Chapter 1

Objective Sound


A tree falls over in a wood. Does it make a sound? From one point of view, the answer is that it must make a sound, because the physical requirements for sound to exist have been met. An alternate view is that without any consciousness to “hear” the sound, there in fact is no sound. This dichotomy demonstrates the difference between this chapter and the next. A physicist has a ready answer—of course, there is a great crashing noise. On the other hand, a humanist philosopher thinks consciousness may well be required for there to be a sound.

The dichotomy observed is that between objective physical sound and subjective psychoacoustics. Any sound undergoes two principal processes for us to “hear” it. First, ...

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