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

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Aug 22 16:08:07 EDT 2020


Duane Campbell (above, in 2005) beat me to this.  It's kind of a trick
question.

Now:  Can a coincidence have occurred if no one ever notices that it was a
"coincidence"?

JL

On Sat, Aug 22, 2020 at 3:59 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Jonathan Lighter  wrote:
> > 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!
>
> Excellent finds, JL.
>
> Way back in 2005 (before I was a member of this list), Fred Shapiro
> posted an inquiry on this topic.
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2005-May/049340.html
>
> Stephen Goranson mentioned the pertinence of Bishop Berkeley's "A
> Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge" (1710) which
> did discuss the imagination, perception, and the existence of a trees.
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2005-May/049341.html
>
> Benjamin Zimmer noted that Berkeley "didn't say anything about the
> sound of falling trees". Ben listed some citations beginning with June
> 1883.
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2005-May/049346.html
>
> The Yale Book of Quotation has an entry which refers to the philosophy
> of George Berkeley and presents the June 1883 citation and later
> citations.
>
> Wikipedia has an entry which refers to Berkeley's 1710 treatise and
> lists the June 1883 citation together with later citations.
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_a_tree_falls_in_a_forest
>
> Here is a later citation in 1872.
>
> [ref] 1872 October 4, The Benton Harbor Palladium, Answers to
> Correspondents, Quote Page 4, Column 3, Benton Harbor, Michigan.
> (Newspapers_com) [/ref]
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> ". . . Also. If a tree should fall fifty miles from an human ear,
> would any sound be produced?" This is a question on which much has
> been said, and while we will give our opinion, and if disputed will
> support it as best we can, we would be pleased to hear from others and
> their argument pro and con.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Here is another later citation in 1876.
>
> [ref] 1876 August 25, The Pioche Daily Record, (Untitled Article),
> Quote Page 2, Column 1, Pioche, Nevada. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> Some of the questions were rather unique, requiring more practical
> judgment than technical education for a correct answer. For instance:
> "If a tree should fall in a forest, would it produce any noise,
> supposing there were no ear there to hear it?" That question, though
> it looks simple enough, admits of a variety of argument.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson
>
> > 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
> > > >>
> > >
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > > >>
> > > >> ------------------------------
> > > >> Do you Yahoo!?
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> > > >> <
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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."
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > 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."

------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


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