North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › OPAR: perception and forms

OPAR: perception and forms

Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 181
In psychology class we started into the discussion of sensing and perception and the tree in the forest discussion got out of hand. I was going off the position that when the tree hits, vibrations in the air, etc does occur to form the sensation (so to speak), but the form of perception of "sound" can only happen if there is a consciousness there to perceive it. The form of perception requires both the sensation caused by the tree falling and the thing percieving it, it can not exist on its own, so in effect the tree can not make a "sound" until something actually hears it. I was a very small minority of one in my opinion, but thinking about it today, did I understand the OPAR correctly?

- Travis
Taryn
TarynCC
Lubbock, TX
Post #: 30
I don't know anything about OPAR, but "consciousness" doesn't only have to be man, right? I'm sure if the forest life could talk they would all give a resounding yes, it does make quite a sound.

Questions like this were why I was never interested in philosophy until I read Ayn Rand. To me, of course a tree makes a sound when it falls, typically when anything falls it does. It always seemed like a waste of time to even consider such a question. Like I said, I'm not familiar with any of the OPAR sessions, but I would have assumed that when you consider the situation rationally you would have to agree that it does make a sound.

I'm interested in finding out if this is not the case, and if not, why.

Taryn
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 325
Hi Travis,

I think breaking down the concepts more precisely might help us understand this subject better and help communication with others.

As I understand it, a "sensation" requires:

(1) physical entities (e.g., a tree falling to the ground causing "sound" vibrations in the surrounding air);

(2) a sensory organ (e.g., a hearing organ) capable of "sensing" the physical effects of the physical entities (e.g., sound vibrations in the air); and

(3) a consciousness (i.e., the brain) operatively connected to to the sensory organ.

When a tree hits the ground, there are sufficient conditions to create physical vibrations in the air, but not necessarily sufficient conditions to form a sensation.

A deaf person cannot have a "sensation of" (i.e., hear) the "sound" (i.e., the vibrations in the air) caused by a falling tree because of the non-functioning hearing organ.

An unconscious person with "sound hearing" (i.e., hearing organ is intact and functioning at a physical level) cannot have a "sensation of" (i.e., "hear") the "sound" (i.e., the vibrations in the air) because the person has no (or insufficient) consciousness to be aware of (i.e., "sense") anything.

What do you think?

-- Todd
Santiago V.
sanjavalen
Dallas, TX
Post #: 142
I think you are spot on Todd. Most of the "disagreements" that spawn forth from these pseudo-intellectual "problems" are just disagreements as to the definitions of the terms involved.
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 182
I agree with your assessment Todd, and I think the stickler for a lot of people is that "sound" isn't the vibrations of the air molecules, it's the form of our perception. It is the translation our consciouness makes out of those vibrations, just as "light", colors, luminosity, etc., is only our eyes interpretations of the wave length and amplitude of electromagnetic energy.

And you're correct Taryn, consciouness does not have to be man, it can be any thing capable of perceiving and interpreting those vibrations. Bats see sound, they don't hear it. For them the form is completely different than humans.

- Travis
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 268
Taryn, if you like, I can solve one of the biggest philosophical mysteries for you when we meet: what is the sound of one hand clapping.
(Hint: this wisdom came to me through an episode of The Simpsons.)
Taryn
TarynCC
Lubbock, TX
Post #: 31
Ironically Sherry, the first time I heard the question of a tree falling in the woods was in fact on The Simpsons.
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 329
I agree with your assessment Todd, and I think the stickler for a lot of people is that "sound" isn't the vibrations of the air molecules, it's the form of our perception. It is the translation our consciousness makes out of those vibrations, just as "light", colors, luminosity, etc., is only our eyes interpretations of the wave length and amplitude of electromagnetic energy.

...

- Travis


Hi Travis,

I think that "sound," in most senses, is more than just vibrations (or waves) in the air. Quick definitions from "OneLook.com" for the word "sound" include:

noun: the particular auditory effect produced by a given cause (Example: "The sound of rain on the roof")
noun: the subjective sensation of hearing something (Example: "He strained to hear the faint sounds")
noun: the sudden occurrence of an audible event (Example: "The sound awakened them")
noun: a large ocean inlet or deep bay (Example: "The main body of the sound ran parallel to the coast")
noun: mechanical vibrations transmitted by an elastic medium (Example: "Falling trees make a sound in the forest even when no one is there to hear them")
noun: the audible part of a transmitted signal
noun: a narrow channel of the sea joining two larger bodies of water
...


Most senses of "sound" have something to do with perception, whereas only one does not (ignoring those that are irrelevant to our discussion, like "a narrow channel of the sea".)

At one level, the question: "Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound if no one is there to hear it?" seems to equivocate on the senses of the word "sound" as as in vibrations in the air or as a form of perception. It seems to "play" on the fact that most senses of the word "sound" (in this context) refer to perception instead of to the physics of vibrations.

Perhaps the real point of this question is primacy of consciousness vs. primacy of existence. To question whether a tree falling to the ground makes a "sound" as in vibrations in the air is really to question whether there was a tree, ground, the act of falling, air, existence, the law of cause and effect, everything. Could any of that "existence" be "real" if no consciousness is there to perceive it?

What do you think?

-- Todd
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 270
Could any of that "existence" be "real" if no consciousness is there to perceive it?

This is how I have always taken that question when it has been brought up. No, I don't think a lack of a conscious being around changes the reality of the tree falling being any more real than it is. It just means there is no one around to care, or to ponder the significance of said tree falling in the woods. And, if we are talking about humans only, and excluding critters, than there is no one to cut the tree up and make it into something productive.

(On a totally unserious side note, I am now reminded of that Vision Quest episode of Family Guy, and the trees in it.)
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 187
Perhaps the real point of this question is primacy of consciousness vs. primacy of existence. To question whether a tree falling to the ground makes a "sound" as in vibrations in the air is really to question whether there was a tree, ground, the act of falling, air, existence, the law of cause and effect, everything. Could any of that "existence" be "real" if no consciousness is there to perceive it?

Yes, I agree that is what the original intent of the question was, but for the forms discussion in OPAR I think it makes a good example question. To put the question more in perspective for what I'm interested in, if a computer was in the woods when the tree fell, how could you make it "hear the sound" rather than just detect the vibrations as a wave with modulairty and frequency.

-- Travis


SORRY: I accidentally "edited" your post instead of "replying." It is returned back the way you had it.
-- Todd
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