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What is Sound?

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Our standard view about sound is incoherent. On the one hand, we suppose that sound is a quality, not of the object that makes the sound, but of the surrounding medium. This is the supposition of our ordinary language, modern science and a long philosophical tradition. On the other hand, we suppose that sound is the object of hearing. This too is the assumption of ordinary language, modern science and a long philosophical tradition. Yet these two assumptions cannot both be right – not unless we wish to concede that hearing is illusory and that we do not listen to the objects that make sounds. To avoid these consequences we must recognize and repair the inconsistencies contained in our standard view of what sound is. I offer an account that describes sound as a quality belonging, not to the medium, but to the object that makes the sound.

email : pasnau@sju.edu
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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia and University of Colorado, Boulder

Publication date: 1999-07-01

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