“If a tree falls in the forest…

… and there is no one there to hear it, did it make any sound?”  Ah, the intellectual pigmyism of philosophers.  Perhaps they should ask the squirrel that just got knocked out of its nest.  Sound is propagated by vibrations through matter.  When someone hears a tree fall, they are hearing the vibrations in the air caused by the tree’s motion and impact with the ground and surrounding trees.  Simple physics.  How dumb does someone have to be to even compose the question that the air will not vibrate because they are not there to ‘experience’ the sound?  And I say dumb because philosophers are generally supposed to be edjercated.  Too bad their edjercation didn’t teach them anything.

Truth is what is.

Not what you think it is.  Not what you want it to be.  Not what is popular.  Truth is not defined or limited to what anyone or everyone knows.  Truth does not go away because of the ignorance of the speaker.

Truth is.

And Bill Clinton notwithstanding, there is truth as to what the definition of is is.

So how do you know what truth is?  Assuming you are of normal perceptive ability, not schizophrenic, delusional, demented or otherwise altered, you should trust your senses.  But this is actually harder to do than it sounds.  Behavioral research abounds with experiments showing that participants will alter their perception of a situation in order to ‘fit in’ with a group.  And therein lies the problem in much of the world.  The surrender of one’s own perceptions for the perceptions of other for the perceived benefit of ‘fitting in’.  To belong.  To curry the favor of peers, or superiors.  It is what makes people expend time wondering if falling trees make noise.  After spending a lifetime surrendering one’s own existence for the existence of others, it’s not surprising that some people begin to doubt existence itself.

This tendency to alter one’s own perception to conform with others should be the source of the skepticism that is supposed to be the basis of scientific analysis.  Not skepticism about whether the world is or is not.  But skepticism about conventional wisdoms and widely held beliefs about the world.  In a person’s own mind, they need to ability to hold a consistent universe against which conventional wisdoms are tested.  This is the bullsh*t meter.  It’s what separates the independent from the gullible.

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3 comments so far

  1. James Gray on

    I think part of the question is whether or not “sound” is our experience of it or if it is the vibrations. If I talk about “sound” referring to an experience, then would a tree falling with nothing around make a sound still?

    The problem with perception sounds similar to the problem of “theory laden observation.” Having a sound experience by itself doesn’t tell me that I hear birds chirping. We have a background assumption that there is a material reality and vibrations travel to my ear and so forth.

    How can we understand the truth and question people’s perceptions when we have to have a theory in order to interpret experiences in the first place? (I’m not saying that we can’t. I just want to know what you think about it.)

  2. way2opinionated on

    Trust your senses. Bird opens mouth. You hear sound. Bird opens mouth. You hear sound. There are little details that contribute to the picture. The chirping is accompanied by the bird’s breast contracting. No bird. No chirping. Bird. Chirping. Apply Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is is probably correct. Hence, the bird is chirping. Apply same to people talking. Mouths open, chests move, voices heard. People. Voices. No people. No voices. Add new data point. Voices. No people. Investigate. Find the radio playing in the corner. Radio on. Voices. Radio off. No voices. New data point. Repeat until you can consistently explain the things happening around you. This is what babies do before they even open their eyes.

    OK. That gives you your perception of the world. You test this perception by applying the three levels of scientific understanding. 1) explaining what happens. 2) predicting what happens. 3) controlling what happens. This is your verification of your perception and allows you to move from interpretation based on theory to interpretation based on applied physical laws. That is how you start to establish truth. With the senses and what you can sense and control.

    You establish truths by the constancy of your own observations. You can challenge other people’s perceptions by the inconsistency of theirs. Most people don’t have a clue what happens an inch from their nose.

  3. James Gray on

    Are we questioning people’s perceptions or their theory of the perceptions? Are perceptions inconsistent or are theories about the perceptions?


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