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blacksun

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(Originally posted on: 05-11-07 01:02:45 PM)
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I made a thread in Serious Discussions asking the tree question and someone trashed it. On another forum I frequent we've been discussing that same question quite seriously for several days. It served as an excellent springboard into a philosophical debate on the nature of knowledge and existence. What gives?

Anyway, maybe someone will be interested in discussing it here instead.

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
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Reply 1 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 01:08:02 PM)
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I imagine nobody thought you would seriously ask the question and were just being a dork. big grin

I figure it still makes a sound because it still creates vibrations in the air which have frequency, wavelength, period, amplitude, and speed, whether or not there's a human ear there to translate it or not.
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Reply 2 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 01:09:29 PM)
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Yeah I guess so.

How do you know that it makes vibrations in the air?
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Reply 3 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 01:11:20 PM)
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Because he's smart.
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Reply 4 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 01:13:24 PM)
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And yet, however smart he may be, he has no knowledge of the tree and its nature, except that it falls.
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Reply 5 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 01:31:06 PM)
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a butterfly flaps it's wings, no one sees it or hears it or smells it, yet it causes a hurricane at big sur
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Reply 6 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 01:39:54 PM)
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Quoted from blacksun:
Yeah I guess so.

How do you know that it makes vibrations in the air?

Because any object moving through the air displaces air molecules, hence vibrations. Air friction and whatnot. Unless it's in a vaccuum, and I doubt many trees grow in an air vaccuum. kekeke u give soj???
Adopt a leggo my eggo ifo.
blacksun

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Reply 7 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 02:10:52 PM)
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You know that about many objects, but how do you know that about this tree? Perhaps it does not disturb the air.

Also, sound is sometimes defined as vibrations that are sensed. This isn't particularly relevant, though, as it is just as often defined as vibrations independent of sensation.
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Reply 8 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 02:20:30 PM)
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Unless energy conservation and electromagnetic physics goes out the window, it will create sound waves.


There are really two options to explore:

-What would you mean if nobody is around? Would that include no audio recorders? An audio recorder would just record sound waves, there is no person there.

If that doesn't work, then really you have to give up the idea of reality existing independent of people, and that is something that would make many things difficult: What happened before observers existed? We can see far into the past and the laws of physics do seem to be consistent that far in the past. There would be no reason for this to be so if reality and certain basics ceased to hold when nobody was around.
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Reply 9 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 02:33:20 PM)
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id needs more of these threads, and i for one am glad that blacksun is here to provide us with his thought-provoking, exciting, and fresh perspective on pointless philosophical riddles
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Reply 10 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 02:36:01 PM)
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Please understand that I do not think that the tree would not make a sound; rather, I do not know if it would make a sound. If there were an audio recorder, then we could find out if it made a sound. Let us suppose that there is not. How could you know that it makes a sound?

To extrapolate from past evidence that trees in general make sound does not produce knowledge of this tree making sound. It makes it seem very likely that this tree will make sound, but it does not prove anything.

...

I don't know what to make of that, ice. These riddles are super neat.
This reply was last edited on 05-11-07 02:48:28 PM by blacksun.
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Reply 11 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 02:43:08 PM)
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Quote:
If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?


No, because the tree itself is not making the sound.
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Reply 12 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-11-07 07:48:12 PM)
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The only riddle about this is that the word "sound" is ambiguous between it's subjective and objective meanings. Is sound a secondary quality like red that is confined to the realm of perception? Or is sound a primary quality like wavelength that is defined independently of perception? What definition we choose to use is largely arbitrary, so the answer to this riddle is whatever you want it to be. There's no substance to the question.

You could ask if there is such a thing as existence independent of perception, and that is a slightly less silly question. But if you believe objects don't literally go in and out of existence when you look away or close your eyes, then you must accept at least a limited notion of objective existence. Whether we should use a notion of Reality with a capital 'R' that's really really there, or just a more modest notion of 'reality' is open to debate. But I don't see how the tree falling in the forest question contributes much to that debate.

Quoted from blacksun:
Please understand that I do not think that the tree would not make a sound; rather, I do not know if it would make a sound. If there were an audio recorder, then we could find out if it made a sound. Let us suppose that there is not. How could you know that it makes a sound?

To extrapolate from past evidence that trees in general make sound does not produce knowledge of this tree making sound. It makes it seem very likely that this tree will make sound, but it does not prove anything.

Well this is just the problem of induction and justification. Why would having an audio recorder allow us to know if the tree made a sound? The audio could well be of another tree falling, or could be fabricated from scratch by a sophisticated sound engineer. You don't believe that these things are so, but that's only because you believe in a set of background assumptions, such as that there's no conspiracy at work and that the audio recorder was recording what you thought it was. But if you're going to say that our time tested knowledge of trees falling does not apply to a specific instance, then you may as well throw out all laws of physics. At the very least, your trust in the veracity of audio recorders should be shaken.
This reply was last edited on 05-11-07 07:56:45 PM by etymxris.
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Reply 13 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 06:57:55 AM)
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Quote:
To extrapolate from past evidence that trees in general make sound does not produce knowledge of this tree making sound. It makes it seem very likely that this tree will make sound, but it does not prove anything.

Sure maybe nothing can be absolutely 100% proved beyond any possible doubt, but reasoning like that is pointless, because it can be used for anything and there's not much to say about it.

It's like arguing that hey, santa clause COULD be real and the earth might be flat!

Like ety said, the point of this riddle is probably more like "if no one hears it, is it still a sound?".
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This reply was last edited on 05-12-07 09:19:52 AM by drahnier.
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Reply 14 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 08:03:18 AM)
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I have a few questions, Why is it falling? Did it fall because it was pushed? Did it fall because it could not handle the people cutting on it? Did a squirrel hide his nuts in said tree and now feels so dirty it longs to be compost? Was it feeling high from the weeds that it crashed? Did it fall because it was bored or was something eating at it and it had been bugged for months?

We need specifics!!

As for it accually making a sound. Sound must be heard to be confirmed. So, if no one is around to hear it then it made no sound. Nevermind the animals of the forest who may have heard it because they'll never tell if it accually made a sound or not. In fact animals are deaf and dumb because they can only make gutteral sounds and react to air preasure so therefore the tree makes no sound.
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Reply 15 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 08:32:49 AM)
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Quoted from Science Brad:

If that doesn't work, then really you have to give up the idea of reality existing independent of people, and that is something that would make many things difficult: What happened before observers existed? We can see far into the past and the laws of physics do seem to be consistent that far in the past. There would be no reason for this to be so if reality and certain basics ceased to hold when nobody was around.


Wow, you sure do have a lot of faith in something that can never be objectively proven!
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Reply 16 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 09:19:37 AM)
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Yes, it makes a sound. Sound is just one of the many forms of energy released when an action takes place.

If you question whether a tree makes a sound when it falls, you must also question whether a light bulb in a different part of your house gives off light and heat.
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Reply 17 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 09:30:18 AM)
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Quote:
Wow, you sure do have a lot of faith in something that can never be objectively proven!

Is this some sort of serious comment in defense of religion?

If so, it is a way of creating and testing a system for the world which seems to work and by which we can solve various practical problems, and then reworking it as we need to fit in new discoveries.

And it's working pretty well.
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This reply was last edited on 05-12-07 09:39:42 AM by drahnier.
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Reply 18 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 10:58:25 AM)
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Quoted from anaemic_royalty:
If so, it is a way of creating and testing a system for the world which seems to work and by which we can solve various practical problems, and then reworking it as we need to fit in new discoveries.

And it's working pretty well.


You're definitely correct; all I'm saying is that there is no objective way to prove our observations or argue that scientific laws are absolutely true. It seems naive to put blind faith in the power of science, and without a basic understanding of the subjective nature of human perception.
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Reply 19 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 11:20:58 AM)
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Quoted from Agon:
Quoted from anaemic_royalty:
If so, it is a way of creating and testing a system for the world which seems to work and by which we can solve various practical problems, and then reworking it as we need to fit in new discoveries.

And it's working pretty well.


You're definitely correct; all I'm saying is that there is no objective way to prove our observations or argue that scientific laws are absolutely true. It seems naive to put blind faith in the power of science, and without a basic understanding of the subjective nature of human perception.


You are right, faith is the only thing about the entirety of the question. I believe this age old question was formulated to prove a necessity of faith in societies. If something you know so well can be trusted and you have faith in it, then why can't you have faith in other things is the general concept in my opinion.
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Reply 20 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 11:24:13 AM)
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If that's the case, it's a lot more stupid than I thought.

There's a gigantic leap between accepting we can only be 99.9% sure about anything, and believing in fairies.
đonne onwŠcne­ eft wineleas guma, gesih­ him biforan fealwe wegas, ba■ian brimfuglas, brŠdan fe■ra, hreosan hrim ond snaw hagle gemenged. Ůonne beo­ ■y hefigran heortan benne, sare Šfter swŠsne. Sorg bi­ geniwad ■onne maga gemynd mod geondhweorfe­, grete­ gliwstafum, georne geondsceawa­ secga geseldan; swimma­ oft on weg. Fleotendra fer­ no ■Šr fela bringe­ cu­ra cwidegiedda.
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Reply 21 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 11:52:51 AM)
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Quote:
You're definitely correct; all I'm saying is that there is no objective way to prove our observations or argue that scientific laws are absolutely true. It seems naive to put blind faith in the power of science, and without a basic understanding of the subjective nature of human perception.

Even if we can't be sure whether anything we "know" is correct or not, or even whether the world exists at all, the methods we have come up with by using our scientific models have been shown to work, and have obviously been used with great success in all fields.

Therefore trusting in the power of science to be a useful instrument of making sense of the world is justified.

Also, "science" isn't a set collection of beliefs that cannot be changed, in fact it is in the very nature of science to reconsider things, to test them critically and to always try to find something more accurate.

So to believe in the power of science is simply to believe in the method of critically testing various theories in search of the truth.

But you know all this.
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Reply 22 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 12:34:38 PM)
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Quoted from anaemic_royalty:
Quote:
To extrapolate from past evidence that trees in general make sound does not produce knowledge of this tree making sound. It makes it seem very likely that this tree will make sound, but it does not prove anything.

Sure maybe nothing can be absolutely 100% proved beyond any possible doubt, but reasoning like that is pointless, because it can be used for anything and there's not much to say about it.

It's like arguing that hey, santa clause COULD be real and the earth might be flat!

Like ety said, the point of this riddle is probably more like "if no one hears it, is it still a sound?".


I think the question is useful in establishing that it is impossible to know what is outside of human experience. Of course we all believe that the tree makes a sound, but nobody knows, even within the assumptions that our senses tell the truth and things actually exist. We simply do not have knowledge of this particular tree, beyond its existence.
The earth is directly observable as being approximately spherical. Under this reasoning, Santa Clause could be real, but the tree falling is a more artistic example.

The "if no one hears it, is it sound?" question is lame. Sound is often defined as mechanical vibrations through an elastic medium. The question doesn't specify whether animals are around to hear it, either. This is only a very small part of the question.

Quote:
Even if we can't be sure whether anything we "know" is correct or not, or even whether the world exists at all, the methods we have come up with by using our scientific models have been shown to work, and have obviously been used with great success in all fields.

Therefore trusting in the power of science to be a useful instrument of making sense of the world is justified.


I agree. Science is often accurate, and the tree should make a sound - but science can only prove something through direct observation.

Quote:
Yes, it makes a sound. Sound is just one of the many forms of energy released when an action takes place.


How do you know?
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Reply 23 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 12:43:28 PM)
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Quote:
How do you know?

If it fell, hitting the ground, it definitely made a sound; but maybe its fall was merely an illusion! Actually, the tree still stands fast!
đonne onwŠcne­ eft wineleas guma, gesih­ him biforan fealwe wegas, ba■ian brimfuglas, brŠdan fe■ra, hreosan hrim ond snaw hagle gemenged. Ůonne beo­ ■y hefigran heortan benne, sare Šfter swŠsne. Sorg bi­ geniwad ■onne maga gemynd mod geondhweorfe­, grete­ gliwstafum, georne geondsceawa­ secga geseldan; swimma­ oft on weg. Fleotendra fer­ no ■Šr fela bringe­ cu­ra cwidegiedda.
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Reply 24 of 61 (Originally posted on: 05-12-07 12:45:16 PM)
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No, it fell, that is stated clearly in the question.
How do you know that it made a sound, supposing that it did fall?
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