… and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
I saw a friend pose this question on Facebook recently and the ensuing discussion made me think quite a bit. I’ve always loved Philosophy.
When I studied Philosophy in my teens, it wasn’t often the works of Philosophers but rather of generic ideas and beliefs, or writing out my own philosophical thoughts on certain subjects based off of how I perceive this world we live in. I made a conscious decision to avoid as much of the major works of Philosophers as I could in order to form my own philosophies. Over the years I have pecked at reading the works of many different people, but I’ve never actually had much interest in sitting down and reading entire philosophical works. I can say my favourite Philospher is Plato if only for “The worst of all deceptions, is self-deception”.
You can learn a lot more from simple quotes than from entire works as the simple quotes often provoke you to think for yourself.
I intitially answered the tree question as:
“The chances of a tree falling in a forest with absolutely no form of life nearby with which to interpret the happening with some form of sensory perception is exceedingly slim… Most creatures have some form of hearing, if only rudimentary. Is a grasshopper hearing it really that much different than a human in the end?”
That’s my realist (don’t hold that term to its philosophical definition here) answer. I was basically trying to explain that it doesn’t really matter who or what saw/heard/felt anything… only that it happened and that the act of any number of senses perceiving this might be an almost guaranteed occurence. It happened, what does it matter who bore witness?
It threw me into a deeper thought process though. I felt it kind’ve destroyed the conversation so I felt a desire to hopefully ignite it again with some deeper reflection into the human psyche and how it relates to our little world. My more in depth answer follows,
“As Humans we are limited in our understanding of the working order of the universe. We’ve been in existence for a miniscule fraction of time as compared to the age of our world.
A lot of this ties in with the human ego and how we seek to control the natural world through our limited senses and an understanding which can only be called partially complete, and that is being generous. It’s hard for human beings, myself included, to accept the fact that there may be things at work in the universe which we cannot possibly hope to understand or even comprehend at this point in our evolution as a species. As a species we are so very young.
If science has proven anything to us, it’s that it is fundamentally flawed in the sense that we have to constantly change our perspective on any number of topics or fields in light of acquiring new information. It is never set, it is never finished, and it never will be. We seek to understand the universe, but it defies all logical explanation at times… if only due to us missing a crucial piece of information or a particular viewpoint. So we often make assumptions with the idea of correcting them later. Educated guessed they’re called.
We have five physical senses. What of intuition? What of the senses drawn up by emotion? What of primordial instincts that we refuse to allow to take hold yet they still play such a fundamental role in our actions?
They all tie in together to form what we make of the world around us. Our perception goes so far beyond the physical senses.
To us it is just a tree, but what are we to the tree? It has no sensory organs to speak of, not in the sense that we have come to see in functional, sentient creatures… but who is to say that there is not possibly something there beyond our understanding? Could the tree hear and feel itself fall? Does it recognize this as the end of it’s existence? Does it feel fear? Or peace? To flip the original question in a way, would it feel grief or a righteous glory for the damage we’ve cause it’s species if a human were to fall from it and die? Quite possibly and probably it would feel nothing at all, this is what science and my senses tell me… but there is no way to actually quantify this without actually being a tree. It’s not so absurd to wonder. But it is absurd to assume that these ‘beings’, for lack of a clearer, better term, feel nothing at all.
My dog expresses more empathetic behaviour and emotion than many humans do. More human than many humans at times. She can’t possibly be a stupid beast with nothing going on in her head. She feels guilt. She feels love. She expresses happiness and sadness. She acts to protect us. She is aware that the young ‘creature’ we brought home is our child. She feels we have replaced her, we can see that.
I realize she is a far cry off from a tree… but to our understanding… she shouldn’t be quite as aware as she is; she thinks, and she thinks a lot; it is quantifiable if only through observation, but we won’t allow ourselves the thought that some other species on this planet may very well think for itself too. The same can be applied to any number of creatures on this planet, albeit at very different levels, yet we allow ourselves to believe in such a false superiority in our species that it puts us in the realm of absolute naivety. lol… Dolphins/White Mice from the writings of Douglas Adams springs to mind. It may sound absurd, but the real absurdity is humans claiming to have such a high understanding of the creatures of this world, the world itself, and what little we see of the universe. Ego. Imagine what it would do to the collective psyche of humanity if we learned for certain that one of the species, one we have been abusing say, might very well have some capability of actual thought process. Imagine the guilt involved; which is a large factor in how biased our perspective is toward the creatures and lifeforms we share this world with.
I’m not suggesting that trees are “alive” like us… only that I wonder if there isn’t a lot more to lifeforms such as plantlife and trees that we may not fully understand or even be willing to consider at this point.
I think the tree ‘heard’ itself fall. Or was at least in some way aware of it.
Just a thought. This isn’t as edited as I’d like, but I really should get to bed. lol”
We should always at least try to be willing to accept that we will never in our lives learn to understand the universe or even the world we live in; not fully anyway. Our perspectives are too limited. We can try, and we do try, but it’s not really something we’ll ever reach. That being said, it doesn’t mean a deeper understanding of our universe and that which we find in it is not a worthwhile goal.
Anyway, haven’t posted in awhile. Figured this might be enjoyable for some to chew over.