[Ads-l] "If a tree falls..."

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Aug 22 15:41:37 EDT 2020


A little earlier:

1853  _Green Mountain Freeman_  (Montpelier, Vt.) (June 23) 4:  "If a tree
falls, and no one hears it, does it make a noise?" The above question was
announced in the _Rondout Courier_,  for discussion, last evening, in the
debating wing of the Lyceum of that village.  Three disputants were named
on each side.

Credited to the _Poughkeepsie American_.

That's entertainment!

JL

On Sat, Aug 22, 2020 at 2:59 PM Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
wrote:

> > On Aug 22, 2020, at 1:26 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> wrote:
> >
> > 1866 _Columbia Democrat and Star of the North_  (Bloomsburg, Pa.) (Apr.
> > 11)) :  ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS...Philosophy tells us if a tree should
> > fall in the forest, where there was no ear to hear, there would be no
> sound.
> >
> > If this is old stuff, too bad. Don't read it.
> >
> > It's surprising that a correspondent should ask the question without an
> > earlier occurrence being found.
> >
> > JL
>
> I always associated this with Bishop Berkeley (1685 – 1753), but perhaps
> it’s just based loosely on his philosophy.  The version I’m used to poses
> the question of whether a tree makes a sound in those circumstances, rather
> than providing a negative answer.  And the city in California (where I had
> my first teaching job) was named for him, so he must have been asking good
> questions. Of course the year I taught at Berkeley, if the tree didn’t make
> a sound it’s probably because everyone was stoned and/or had the Grateful
> Dead  turned up too loud.
>
> LH
>
>
> >
> >
> >
> > On Mon, May 16, 2005 at 10:26 PM Jonathan Lighter <
> wuxxmupp2000 at yahoo.com>
> > wrote:
> >
> >> The date is probably of no interest, but in case it is :  I first heard
> >> the conundrum (and it was presented as such) posed by my ninth-grade
> >> science teacher, Mr. Rathman, in late 1962 or (most likely) early '63.
> >>
> >> Mr. Rathman's visage strongly resembled that of Joe Kubert's Sgt. Rock
> as
> >> drawn for DC Comics. He would interrupt class each day for a minute or
> two
> >> as a twelfth-grade lab assistant delivered a quart container of
> buttermilk,
> >> which he instantly chugalugged.  Why ? Nobody asked.
> >>
> >> Another of his sayings which has stuck in my mind is, "Half of
> everything
> >> we think we know is wrong.  BUT WHICH HALF ?"
> >>
> >> JL
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> *Fred Shapiro <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>>* wrote:
> >>
> >> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> >> -----------------------
> >> Sender: American Dialect Society
> >> Poster: Fred Shapiro
> >> Subject: Re: "If a tree falls..."
> >>
> >>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >>
> >> On Wed, 11 May 2005, Duane Campbell wrote:
> >>
> >>>> Can anyone help me determine the origin of the philosophical conundrum
> >> "If
> >>>> a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?"
> >>>>
> >>>> Fred Shapiro
> >>>
> >>> I am frankly surprised to see such a question from an esteemed language
> >>> professional. It is not a philosophical conundrum at all. It is a
> >> semantic
> >>> question intended to play on the man in the street's ignorance of how
> >>> language works. There are two answers, and both are simple. If by
> "sound"
> >>> you mean the waves set off by the tree falling, the answer is "yes." If
> >> you
> >>> mean "sound" as the interpretation of those waves by the appropriate
> >> part of
> >>> the brain, the answer is "no."
> >>
> >> This is probably not worth responding to, but let me set out the
> following
> >> explanation:
> >>
> >> If there were no "external" world to serve as cause of our sensations,
> >> where would our sensations and our ideas about the world come from? It
> >> is God who must provide them, Berkeley argues. "To be is to be
> >> perceived," he insists, but everything that exists must therefore be
> >> perceived, all the time, by God. (It was regarding Berkeley's philosophy
> >> that some wit formulated the old gambit, "If a tree falls in the
> >> forest...")
> >> Kathleen M. Higgins and Robert C. Solomon, A Short History of
> >> Philosophy (1996)
> >>
> >> Finally, let me note that I am pleased if I am "esteemed," but I am
> >> certainly not a "language professional."
> >>
> >> Fred Shapiro
> >>
> >>
> >>
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >> Fred R. Shapiro Editor
> >> Associate Librarian for Collections and YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
> >> Access and Lecturer in Legal Research Yale University Press,
> >> Yale Law School forthcoming
> >> e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu http://quotationdictionary.com
> >>
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >>
> >> ------------------------------
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> >>
> >>
> >
> > --
> > "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
> truth."
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>


-- 
"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

------------------------------------------------------------
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