Monday, June 2, 2014

A tree in the woods

There is a tree growing in the woods somewhere so "off the beaten path" that no one has ever seen or experienced it. Does that tree exist? Similar to the old "tree falls in the woods" query, most everyone would confidently say that of course it exists. Now let me add this: Not only is the tree itself not perceived but in any ecological study or data collection, the tree exerts no perceived influence. In other words our whole world and universe functions as if the tree does not exist. The tree has no perceived influence. Now you say, "Well, if it tastes like nothing, smells like nothing, it is nothing. What you just described is not a tree at all but nothing." And I say, "Just so." However, did we not now just describe a tree as something that needs to be perceived for it to exist?

(I was researching something else and this popped into my head, and I thought it might make a nice discussion. On this blog we have mentioned George Berkeley's philosophy and Ronald Knox's limericks, but we haven't much discussed different types of existence (re: a unicorn exists in some manner or we wouldn't use the word). Also, perhaps one area to explore is that the house of being (language) is not so well constructed—more like the "shack of being." Anyway, I really have no other thoughts, but would like to learn what others think. Perhaps it is just a nonsense question, …or perceived as such.)


Big Myk said...

Here's what Heidegger had to say about this:

‘There is’ truth only in so far as Dasein is and so long as Dasein is. Entities are uncovered only when Dasein is; and only as long as Dasein is, are they disclosed. Newton’s laws, the principle of contradiction, any truth whatever – these are true only as long as Dasein is. Before there was any Dasein, there was no truth; nor will there be any after Dasein is no more. For in such a case truth as disclosedness, uncovering and uncoveredness, cannot be. Before Newton’s laws were discovered, they were not ‘true’; it does not follow that they were false, or even that they would become false if ontically no discoveredness were any longer possible.

James R said...

Well, that pretty much explains it!?

One of my favorite(?) lectures on Heidegger is here. At some point I believe she says that she hoped to get through the entire lecture without once mentioning "Dasein". She doesn't make it. (One reason I like this one is that it confirms you should study Heidegger for the same reason you study poetry—attractive, intelligent, humorous women dig it.)

Anyway, he does have a point (if anyone can understand it) that talking about existence makes little sense without the human experience of being.