If a tree falls in an inhabited forest
and no one is around to hear it,
does it make a sound?
This riddle first came from philosopher George Berkeley in 1710 in one of his book, and since then has taken multiple forms and variants but nevertheless, all still pose the similar question.
The answer can be from both technical & philosophical viewpoints. An example of scientific explanation is like: “If there be no ears to pickup the air vibrations & nerve centers to recognize it, there will be no sound. The definition of sound simplified is- hearable noise. ”
That feels rather jarring and hard to swallow isn't it? Is sound only a sound if a person hears it? From our knowledge in physics & all, we believe we know how things operate and in this case the fallen tree WOULD have undisputedly make a lot of sound...that's how our learnings thought us.
This is where the philosophical mind frame sets in. This riddle is a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation & knowledge of reality. In its most simplest definition, it challenges the concept of how we understand things based on our sensory perception, and the exhausting process to extrapolate unknown things. Can we assume the unobserved world functions the same as the observed world? Is there only one realm and logic? Is universe that linear?
This is one of those stuffs that'll just break the conventional box & stretches the paradigm. It opens your mind to new planes of thinking. This idea is a common practice in areas like quantum physics, space exploration, futurist & several others- because it pushes the frontier and helps them develop new theories in their ever challenging pursuit to discover and understand new depths. It really does- unimaginable new innovations & milestones have materialized throughout time.
It's one of my favourite. And for me this idea applies to things as close as everyday perception too. Just because we don't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen & vice versa. There's always a twist. Everything is never only as it seems. Judgements are flawed if made based on the limited ability to perceive. So in this context the riddle can sound like:
If one experiences something
and nobody is made to know it
does it actually happens?
As far as I'm concerned it does, if one believes that it only matters to the doer not on other's validation . My personal testament is; I travel to places and do things- all without sharing/posting photos or updates on social medias. My friends may not know what I did & where I went, but still they happened and I profoundly experienced them all nevertheless. By nature, most everyday things we do don't straightaway concerns other people, and whatever motives/interests that might exist are purely induced behavior. Those who really wants to know will eventually know because they asks. Everything in this life breaks down to individual experience tbh.
The celebrated speaker, Sir Ken Robinson once jokingly told the audiences in one of his TEDTalks;
If a man speaks his mind out in a forest,
and his woman is not around to hear him,
Is he still wrong?