities of sound which are described in everyday use relate to sound perceived and insisting one cannot perceive a sound without a wave (as sound is the wave) leaves the definition lacking. The question is asking what sound is rather than is a wave produced. I am disappointed with the response from the community; it appears that even the topic cannot be comprehended.
Posted by ando9 4 years ago
ando9
Hey ! ... you can't just post a link and say I win !? ... can you ?? :/ ha ha ha ha
Posted by Primsun 4 years ago
Primsun
Victory

http://www.neatorama.com...

I win. :)
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by KroneckerDelta 4 years ago
KroneckerDelta
muffin8ortmar19652Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: I think Pro would have had an easier time defending the position that a sound wave definitely is created. Because this argument was never made, this debate came down to whether or not, as the resolution was stated, there are any perceivers around to "hear" the sound. I give credit to Con for making the argument about auditory hallucinations. While Con did not specify who counted as a perceiver, I think the general philosophical question assumes no perceivers and, as such, the idea that Pro could have invented Dragons/God/Unicorns is a valid critique of creating animals (even if it's empirically correct to state there probably would be animals around). It doesn't help Pro to make the claim, "it could have meant there was no air"--if that were the case, then indeed there would have been no sound. This was amazingly, actually a pretty good debate on both sides.
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
muffin8ortmar19652Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: see comment
Vote Placed by dylancatlow 4 years ago
dylancatlow
muffin8ortmar19652Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: My vote goes to Con. He provided the case in which a tree could fall, and no one (no animals or anything) could hear it. Even if one instance proves the above false, the ENTIRE clause is false. Because this was negated, the entire segment about animals was negated, and thus we were left where we started, and I think Con provided a better case for that, too. I don't know why Pro advocated so hardly for woodland critters, when he could have easily used objective reality. I'm a sucker for subjective reality, so Pro really needed to bring up objective reality, and back it up, to get my vote.
Vote Placed by Deadlykris 4 years ago
Deadlykris
muffin8ortmar19652Tied
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really fall, or was it just imagining it? Ask a squirrel or a beetle, they know the answer.