John opens the gate to let Lucy in. They stand in the park admiring the huge variety of trees that are there, but, in the end wander into a strange little circle. A bench stands before a huge concrete foundation, in the center of which there is a tree. It's roots only stretch to the ends of the foundation, and a huge net is stretched over it, so that no birds can land there. That is the bench that John and Lucy decides to sit on.
John; See this tree here, Lucy. Is it lonely?
Lucy: I don't know. It isn't connected to any other trees, and the birds can't reach it. I think we can agree that it is alone, but, what separates aloneness from loneliness?
John: I suppose, that would be the sensation of being alone. But, I don't know if that works. If you are alone, and you are a being, then implicitly in the definition of being, one must be able to sense. And only being are alone, so that, then, through that necessary synthesis one can only be alone if one is able to sense it, and thus you have a sensation of aloneness. If we presume then, that loneliness and aloneness are different, they at least cannot be different in this respect.
Lucy: I think you are right to think this way. But, intuitively, we feel that there is a difference.
John: Okay. Moving to a second example. In the morning an old lady is sitting in her home, by herself, and she is feeling lonely. In the evening she is still alone, but she does not feel lonely. What is the difference?
Lucy: That is a hard nut to crack. I'd think that, in the morning she has a desire to meet someone, but in the evening she doesn't.
John. Yea, that seems like a reasonable start. Returning to the tree then, can we say that a tree has desires?
Lucy: Actually, I think we can. A tree has a biologically instilled instinct to survive. If we analyse it's ways of behaving, we ought to conclude that it would behave like it looked like it had desires to survive, and, on a pragmatic view, this would indeed mean that it meant to do such that it survived. Now, with this definition in mind, we only need to show that it is in the trees interest to seek out companionship for it survival value, and the rest would follow; it would desire contact, and deprived of this, being both alone and in the state of desire, we could conclude that the tree is in fact lonely.
John: And, as we know, trees to in fact connect to other trees. If there was no survival value in this, we would expect that this would not be the case in nature. Which means, I think, that, at least on one reasonable definition, this tree in front of us is most likely lonely!
Lucy: Yea. (...) But there are lots of trees standing alone the streets, confined to a small square of land. They are probably lonely too!
John. Yea. (...) But, I don't think they feel lonely, because I don't think they are conscious. Of course, in one sense they feel, because they have receptors, and act accordingly, but; though they use these receptors to orient themselves in the world, there is no pain involved in not attaining those goals.
Lucy: So, you don't think we have a moral responsibility towards the trees we imprison?
John: I don't know. I feel for the trees that are cordoned off from the rest of nature, in the same way that I feel sorry for myself, that I cannot reach nature as often as I wish. And, I think I would actually prefer for the sake of the tree that it could realise it's reason for being. Though the tree can't care in our sense, I can imagine myself in it's stead, and when I do, I feel pity.
Lucy: So, we should relocate those trees for your sake?
John: I don't know. My position is an aesthetic one. I like seeing the world being correct in a way, effortless and natural. I know that nothing is intrinsically no more natural than other things, intrinsic worth being, at least, highly problematic - but in a way, that is yet another defence of my view. If there is no higher standard than the aesthetic and moral considerations we have, then these should weigh heavily in how we organize our world.
Lucy: It's a political issue then. Should we relocate trees or not?
John: Yes, I think so, but I think we should at least know that these trees are lonely. They have something to teach us about what it means to desire to be social, and I would actually wish that we leave more room for nature in our cities.
Lucy. (...) Yea, but I think that will have to wait for a further discussion.
Lucy and John rise, and walk out of the park.