If a tree falls in the woods…

Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit is definitely one of the harder pieces we have read so far. However, reading it aloud in my room alone has helped me understand the gist of his arguments of Here, Now, and I. One thing I found interesting is that he uses the tree example, and this made me think of the common philosophical question “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to here it, does it still make a sound?” And I argue that if Hegel was asked this question, he would have said no. Hegel proposes the idea of “sense-certainty” and how it governs truth and understanding of all objects presented to us. So if no one was in the woods when the tree fell, then the sound would not be appreciated with sense-certainty. “The force of its truth this lies in the ‘I’, in the immediacy of my seeing, hearing, and so on…” (101). If no one immediately heard the noise, then there was no noise. This seems like it would be untrue, considering the tree fell and physically produced waves that could be received by a person as sound. But with no one there to immediately hear the noise, technically there was no sound because there was no reception.

Also, when the sound occurred must be taken into account. I could go into the woods, notice a fallen tree, and infer there must have been a loud sound. However, “Now is just this; to be no more just when it is” (106). With this idea in mind, the tree I am looking at now is just a fallen tree because that’s what it is now and what I am perceiving, regardless of what it once was or the noise it made when it fell. Because I am not currently experiencing the act of the tree falling, I cannot say with any sense-certainty that it made a noise, because it is not now, and I can only appreciate just what is.

3 responses to “If a tree falls in the woods…

  1. You bring up a very good point (which we also discussed in class). Sense certainty is weak. It only allows immediate truth which is fatally tied to the here and now and it is only the truth of simply, as you put it, “what is”. I liked how you brought up the whole tree in the woods example to point out the flaws of this kind of weak sensory truth. The truth of the tree in the wood is verified through the senses of other people, through reception. This truth which is verified by more than one individual and is not bound so much by the here and now appears to be much stronger than sense certainty sort of truth. I think this sort of truth verified by reception/relation is what the next section of the Hegel reading is about: consciousness verified through relation to other consciousness.

  2. I enjoyed the tree example as well. I like how you broke down the situation and alluded that that you cannot say with any sense certainty that the tree made a noise. Indeed, the fallen tree is an object. But the standing tree is not in object. In the eyes of Hegel everything has to do with experience. Because we did not experience the tree when it stood, we cannot say that the standing tree was once here. This is somewhat ambigious because obviosuly at one point the tree did stand… I wonder if critics have argued that in this situation sense-certainty does not make complete sense. Nonetheless, this example and your explaination bettered my understanding of the “here” and “now”.

  3. I think you guys both brought up good points! I’m glad I could explain the Here and Now since they confused me a lot actually. I think finding examples is the best way to understand these kinds of concepts and it helped me when Hegel used his tree and the house example.

    Also Trieste, I liked how you brought up how this points to the flaws in sense-certainty. I definitely agree there are flaws with this notion, although this wasn’t what I had originally intended while writing this blog post. I just meant to use Hegel’s argument of Here and Now to come up with an answer for the question. However, I do agree they are weak arguments and there is a truth that cannot be found using sense certainty. We know the tree was standing, now it is not, so it must have fallen. But with sense-certainty we cannot confirm this and that is where the argument goes wrong because we can infer things using theoretical knowledge rather than sense-certainty.

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