The Instigator
Danielle
Pro (for)
Winning
55 Points
The Contender
TheLaw
Con (against)
Losing
19 Points

If a tree falls in a forest and there is nobody there to hear it, it does not make a sound.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 16 votes the winner is...
Danielle
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/9/2010 Category: Science
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,210 times Debate No: 13600
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (44)
Votes (16)

 

Danielle

Pro

Many thanks in advance to whomever accepts this debate.

Before we begin, I'd like to request that this debate not be one pertaining to semantics. The resolution is pretty clear, and is based off the popular question: If a tree falls in a forest and there is nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound? My answer is that there is no sound. By request I will present some definitions that upon accepting the debate my opponent acknowledges he or she accepts.

Sound: the particular auditory effect produced by a given cause

http://dictionary.reference.com...

Nobody: no person; not anyone (in this debate it also refers to animals)

http://dictionary.reference.com...

My opponent may present a brief note about their position in the first round, though I will make the opening arguments in R2. Thank you again to whomever accepts, and good luck -- I look forward to a fun exchange :)
TheLaw

Con

I thank my opponent for making such an interesting debate topic and I will be taking the negative position. My opponent has used dictionary.reference to define a couple of their terms and I agree with both definitions. I would also like to say that a solid definition of "hear" is the following:

"to perceive or apprehend by the ear" from http://www.merriam-webster.com...

I will now await my opponent's arguments who stated that they will make the opening arguments in round 2, so I have no further statements, and I await my oppponent to further the debate.
Debate Round No. 1
Danielle

Pro

Thanks, TheLaw.

My argument is a very straight-forward one indeed.

A sound is the auditory effect produced by a given noise - i.e., what you hear. When a tree falls in the forest, it makes no sound unless someone hears it. Without a brain, sound does not exist. A falling tree merely makes molecules of air vibrate, compressing them and rarefying them into waves of changing air pressure. In humans and animals, the auditory task is to convert the physical properties of sound-wave energy into electrochemical neural activity that travels to the brain, which we then perceive as sound. The waves themselves make no sounds [1].

Therefore, the sounds that we hear are but a product of the brain, which could not exist without a human or animal present to hear it.

[1] Kolb, Bryan, and Ian Q. Whishaw. An Introduction to Brain and Behavior. New York: Worth, 2006. 312. Print.
TheLaw

Con

I thank my opponent for making the opening arguments and I will proceed with the debate. I also thank my opponent for making such a tough challenge that I will have to try my hardest at.

My opponent's argument is based off the fact that without humans/animals, there is no sound, because "Without a brain, sound does not exist". However, the title says "If a tree falls in a forest and there is nobody there to hear it, it does not make a sound". The resolution says "and there is nobody there TO HEAR it". hear is defined as: "To perceive (sound) by the ear:" by http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

So, if there is nobody there to percieve sound by the ear, then there is no sound; that's the conditional. However, how about people who cannot percieve sound by the ear, for example, people with hearing impairment. Thus, they break this conditional and are allowed to be "there" based on the topic. Finally, based on my opponent's logic, since they "have a brain" sound then does exist if a tree falls and no one is there to hear it.
Debate Round No. 2
Danielle

Pro

I'd like to thank my opponent for his timely response and kind words. I'd also like to note that I accept my opponent's definition of the word hear. That said, let's wrap up this debate by getting to the meat and potatoes of the discussion. Con rightly explains, "So, if there is nobody there to percieve sound by the ear, [and process it with their brain] then there is no sound; that's the conditional." Indeed this is true. However Con makes his points:

1. However, how about people who cannot percieve sound by the ear, for example, people with hearing impairment?

----> Someone with a hearing impairment who could not hear the sound could then not interpret the sound with their brain, thus the sound would not exist to them. Ergo, the tree falling would make no sound. Nevertheless, this is entirely irrelevant considering a person with or without a hearing impairment present would completely invalidate the resolution, considering the resolution specifically points out that nobody can be present.

2. Thus, they break this conditional and are allowed to be "there" based on the topic.

----> Well, this would be a good point; however, as I just explained -- a person who could not hear could not process the vibration of the air molecules with their brain. I'll explain further... The ear collects sound waves from the surrounding air, and converts them into electrochemical neural energy, which then travels from the brain stem up the auditory cortex. A person with a hearing impairment suffers from dysfunction in any of the mechanisms that normally conduct sound waves through the outer ear, the eardrum or the bones of the middle ear, OR, dysfunction in the inner ear, especially the cochlea where sound vibrations are converted into neural signals, or in any part of the brain that subsequently processes these signals [1]. If any part of the brain that goes into hearing sounds is dysfunctional, then sounds cannot be made. Therefore even if somebody was there who couldn't hear it, there could be no sound.

3. Finally, based on my opponent's logic, since they [people] "have a brain" sound then does exist if a tree falls and no one is there to hear it.

----> What a perfect way to conclude. Yes, indeed that is exactly what I am saying... that since nobody (person or animal) either capable or not capable of hearing is there to have a brain that can process the vibrating air molecules to make what is a sound, that sound does therefore not exist if no one is there to hear the tree fall. Here Con simply repeated my argument back to me, implying that he actually agrees with me? :)

Thanks, Con, for this fun debate.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
TheLaw

Con

I thank my opponent for their response and I'll continue with the debate.

1. I introduced a conditional that my opponent agreed with since the resolution talks about "nobody there to hear it" that means there is nobody there that can hear it. That allows me to say that people with hearing impairment are allowed to be "there". So, as long as they are "there" then the sound exists as "they have a brain" and regardless, even if it doesn't "exist to them" the resolution refers to a general scope. Also, you say this is irrelevant however I pointed out the resolution is talking about people that can hear.

2. My opponent goes on to explain the process of hearing, however my point still stands that this person could be "there" and my opponent even goes on to allow this possibility. I'll explain more later about "there" in my next point.

3. My opponent completely misunderstood my position. I was simply using the words my opponent used to my benefit my case to ultimately make a statement that negates the resolution: Since people with hearing impairment are allowed to be "there" based on the fact that they break my conditional [and my opponent agrees with my conditional] and because my opponent said directly from R2 "Without a brain, sound does not exist" and since people with hearing impairment have a brain, then the opposite of my opponent's statement is "With a brain, sound does exist" thus I've negated the resolution because people with hearing impairment, regardless if they hear the sound, allow the sound to exist.

Thanks for the debate Pro.
Debate Round No. 3
44 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by WILDTROJANMAKERS 4 years ago
WILDTROJANMAKERS
yeah you claim sound waves do not necessarily make a sound therefore there is no sound to be perceived. If there are sound waves there is sound to be heard whether or not a brain is present to witness or perceive it to be noise. Does a brain need to be present in order to perceive the sound waves as noise? No, because a present fully functioning brain does not justify whether the sound waves create noise or not. Concluding that based on the presence of sound waves, a viable source to create noise, the tree does, in fact, create sound. sorry this is just interesting to me.
Posted by WILDTROJANMAKERS 4 years ago
WILDTROJANMAKERS
topic is more suitable for the pro argument. sound is an oscillation (fluctuation) among the plane of any of the three states (solid/liquid/gas) whether there is a brain to witness the sound or not, isn't there still sound waves given off from a particular source? I don't know.....obviously if no one is there to hear it there is no sound. the argument should lie within the fact whether the tree hitting the ground makes sound or not. example: lumberjacks chopping down a tree and yelling timber, the tree makes a crashing sound as it hits the ground. Is there any significance if the lumberjack was there or wasn't there to witness the sound of the tree falling? (apologize for grammar) just saw this...working on a philosophy paper. sigh. interesting though. anyone there to clear this up for me as I would appreciate a further explanation.
Posted by Danielle 6 years ago
Danielle
Bluesteel -- You're saying I'm using semantics because I gave the 3rd definition, and Zetsubou gave the 2nd definition. So I'll take it a step further and use the FIRST definition of the word sound: the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium.

So, in using the first definition (which by your analysis means it's the most common) then right there Con has lost the debate. Con has also obviously lost the debate with the 3rd definition. Con has also lost the debate with the 4th definition (any auditory effect -- as nothing would be audible). Con has also lost the debate with the 5th definition (a noise, vocal utterance, musical tone). Con has also lost the debate with the 6th definition (a distinctive, characteristic, or recognizable musical style). Con has also lost the debate with the 7th definition, etc., as there are a dozen definitions -- none of which hold up Con's end -- including the first, and including the one he agreed to use in this debate!

Now, even the 2nd definition does not help Con. First, sometimes definitions even from the dictionary need to be interpreted. Here's an example. The #15 definition of sound (as a verb) is, "to give a specific sound." Yes, the definition of the word SOUND is "to give a specific sound." Quite obviously this definition is entirely useless if you don't know what a sound is to begin with. Similarly, that 2nd definition (mechanical vibrations transmitted through an elastic medium, traveling in air) is indeed PART of what sound is. I just explained this to Zetsubou. That is WHAT sound consists of... but it's not sound, unless it's interpreted. The reason for this is clear; I explained it in the debate and sourced neurobiology textbooks I own making the same claims.

TheLaw -- See above regarding semantics ^ Regarding your argument, I DO understand it... it's just wrong and doesn't work.
Posted by Danielle 6 years ago
Danielle
dpietro2 -- The surrounding trees and plants may "sense" the waves, but they do not HEAR them... there is NO. SOUND. You are completely 100% wrong in your assessment. How can something be heard without anyone there to hear it? The vibrations you're talking about are just that - merely vibrations - and not sounds. If you continue to disagree and not understand my analysis I'd be glad to cite some textbooks for you that repeat exactly what I'm saying to you. Also your final statement is entirely irrelevant. If I sneeze and nobody's there to witness it, I still sneezed... but that does not apply to sound here, because of the way sound is defined, and what sound actually is.
Posted by dprieto2 6 years ago
dprieto2
There is still sound whether a being with a brain is there or not. The sound waves or vibrations still exist and cannot be erased of its existence, If a tree falls in a forest and there is nobody there to hear it, the surroundings (the soil and earth, the surrounding trees or plants, etc.). The surroundings may not HEAR the sound waves, but they might SENSE them. However small or subtle the sound may be, how far or remote it would be, it will still make a sound even if there is nothing to interpret those vibrations as "sounds". When things happen, they do not need something to witness it, for it to be known that it happened because it just did and that is all there is to it.
Posted by TheLaw 6 years ago
TheLaw
@Public_Agenda:

I'm pretty sure as long as the comments pertain to the debate its fine, however I might be wrong as I'm fairly new to the site.
Posted by Public_Agenda 6 years ago
Public_Agenda
What's the point of debating after the debate? It seems kind of immature that we can't all just walk away.
Posted by TheLaw 6 years ago
TheLaw
@theLwerd:

Firstly, you claiming I have made a semantics debate is very hypocratic. When I say hypocratic, I could nitpick on everything you have done in your debate that could be labeled as "semantics", as first of all, you've provided a definition of sound that isn't even commonly used. Just check out the other definitions on the site that provided your definition of sound. Furthermore, you seem to not understand the basis of my argument with the usage of people with hearing impairment. I basically used the words you said, and they all came from you, to basically show how you backfired on yourself and allow myself to make a statement that pretty much negates the resolution.
Posted by bluesteel 6 years ago
bluesteel
Oh, I don't think I got your argument against Zetsubou before.

Was it that the dictionary for his definition was defining sound in the context of "sound wave"?

Because, if that was true, 1) sound would be an adjective, not a noun, which his definition is, and 2) if the terms were inseparable, the dictionary would define them together, which it actually does here: http://dictionary.reference.com...
Posted by bluesteel 6 years ago
bluesteel
theLwerd - you focus on the wrong part of my argument and thus offer a non-parallel analogy.

The question we're trying to answer here is if something is not perceived, does it still exist, correct?

Otherwise we're having a semantic debate about your definition of the word "sound," which you ended the second you defined it that way. Some of the definitions of sound deal with the sound wave itself, some deal with its effects on the ear/brain. But both uses appear in everyday language.

Zetsubou's definition (actually the second definition from the dictionary you used) deals with sound as the physical wave presumably because of its potential to be perceived as noises. Without the potential for hearing, as you point out, the fact that there are wave vibrations in the air would be entirely uninteresting to us.

But you can't argue that definition out of the dictionary, unless you take it up with the publishers. Presumably it's an equally valid definition of the word sound. Your definition was actually #3, Zetsubou's was #2. Dictionaries usually list definitions in order of prevalence of use, so technically that definition would be in more common usage. That definition was the one I was using for my own personal opinion about the topic.

I know you didn't want to have a semantic debate, so you don't have to respond to any of this if you don't want to. I just started typing and it all just kind of - came out. I find the perception/existence question above far more interesting.

Although even your definition doesn't answer my recording device argument.
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