Monday, September 28, 2009
Trees, forests, and sounds
"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" But of course it produces what we call sound waves, but then we normally think of sound as being a tango between two, that which produces sound waves and that which can sense and make sense of the produced waves. Our brains can make sense of the sound of the tree falling via the ears, as well a tape recorder in the forest could record the sound waves, yet the making sense of the sensed sound waves needs an intelligence, and that being the brain that listens via the ears to the tape recording of the sound waves that the fallen tree produced. But without any sensors to translate the waves into 'sounds', then I'm afraid the tree falling in the forest will produce only waves that are not sensed -- a solo tango-ist. Surely the waves from the fallen tree existed, but did 'sound' too exist? Or, as George Berkeley said, "Esse est percipi" -- to be is to be perceived.