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My Answers to Great Questions: If a tree falls…

If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

My answer: No.

Why? Because humans live in language. Humans have this word that humans invented that we call “sound.” And what we humans are referring to when we use the word “sound” is the vibrational interpretation of a brain based on what comes into an ear. So if no ear is there to pick up the vibration and interpret it into language (using a brain) then it doesn’t count as a sound. There’s a lot of stuff happening in that forest; it’s just not interpreted by a human in language. You can put recording equipment in the forest to record the event… and that’s great. The nanosecond that a human ear/brain combo interprets the vibrations, it counts as sound. But not before.

To reiterate: the word “sound” is a human-invented word to describe the experience of a specific set of natural phenomena. So “sound” doesn’t happen unless there’s a human around to hear, describe, witness, and/or interpret it.

The phenomena that happens outside of human language really happens… I’m not trying to suggest that it doesn’t. I am, however, saying that humans have language to describe anything to one another. In fact, we can’t get outside of language. Ever.

Furthermore, I would argue that language is absolutely fundamental to being a functional human. Think of how completely powerless human babies are until they instinctively employ some version of language. There are different kinds of human languages: French, German, American Sign, body language, artistic languages, the language of music, the language of math…. but all of those categories of language are shared human languages that developed over time.

If you disagree with me, post your viewpoint to your blog… or email me and I may post it. I used to have comments on my blog, but I had a bad experience, so I don’t have comments anymore.

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