It concerns the effectiveness of any self-applied test presupposing that one did not merely dream that it was carried out (Honderich, 1995: 206). The question is whether one knows that one is dreaming…
e worry that this world might too be a dream was famously expressed by the French philosopher Rene Descartes in the seventeenth century in his Meditations. In fact, he specifically sought to doubt whatever could be doubted in order to lay the foundations for true knowledge through reasoning. After pointing out what happens during sleep, he makes his ‘dreaming argument’ when he writes, “In dwelling carefully on this reflection, I see so manifestly that there are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep that I am lost in astonishment. And my astonishment is such that it is almost capable of persuading me that I now dream” (Descartes, 2009: 12). Put simply, the reasoning of his argument is that perceptions during both states are similar, and given that there are no ways to distinguish between them, therefore this raises the possibility that even during ‘waking’ one may be dreaming such that the perceptions during ‘waking’ may turn out to be ‘false’ as in dreams. An outline of this argument is presented below.
Thus, Descartes doubts both; being presently awake and being ever awake. He refers to the particulars (i.e. what we do) during sleep as false delusions, and the things represented to us in dreams, as “painted representations which can only have been formed as the counterparts of something real and true …” (ibid). Incidentally, this shows that the non-dream world does have a greater originality than the dream world because what is painted in dreams is not created ex nihilo, but he continues to suggest that all the thoughts he has “are no more true than the phantasies” of his dreams (ibid: 49).
Furthermore, Descartes’ obsessively skeptical approach is rather dubious because in places, it does not make sense, and some of his ideas like the demon are hypothetical. Moreover, it is ironic that after much doubting and casting aside the trustworthiness of the senses, he never once doubts his own ...
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