Dream argument

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The Dream of Life, by unknown Mannerist painter, ca. 1533 Michelangelo - Dream of Life NG8.jpg
The Dream of Life, by unknown Mannerist painter, ca. 1533

The dream argument is the postulation that the act of dreaming provides preliminary evidence that the senses we trust to distinguish reality from illusion should not be fully trusted, and therefore, any state that is dependent on our senses should at the very least be carefully examined and rigorously tested to determine whether it is in fact reality.

Sense Physiological capacity of organisms that provides data for perception

A sense is a physiological capacity of organisms that provides data for perception. The senses and their operation, classification, and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of perception. The nervous system has a specific sensory nervous system, and a sense organ, or sensor, dedicated to each sense.

Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent, as opposed to that which is merely imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status of things, indicating their existence. In physical terms, reality is the totality of the universe, known and unknown. Philosophical questions about the nature of reality or existence or being are considered under the rubric of ontology, which is a major branch of metaphysics in the Western philosophical tradition. Ontological questions also feature in diverse branches of philosophy, including the philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophical logic. These include questions about whether only physical objects are real, whether reality is fundamentally immaterial, whether hypothetical unobservable entities posited by scientific theories exist, whether God exists, whether numbers and other abstract objects exist, and whether possible worlds exist.

Illusion Distortion of the perception of reality

An illusion is a distortion of the senses, which can reveal how the human brain normally organizes and interprets sensory stimulation. Though illusions distort our perception of reality, they are generally shared by most people.

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Synopsis

While one dreams, one does not normally realize one is dreaming. On more rare occasions, the dream may be contained inside another dream with the very act of realizing that one is dreaming, itself, being only a dream that one is not aware of having. This has led philosophers to wonder whether it is possible for one ever to be certain, at any given point in time, that one is not in fact dreaming, or whether indeed it could be possible for one to remain in a perpetual dream state and never experience the reality of wakefulness at all.[ citation needed ]

Dream imaginary events seen in the mind while sleeping

A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not fully understood, although they have been a topic of scientific, philosophical and religious interest throughout recorded history. Dream interpretation is the attempt at drawing meaning from dreams and searching for an underlying message. The scientific study of dreams is called oneirology.

Philosophy Study of general and fundamental questions

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Certainty is perfect knowledge that has total security from error, or the mental state of being without doubt.

In the West, this philosophical puzzle was referred to by Plato (Theaetetus 158b-d) and Aristotle (Metaphysics 1011a6). Having received serious attention in René Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy , the dream argument has become one of the most prominent skeptical hypotheses.[ citation needed ]

Western philosophy philosophy of the Western world

Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical thinking of Western culture, beginning with Greek philosophy of the pre-Socratics such as Thales and Pythagoras, and eventually covering a large area of the globe. The word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient Greek philosophía (φιλοσοφία), literally, "the love of wisdom".

Plato Classical Greek philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

The Theaetetus is one of Plato's dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge, written circa 369 BCE.

This type of argument is sometimes referred to as the "Zhuangzi paradox":

He who dreams of drinking wine may weep when morning comes; he who dreams of weeping may in the morning go off to hunt. While he is dreaming he does not know it is a dream, and in his dream he may even try to interpret a dream. Only after he wakes does he know it was a dream. And someday there will be a great awakening when we know that this is all a great dream. Yet the stupid believe they are awake, busily and brightly assuming they understand things, calling this man ruler, that one herdsman—how dense! Confucius and you are both dreaming! And when I say you are dreaming, I am dreaming, too. Words like these will be labeled the Supreme Swindle. Yet, after ten thousand generations, a great sage may appear who will know their meaning, and it will still be as though he appeared with astonishing speed. [1]

One of the first philosophers to posit the dream argument formally was the Yogachara philosopher Vasubandhu (4th to 5th century C.E.) in his "Twenty verses on appearance only."

Yogachara is an influential tradition of Buddhist philosophy and psychology emphasizing the study of cognition, perception, and consciousness through the interior lens of meditative and yogic practices. It is also variously termed Vijñānavāda, Vijñaptivāda or Vijñaptimātratā-vāda, which is also the name given to its major epistemic theory. There are several interpretations of this main theory, some scholars see it as a kind of Idealism while others argue that it is closer to a kind of phenomenology or representationalism.

Vasubandhu Indian Buddhist monk

Vasubandhu was an influential Buddhist monk and scholar from Gandhara. He was a philosopher who wrote commentary on the Abhidharma, from the perspectives of the Sarvastivada and Sautrāntika schools. After his conversion to Mahayana Buddhism, along with his half-brother, Asanga, he was also one of the main founders of the Yogacara school.

The dream argument came to feature prominently in Mahayana and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. Some schools of thought (e.g., Dzogchen) consider perceived reality to be literally unreal. As Chögyal Namkhai Norbu puts it: "In a real sense, all the visions that we see in our lifetime are like a big dream . . . ." [2] In this context, the term 'visions' denotes not only visual perceptions, but also appearances perceived through all senses, including sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations, and operations on perceived mental objects.

Simulated reality

Dreaming provides a springboard for those who question whether our own reality may be an illusion. The ability of the mind to be tricked into believing a mentally generated world is the "real world" means at least one variety of simulated reality is a common, even nightly event. [3]

Those who argue that the world is not simulated must concede that the mind—at least the sleeping mind—is not itself an entirely reliable mechanism for attempting to differentiate reality from illusion. [4]

Critical discussion

In the past, philosophers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes have separately attempted to refute Descartes's account of the dream argument. Locke claimed that you cannot experience pain in dreams. Various scientific studies conducted within the last few decades provided evidence against Locke's claim by concluding that pain in dreams can occur but the pain isn't as severe[ citation needed ]. Philosopher Ben Springett has said that Locke might respond to this by stating that the agonising pain of stepping in to a fire is non-comparable to stepping in to a fire in a dream. Hobbes claimed that dreams are susceptible to absurdity while the waking life is not. [6]

Many contemporary philosophers have attempted to refute dream skepticism in detail (see, e.g., Stone (1984)). [7] Ernest Sosa (2007) devoted a chapter of a monograph to the topic, in which he presented a new theory of dreaming and argued that his theory raises a new argument for skepticism, which he attempted to refute. In A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, he states: "in dreaming we do not really believe; we only make-believe." [8] Jonathan Ichikawa (2008) and Nathan Ballantyne & Ian Evans (2010) have offered critiques of Sosa's proposed solution. Ichikawa argued that as we cannot tell whether our beliefs in waking life are truly beliefs and not imaginings, like in a dream, we are still not able to tell whether we are awake or dreaming.

Norman Malcolm in his monograph "Dreaming" (published in 1959) elaborated on Wittgenstein's question as to whether it really mattered if people who tell dreams "really had these images while they slept, or whether it merely seems so to them on waking". He argues that the sentence "I am asleep" is a senseless form of words; that dreams cannot exist independently of the waking impression; and that scepticism based on dreaming "comes from confusing the historical and dream telling senses...[of]...the past tense". (page 120). In the chapter: "Do I Know I Am Awake ?" he argues that we do not have to say: "I know that I am awake" simply because it would be absurd to deny that one is awake.

The dream hypothesis is also used to develop other philosophical concepts, such as Valberg's personal horizon: what this world would be internal to if this were all a dream. [9]

The dream argument in literature

Literature

TitleAuthorYearRemarks
Z213: EXIT Dimitris Lyacos, Poena Damni 2016, Shoestring PressEmploys a version of the dream argument in order to present reality and self as two facets of an ever-changing universe.

See also

Notes

  1. 莊子, 齊物論, 12. Zhuàngzi, "Discussion on making all things equal," 12. from Zhuàngzi, Burton Watson trans., Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 43. ISBN   978-0-231-10595-8
  2. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Dream Yoga And The Practice Of Natural Light Edited and introduced by Michael Katz, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY, ISBN   1-55939-007-7, pp. 42, 46, 48, 96, 105.
  3. Joseph Barbera, Henry Moller, Dreaming, Virtual Reality, and Presence.
  4. Giuliana A. L. Mazzoni and Elizabeth F. Loftus, When Dreams Become Reality.
  5. René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy.
  6. "Dreaming, Philosophy of – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy". utm.edu.
  7. Stone, Jim (1984). "Dreaming and Certainty" (PDF). Philosophical Studies. 45 (3): 353–368. doi:10.1007/BF00355443.
  8. Sosa, Ernest (2007). A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-929702-3.
  9. Valberg, J.J. (2007). Dream, Death, and the Self. Princeton University Press. ISBN   9780691128597.

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Skepticism or scepticism is generally a questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more items of putative knowledge or belief or dogma. It is often directed at domains, such as the supernatural, morality, theism, or knowledge. Formally, skepticism as a topic occurs in the context of philosophy, particularly epistemology, although it can be applied to any topic such as politics, religion, and pseudoscience.

In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that "regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge" or "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification". More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive".

Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist. This extreme position is claimed to be irrefutable, as the solipsist believes themselves to be the only true authority, all others being creations of their own mind.

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Simulated reality is the hypothesis that reality could be simulated—for example by quantum computer simulation—to a degree indistinguishable from "true" reality. It could contain conscious minds which may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation. This is quite different from the current, technologically achievable concept of virtual reality. Virtual reality is easily distinguished from the experience of actuality; participants are never in doubt about the nature of what they experience. Simulated reality, by contrast, would be hard or impossible to separate from "true" reality. There has been much debate over this topic, ranging from philosophical discourse to practical applications in computing.

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Norman Malcolm American philosopher

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Innatism

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References

Malcolm, N. (1959) Dreaming London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2nd Impression 1962.