Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Papers Blog and Dreams as Imagination

The Papers Blog is up, featuring, among other things, a paper by me! It's my term paper for Ernie Sosa's epistemology seminar, very slightly revised from the version I submitted. I'm very interested in the topic, and plan to do more work in the area, so comments are extremely welcome. Fire and the Cogito: Dreams and Imaginings (pdf)
Descartes assumes that dreaming is like hallucinating – that when we dream, we have sensations (such as the visual sensations of redness and the tactile sensation of heat from a fire) and form beliefs (such as the belief that there is a fire before me). Call this view of dreaming the orthodox model. I reject the orthodox model of dreaming and argue in favor of an imagination model of dreaming, according to which dreams are less like hallucinations and more like fictions. I believe that dreams are continuous with other kinds of imaginings like daydreams. In particular, I will argue that when I dream that there is a fire before me, I do not thereby believe that there is a fire before me, nor do I experience the sensations as if there is a fire before me. A consequence of the imagination model is that Descartes is wrong about the way in which the dream scenario leads to skepticism – it is not the case that my beliefs and sensations could be explained by my dreaming. Nevertheless, the imagination model will not assist in a Cartesian project to overcome skepticism – rather, I suggest that a proper understanding of dreams will demonstrate a deeper possible source of error that threatens not only my knowledge of the fire, but even knowledge of the cogito.
I wrote a fair amount on this topic while preparing the paper at Fake Barn Country, and a substantial amount made it into the paper -- check out here, here, and here if you want to see what's been said, both by me and by commentors.

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