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.
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)