Mind-independence relates to the famous falling tree nobody sees or hears, but which may still make a sound. We claim that the process is independent of our consciousness, and that therefore the scenario plays out as when we observe it.

if I take the tree down by a chain saw, it seems that the falling tree is very much depending of my consciousness. Should we say that the process is still consciousness-independent, and that such a dependence therefore must have several meanings?

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    Yes, and the most common conflation is between dependence on 'mind' in general and dependence on a particular mind or minds or theories, etc. (subject-dependence). Idealists hold that reality is made of something mind-like, so trivially mind-'dependent', but that does not preclude it from being objective, i.e. subject-independent. Existence of falling trees, even taken down by chainsaws, is subject-independent for realists, even idealists, as opposed to anti-realists.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jun 19 at 16:24

3 Answers 3


A falling tree creates some blast – besides other effects. If there is nobody in the wood, then nobody perceives the blast as sound.

Sound is the subjective experience in our mind, while blast is an objective event, independent from any perceiving mind.

Discriminating between objective events and subjective experiences disentangles the concepts and answers from your question: There are many types of mind-independent events in nature, but there are no perceptions without a mind.

  • Every concept that is incorporated into this answer, including the concept of mind-independent events in nature, arises in the mind! Commented Jun 19 at 16:22
  • "while blast is an objective event". The sound waves caused by the falling/impacting tree?
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 20 at 14:42
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    @RonJohn "blast" = movement of the air. In the context of the OP's question I do not call it sound waves, because I take "sound" as the subjective perception within the mind.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Jun 20 at 15:00
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    "Sound is the subjective experience in our mind" -- I think that's the point of the thought experiment. Is this really the case, or is sound the vibration of the air that we can perceive if we happen to be within earshot?
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 20 at 15:49

If a tree falls in the forest when no one is around, does it make a sound?

This question is asked to highlight that the word 'sound' has two meanings, that is, it is polysemous. One meaning of 'sound' is the auditory experience we and presumably others have. The second meaning is the compaction and rarefaction of air which occurs before the sound.

There are many mind-independent processes since a process is an arbitrary description and explanation of an aspect the physical world. A river flowing is mind-independent. So too is a tree growing and falling.

But generally we see the physical world in terms of a single spatiotemporal extension described by causality. Thus, there is one mind-independent thing called the physical world, and we tend intuitively to see that is a distinct realm from our mental lives, though the two appear at first glance to be connected.


The mind may indeed recognize several types of mind-independence! But does any concept or theory of mind-independence exist independent of the mind?

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