Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


This isn’t real

How can I be sure I am not always dreaming, or dreaming right now?

It’s a freaky question right? A philosopher named Descartes strove for certainty in the beliefs we hold. He stated in one of his meditation that he is certain of being seated by the fire in front of him. He then dismisses the idea that this belief could be certain because he has been deceived before in dreams where he has similarly been convinced that he was seated by a fire, only to wake and discover that he was only dreaming that he was seated by a fire. How can I know that I am not now dreaming? Is the famous resulting question Descartes asked himself.012914 F&E Descartes

Descartes believes that we cannot trust our senses in waking life. The phenomenon of dreaming is used for the skeptical hypothesis that everything we currently believe to be true could be false and generated by a dream. Since Descartes argument there has been many modern-dreamcatcher1claims replied about it, Hobbes believed that an absence of the absurd in waking life was a key difference in distinguishing waking consciousness from dreaming. A person can tell simply because the absurdity is no longer there during wakefulness. Sosa says that “in dreaming we do not really believe; we only make-believe.” He argues that in dreaming we actually only ever imagine scenarios, which never involve deceptive beliefs, and so we have no reason to feel our ordinary waking life beliefs can be damaged. Descartes relied on an idea of belief that was the same in both dreaming and waking life.

Dreaming is especially interesting and fundamentally similar to waking consciousness because it entails consciousness of a world that we take to be the real one just as we do during waking consciousness. Dreams also reveal the subjective nature of consciousness: the creation of a “world-for-me”.

Are dreams conscious experiences that occur during sleep?

Studies have been completed on people that say that they can be conscious during sleep and are asked to give an eye signal; left right left when they realize they are dreaming. The unconscious may carry out eye moveluciddreamingimage2ments that mislead scientists into believing the sleeping individual is conscious during studies. Once we start to acknowledge the unconscious with being able to exchange with waking memories during sleep and to make these judgments, we either have to change our picture of the unconscious or conclude that these individuals are consciously aware during sleep. I am sceptic towards dreams being consciously experienced during sleep. For, the sceptic could say that lucid dreams are a special case that does not apply to ordinary dreaming. Yes, there is evidence that different parts of the brain are accessed or more strongly activated during lucid dreaming. So there still remains the possibility that lucid dreaming is an example of consciously “waking up within a dream” while ordinary dreams are taken care of entirely by the unconscious. Had Descartes been a lucid dreamer, then when he was sat by the fire, his phrase might have come out as “I am now seated by the fire but I have also been deceived in dreams into believing I have been seated by the fire … though on occasion I have realized that I was just dreaming when apparently seated by the fire and so was not deceived at all!” It surely is a liable fact that people rarely have lucid dreams. I really wanted to also talk about sleep paralysis but that would go on forever so here’s a link if your interested in looking at the topic. http://www.crystalinks.com/sleeparalysis.html

In our lifetime we will spend about a tenth of our conscious lives dreaming, and yet it is one of the most difficult mental states to scientifically investigate. The contrast analysis is put forward as a possible solution to the problem of how to integrate dreams into consciousness studies. Dreaming and sleep in general bring about so many questions and thoughts that hopefully can be answered someday.


One Response to This isn’t real

  1. Samson says:

    There are so many strange ways to look at dreams, especially since they seem to manifest so many different ways. Have you ever had a dream where you’re sleeping and you dream you’re sleeping and in your dream sleep you’re also sleeping, and it goes on forever and ever? I used to have those, it was horrible.

    Or the idea that if you die in a dream you die in real life, which as much as people make up pseudoscience for it and say that the fear and shock of say, falling off a dream building would result in the body seizing and stopping, it doesn’t really happen.

    But there’s also the idea that these waking moments were we are existing are the dream and our sleep is the real world. Which.. Jeez, that would be awful for people who have night terrors and surreal dreams, but for those who use dreams as escapism from the horrors of our “waking world” regardless of if it’s the real one or not – it’d probably be pretty sweet.

    Poor Descartes.


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