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"If a tree falls in the forest with no one around to hear it, will it make a sound?"

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/19/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,741 times Debate No: 22145
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
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Lol this debate is for you, Mike.

I will attempt to argue that when a tree falls in the forest it will emit a sound, regardless of the fact that no one is around to hear it.

The first round is acceptance, btw.


I accept your argument Ashley.

Prepare to be stumped....get it? stump? tree falls in the woods? lmao ahhhh whatever

Let's do it! Present your argument.
Debate Round No. 1


Haha, dork...Alrght, here it goes:

When a tree falls in the forest it will, in fact, make a sound. If no one is around to hear this event, the sound will still occur.

First, what exactly is sound? It's nothing more than a chain reaction. The human race has discovered something called sound waves, which are created at the slightest vibration of an object (take vocal cords, for example.) When this happens, the waves travel through the air and cause the air molecules to vibrate. The vibrating air molecules make it to someones ear, and causes their eardrum to vibrate. The brain recognizes this to be a sound.

Regardless of this sensory organ being there to perceive the stimuli, the stimuli still exists.



I am not denying that the tree falling in the woods will produce a physical soundwave. However, the argument I am trying to present is that whether or not the tree falls, a "sound" will not be produced because in order for it to be called a "sound" there must be some animal or being there to hear the sound.

As defined by Webster, the word sound is "the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium". Therefore in order for a "sound" to exist there are two conditions that must be met:

1) There must be a vibration transmitted through the air or medium. Like you said, a soundwave must be produced. Hypothetically, let's say the tree DOES make a noise when it falls, then you would have met the first condition.

2) The stimulation of the organs of hearing must occur; a sensation must be perceived. However, according to the nature of the question "If a tree falls in the woods, and NO ONE IS AROUND TO HEAR IT, does it make a sound?", this tells us that there is no sensory organ in the general area to hear the sound. Thus, the second condition is NOT met and the "sound" does not occur.

The big debate surrounding this question is not involved in the actually occurrence of the tree falling in the woods, but rather the wordplay in the question. It's very similar to asking if the sun is rising, and a blind person is sitting in front of it, can he see it? If he can't see it, how can he prove that it truly exists? He relies on the sensory organ to make this determination.
Debate Round No. 2


ashtronomy forfeited this round.


thegravenig forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Wow, let me try this debate at 4 in the morning.


What you're arguing seems to be on a different spectrum. While I am relying on the physical nature of a sound, you are relying on interpretation. You stated, "a 'sound' will not be produced because in order for it to be a 'sound' there must be some animal or being there to hear the sound." This does not make sense. When you are stimulating other organs of the body, a response doesn't necessarily have to occur in order for it to exist. Now, I know this example is a little unconventional, but consider the human orgasm. Whether the orgasm occurs or not, the stimulation is still occurring. Although the intended response of an orgasm may not be reached, there is a physical stimuli that still exists. So, in this case, although a sound may not be heard by the sensory organ, it does not mean that the actual sound wave is not present.

You outlined the basis of your argument from Webster's definition of the word "sound." Who's to say that Webster's definition properly represents what a sound truly is? Anyone can look up a word in a dictionary and utilize one of its several meanings to support their argument.

When you refer to a blind man's inability to prove if his surroundings exist, you are relying on his perception of a reality. This is a subjective argument that can be used in any debate. How can anyone trust their senses? While this may be true, one must come to the conclusion that our world runs on empirical evidence supported by subjective judgments. Therefore, in order to make any decisions regarding an objective world, we must ultimately rely on these subjective views. For example, how did scientific laws come into general acceptance? People created scientific experiments and formulated our basic principles (objective) from our observations (subjective.)


It seems that the basis of your argument is that whether or not a sensory organ is present, a soundwave is produced and therefore a sound must exist. I don't agree with this reasoning for the simple reason that the determination of existence comes almost entirely from perception. Our idea of color, taste, touch, smell, sound, etc. are based upon the perception of stimuli. If the ability to perceive the stimuli is not there, what evidence do we have to go off of? The blind man does not truly ever know if the sun rose on a particular day. Although he may feel the warmth of the sun, these alternative pathways (touch, hearing, etc.) of sensation are not reliable. If you smell a pie cooking in the kitchen, is it always a pie?

Your argument stems from the idea of probability. Based upon your experience and common sense, you have learned that an object falling will produce a sound when it comes into contact with another object. Is the predicted and probable outcome always correct? Of course not.

Once again, my reasoning is that because there is no way to perceive the tree falling in the woods, we cannot assume that a sound was ever made. Hypothetically if a soundwave was produced, by definition a "sound" is something that must be perceived through some sort of sensory organ, whether it be by artificial or natural means. No perception is taking place, therefore what we consider to be a "sound" cannot exist.

As for your critique of my use of Webster's definition of the word "sound", of course there is difficulty in defining any word accurately. Look at Webster's definition of the word "love" and you will come across a vague and general meaning of the word. The idea of the definition is to provide a basis that all parties can agree with. In the case of "sound", I am simply providing two generally accepted conditions of a sound: (1) vibration transmitted through air or medium and (2) stimulation of the organs of hearing.
Debate Round No. 4


Why are alternative pathways to sensation not reliable? If we are just as capable of relying on the eyes for sight or the ears for hearing, why are we not able to rely on other organs to make the similar judgements? Just because an instrument is used for once purpose does not imply that this is its only purpose. A blind man, although he cannot physically see the sunrise, has many other senses to his advantage. The increasing warmth from the sun, the recollection of past experiences, and his perception of time can all contribute to his proof of a sunrise.

You say that probability is not a valid argument, but it accurate measures the predicted outcome of nearly any incident. Of course you can say that there are exceptions to every event. How can one argue this? However, if you pick up an object and drop it, unless the laws of physics fall apart, the object will hit the ground with a force every time. Can you give me an event where an object wouldn't hit the ground? No, because these are well predicted outcomes, with nearly no exceptions involved. Much like the tree falling in the woods, according to your argument we can never prove that a sound exists because there is no sensory organ to perceive it, but based on the likeliness of all events, it will fall and produce a sound. Witnesses do not have to present in order for an event to occur. Many "sounds" are occurring outside our realm of hearing. Does this mean that they do not exist? No, they are only beyond the reach of our sensory organ. Therefore, sensory perception does not imply existence. Whether you believe in an event happening or not, it will occur.

As for your definition, I never agreed that this was acceptable. How can you distinguish words like sound, noise, etc.? You are merely fitting the general definition to your argument. Meanings of words are very abstract. Even when languages are involved, the same word can possess different meanings. So for you to base your entire argument on the meaning of the word "sound" does not seem very concrete.


Alternative pathways to sensation are not reliable because these are not their intended purpose. Of course other sensory organs can give you additional information to support an argument, but without the primary sensory organ you cannot come to the proper conclusion about a stimuli. You need the necessary tool for any job. Would I use a screwdriver to drive a nail into a board? Although it may work somehow, it is far more efficient and reliable to use the proper instrument. Following the same idea, the ears are used for hearing, the eyes are used for sight, etc. I agree that the same tool can have many uses but generally speaking each instrument, especially physiologically, has a specific purpose. If your eyes were to be removed, other organs could not compensate for your loss.

Your reasoning makes sense regarding probability, but I am here to distinguish between likeliness and certainty. Other than probability, you have no general proof that the tree falling in the woods will produce a sound. In this case, perception is everything to proving the existence of the sound. Without perception, you are basing the existence of a sound solely on tendencies. You provide plenty of reasoning as to why it is LIKELY that the tree made a sound, but no real evidence.

Of course the meaning of the word "sound" is a completely viable argument. The nature of this question lies in the meaning of the words. To understand what the question is asking and how to answer it, you must understand the words within the question. To answer if a sound has occurred you must define what a sound is. Until that definition has been confirmed by both of us, you and I could be debating two entirely different ideas. This question "If a tree falls in the forest with no one around to hear it, will it make a sound?" has less to do with physics and more to do with the meaning of the words in the question.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by aspsr 2 years ago
If a tree falls in the woods and know one hears it then it never happened. Quantum physics. Study it and you will agree.
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