There is always someone to hear a tree falling in the woods. It could be a bird, a squirrel, even the termites that caused the tree to fall in the first place. Trees have fallen in forests since long before the advent of the homo sapiens. Some of these trees became submerged into the earth. As they became more deeply submerged over many years these decomposing trees underwent transformations giving us coal and diamonds.
Does it matter that no-one heard it? It still happened. Many species were affected. Some used it to make a home, others lost their homes. People are not the only species on the planet and life goes on with or without them.
Throughout the course of time there has been a constant series of events unobserved by man. The forest is a constantly changing environment. Plants grow, bear fruit and die. This is home to many birds, animals, reptiles and vast numbers of insects and spiders. Most events occur unobserved. But when a tree falls and the baby birds are still in the nest, the parents know.
Our subjective reality is governed by our consciousness and perceptions. We observe and apply meaning. The next person may apply a different meaning. The two may never even agree on what actually happened. We each construct our own reality from day to day, from minute to minute. This reality is based upon our knowledge, the prevailing level of knowledge on the planet and the meanings that we apply to each situation. A falling tree doesn’t matter to us unless we are in the path of its fall. But is the world only about us?
- “To be is to do”-Socrates.
- “To do is to be”-Jean-Paul Sartre.
- “Do be do be do”-Frank Sinatra.
These words found as graffiti in Soho, London although their origin is becoming blurred. They illustrate different existential approaches to understanding the world and existence. Socrates’ “to be is to do” sees action as a result of our existence. To Sartre, we must act in order to exist. To Sinatra we only have to chill out – we can do or be as we will.
In Sartre’s view existence follows action. Similar to Descartes’ famous “I think, therefore I am”. Action or thought precedes existence. Without it we are nothing.
The falling tree is in a separate category. The tree exists whether or not it acts. As the tree falls, it creates a sound. Even if there is no other life around, the sound is an energy force that can cause changes to the environment.
It doesn’t really matter if there is no one around to hear it.