The Nature of Noise by John Kulvicki

In music, nature, philosophy, science, theory on November 1, 2012 at 13:45

From: The Nature of Noise by John Kulvicki, Philosophers’ Imprint,

Robert Pasnau rejects the ‘standard’ view that sounds are waves in media like air and water in favor of the views that sounds are properties of objects, like bells, that makes the media move (Pasnau 1999, 309). Sounds are perceived to have locations, and those locations seem to correspond to the objects that ‘make’ the sounds. Waves produced by an object fill the space around the observer, and thus are not correctly perceived to be at their source. So, Pasnau suggests, absent an error theory, it is better to identify sounds with objects’ vibratory properties than with pressure waves such objects produce. Casey O’Callaghan (2007, Ch. 3) dismisses the wave view for similar reasons but claims that sounds are events in which objects disturb the media around them. O’Callaghan approach relates closely to one proposed by Roberto Casati and Jerome Dokic (1994; 2005), according to whom sounds are vibration events rather than disturbings of media. Pasnau (forthcoming) recently expressed his support for Casati and Dokic’s take on things, while Roy Sorensen (2001, 281-285) recently defended the wave view against Pasnau and O’Callaghan.

This recent interest in sounds is welcome, since they have been relatively ignored over the past century. The growing consensus is that sounds differ dramatically from colors. While colors are qualities, sounds are particulars: either waves or vibratory events. In addition, all of the views just sketched insists that sounds are transient in a way that colors are not. Sounds are more like movements than like colors. Objects move in many ways, but it rarely makes sense to ask what kind of movements an object has, as opposed to ho an object is moving now or then.

The following suggests that philosophers have overlooked an impressively promising candidate for being sounds. Sounds are stable properties of objects that seem to have them. More specifically, sounds are dispositions of objects to vibrate in response to being stimulated. Sounds are perceived transiently, but they are not perceived as being transient and they are not in fact transient. This conception of sounds – the stable property view – casts them in a role more akin to colors that other theories do.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Philosopher’s Imprint

  1. Thanks so much for this link. I have been working on the theory of events, along Deleuzean lines for some time and this theory of sound reinforces what I have intuited but have not been able to articulate, until now with Kulvicki’s insights. There is enough material for me to inch forward, albeit ever so slowly. But still many thanks for your efforts at culling out from the universe this most inspiring link.


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