If I were now dreaming, this would be a genuine ground for doubting that I am sitting dressed by the fire: in dreams, I have often had the realistic experience of sitting dressed by the fire when I have actually been lying undressed in bed! Therefore, I do not know that I am now sitting dressed by the fire. In the Theaetetus e , Plato has Socrates discuss a defect in perception that is common to dreams and diseases, including insanity, and everything else that is said to cause illusions of sight and hearing and the other senses, concluding that knowledge cannot be defined in terms of perception see Chappell Malcolm 55 It follows that retrospective dream reports are the sole criterion for determining whether a dream occurred and that there is no independent way of verifying the occurrence of dreams in sleep.
According to Malcolm, dream reports and waking memory reports are governed by different grammars and it would be mistaken to infer that an identity of experience lies behind them: If a man had certain thoughts and feelings in a dream it no more follows that he had those thoughts and feelings while asleep, than it follows from his having climbed a mountain in a dream that he climbed a mountain while asleep. Nielsen A more differentiated picture of brain activity during sleep and its relation to dreaming is suggested by neuroimaging studies, which show that REM sleep is characterized by a shift in regional activation patterns compared to both wakefulness and NREM sleep Dang-Vu et al.
Scientists read dreams
In dreams, according to Russell, I have all the experiences that I seem to have; it is only things outside my mind that are not as I believe them to be while I am dreaming. Russell — Elsewhere, he goes so far as to claim that dreams and waking life must be treated with equal respect; it is only by some reality not merely sensible that dreams can be condemned.
Russell 69 Here, we see that historically, epistemological questions about dreaming were closely connected to psychological questions and questions from philosophy of mind about the nature and ontology of dream experience. Revonsuo 84 This claim is central to the virtual reality metaphor of dreaming , according to which consciousness itself is essentially dreamlike in that even in wakefulness, perceptual experience is a kind of online hallucination see also Metzinger , Metzinger ; Revonsuo Appeals to the bodily sources of dreaming became especially popular in the 19 th and early 20 th centuries.
The latter claim, which is a claim about the typical sources of dreaming, was defended by Wundt, who argued that the ideas which arise in dreams come, at least to a great extent, from sensations, especially from those of the general sense, and are therefore mostly illusions of fancy, probably only seldom pure memory ideas which hence become hallucinations.
Wundt There is also an important difference between the claim that external or bodily stimuli are the causally enabling conditions for certain types of dreams to arise and the claim that dream contents can be satisfactorily explained by appealing only to their external or bodily sources. For instance, Revonsuo writes that the contents of both perceptual and bodily awareness are, during REM dreaming, totally dissociated from the corresponding states of the physical body.
Yet, he allows that the pictures are sufficiently perceptlike generally to lead us to believe, until the moment of our awakening, that we actually are seeing real events. As Lewis points out, a person might in fact believe or realize in the course of a dream that he was dreaming, and even if we said that, in such case, he only dreamt that he was dreaming, this still leaves it possible for someone who is asleep to entertain at the time the thought that he is asleep. Lewis And for the same reason one could, of course, entertain the erroneous thought that one is now awake.
Based on his review of the scientific literature, he argues that the dreaming brain brings out the phenomenal level of organization in a clear and distinct form. Revonsuo 75 According to Revonsuo, dreaming not only involves phenomenal consciousness, but also, as he puts it Revonsuo 75—82 the full range of phenomenal contents, including perceptual contents, color experiences, and pain. Clark argues that on such a model, systems that know how to perceive an object as a cat are thus systems that, ipso facto , are able to use a top-down cascade to bring about the kinds of activity pattern that would be characteristic of the presence of a cat.
Moreover, Fletcher and Frith 52 suggest that the dream state arises from disruptions in hierarchical Bayesian processing, such that sensory firing is not constrained by top-down prior information and inferences are accepted without question owing to an attenuation of the prediction-error signal from lower to higher levels. Dreaming and the self The classical problem about the self in dreams concerns the identity between the dream and waking self.
Immorality and moral responsibility in dreams The question of whether dreams are morally significant is importantly related to the epistemological problem of whether I can rule out that I am now dreaming, but also to questions concerning the status of self-experience in dreams and the identity of the dream self.
Conclusions Throughout this entry, it has become clear that there is an intimate connection among the questions asked about dreaming in different areas of philosophy such as epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics. Bibliography Aleman, A. Antrobus, J. Bootzin, J. Kihlstrom, and D. Schacter eds.
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