Presentation on theme: "Markku Roinila Philosophy of Dreams and Sleeping: Renaissance and Early Modern Philosophy views."— Presentation transcript:
Markku Roinila Philosophy of Dreams and Sleeping: Renaissance and Early Modern Philosophy views
Renaissance philosophy of dreams Most Renaissance philosophers followed more or less the Ancient views, especially Aristotle and the medical accounts of sleep. Marsilio Ficino’s neoplatonist philosophy // sleep does not affect the highest spiritual part of the soul – this was a popular view from many of thinkers in the occultist natural philosophy from Paracelcus to Fludd.
Ficino on the higher spheres “If this is so, why should not also the higher minds that are conjunct with our mind always move it? We are not aware of this impulse when our middle part is so much occupied with its own acts that the influence of the mind does not reach it. But when it is empty, what would stop some angelic thinking from entering our rational powers, although we cannot see where it comes from? This is evident in those who, without a teacher, only by the intention of emptied reason or even in a calm state, have often discovered many outstanding things even without looking for them, as though the light of the sun were suddenly and spontaneously diffused through the serene air.” (Ficino, Theologia Platonica XIII.2 According to Ficino, the highest soul can be in contact with higher spheres and be informed by them when lower levels do not interfere; such cases can occur during sleep.
Paracelcus “Thus nothing is idle in nature. All things are at work from hour to hour, from day to day, from night to night. Only human beings rest at night and do not work at Sabbath because of the divine command. But the day of rest has not been ordained for the spirit which must not be idle and rest; it is established only for the rest of the body, as of the beasts of the field and whatever pertains to it. The spirit must always be at work, and neither sleep nor Sabbath can make it still and quiet. The same goes for all creatures. Even though their body rests, their spirit never stands still and continues to work each day.” (Paracelsus, Werke I.13) The idea of spiritual progress in sleep, when the disturbing external effects are excluded, fascinates Paracelsus and other authors who combine mysticism with natural philosophy. This view is unique to Renaissance thinkers and have no predecessors in Ancient or Medieval tradition.
Early Modern Philosophy of Dreams A general theme in Early Modern philosophy (around Descartes to Kant) is appearance vs. reality: can we perceive the world as it is? What is real and what is illusion? This was reflected in the philosophy of dreams, although the continuation to Ancient and Medieval tradition is clear. Early modernists were interested in perception, the knowledge of reality. All agreed that dreams are perceptual. Secularization, trying to find natural causes for dreams instead of relying to divination-explanations Nevertheless, the Early Modern period is perhaps the foremost period in the history of philosophy when dreams were discussed. The discussion was started by René Descartes and the other philosophers continued the discussion.
Central themes in Early Modern Philosophy of Dreams General division between rationalists (we can have knowledge without sense experience) vs. empiricistst (sense experience is necessary in order to gain knowledge). Is there cognitive activity in sleep? This is a continuation from Aristotle. Descartes argued that the soul always thinks, but many empiricists thought this was absurd. How can we know that our perceptual experiences are not dreams and the reality is not mere dream? (dream-scepticism) This problem was raised already by Plato, but made popular again by Descartes in his Meditations. What causes the content of dreams? Most thought that they follow naturally from the physical and mental states of the organism. This means that divination as the Stoics had it disappears from the dream theories. Some Early Moderns (Hobbes, for example) discussed on the effects of external stimuli to the dreams.
Descartes on dreams René Descartes (1596-1650) was the most important and the most controversial philosopher on dreams in the Early Modern philosophy and probably of all time. He continued the Ancient tradition, but combined with the Ancient views the idea of dreams as perceptions and the idea of appareance vs. reality. Descartes established dream scepticism, perhaps the most well-known argument concerning dreams (compare, for example, the film Matrix). There are discussion of dreams in most central philosophical works of Descartes: Discourse on Method, Meditations on the First Philosophy and Principles of Philosophy.
The soul is always thinking One of Descartes’ most controversial claims is that the soul is always thinking, even in sleep. ”The reason why I believe that the soul is always thinking is the same that makes me believe that light is always shining even though there are no eyes looking at it, that heat is always warm even though it heats no one, that the matter or extended substance always has extension, and in general, that what constitutes the nature of a thing always belongs to it as long as it exists. Therefore it would be easier for me to believe that the soul ceases to exist when it is said to cease thinking than to conceive that it exists without thought. And I see no difficulty here, unless it is regarded as superfluous to believe that it thinks in case no memory of it remains in us afterwards. But if we consider that every night we have a thousand thoughts, and even awake a thousand thoughts in an hour, which leave no more trace in our memory and seem no more useful than the thoughts we may have had before our birth, it is easier to be convinced of this than to judge that a substance whose nature is to think can exist without thinking.” (Descartes, Letter to Gibieuf, 19 January 1642, AT III, 479)
Objections Gassendi thought the claim absurd in his objections to Descartes’s Meditations, but D. defended himself as follows: ” ‘You say you want to stop and ask whether I assume the soul always thinks. But why should it not always think, when it is a thinking substance? Is it so strange that we do not remember the thoughts that the soul had in mother’s womb or in deep sleep?” This claim puzzled the followers of Descartes. For example, Arnauld asked if it would not be enough that the soul preserves its ability to think at every moment, but Descartes emphasized that actual thought is necessary (Letter 4 June 1648, AT V, 193). Locke’s ridicule: “Who can find it reasonable, that the Soul should, in its retirement, during sleep, have so many hours thoughts, and yet never light on any of those Ideas it borrowed not from Sensation or Reflection, or at least preserve the memory of none, but such, which being occasioned from the Body, must needs be less natural to a Spirit?...I would be glad also to learn from these Men, who so confidently pronounce, that the humane Soul, or which is all one, that a Man always thinks, how they come to know it; nay, how they come to know, that they themselves think, when they themselves do not perceive it.” (Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding II.1.17 and 18) Locke argues that every drowsy nod shakes this argument; later Kant followed Decsartes’s argument, saying that a sleeper must always dream.
Dream argument This is the old problem from Plato in Theatetus: ”I am awake or am I dreaming?”Is reality only an illusion? Descartes differs from Plato and Aristotle in supposing that dreams are actual perceptions and his followers and enemies followed this idea. In other words, when we are awake we perceive and when we are asleep, we continue perceiving. Because of this, it may be diffult to separate the waking and sleeping state from each other. In short, Descartes’s answer is that the waking life is more consistent than dreaming life.
Dream argument in the 1st Meditation “As if I were not a man who sleeps at night, and who often has all the same experiences in dreams as madmen do when awake, or sometimes even less likely ones. How many times has it happened that I have been convinced, in nightly rest, that I am in this place, dressed in gown, sitting by the fire – when in fact I am lying undressed in bed! Yet at this moment I am certainly looking at this piece of paper with vigilant eyes; this head that I move is not asleep; I stretch out and feel my hand deliberately and knowingly. What happens to someone asleep would not be so distinct. But do I not remember that I have also been deceived in other occasions by similar thoughts while asleep! Thinking about this more carefully, I see so plainly that there are no sure signs by means of which being awake can be distinguished from being asleep, that this astonishes me, and this very embarrassment almost reinforces the thought that I may be asleep.Let us suppose then that we are dreaming, and that these particulars – that we open our eyes, that we are moving our heads and stretching out our hands – are not true. Perhaps, indeed, we do not even have such hands nor such a whole body at all. (Descartes, Meditationes de prima philosophia I, AT VII, 19)
Some dimension of the Dream argument The argument has been very popular. It became one of the central sceptical hypothesis – one can doubt everything, considering it all as a dream. The argument has influenced the idea of virtual reality. The ability of the mind to be tricked into believing a mentally generated world is the "real world" means at least one variety of simulated reality is a common, even nightly event. Those who argue that the world is not simulated must concede that the mind—at least the sleeping mind—is not itself an entirely reliable mechanism for attempting to differentiate reality from illusion. The dream argument has similarities to some views in Eastern philosophies. This type of argument is well known as "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly”. One night, Zhuangzi (369 BC) dreamed that he was a carefree butterfly, flying happily. After he woke up, he wondered how he could determine whether he was Zhuangzi who had just finished dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly who had just started dreaming he was Zhuangzi. This was a metaphor for what he referred to as a "great dream":Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterflyZhuangzi ”He who dreams of drinking wine may weep when morning comes; he who dreams of weeping may in the morning go off to hunt. While he is dreaming he does not know it is a dream, and in his dream he may even try to interpret a dream. Only after he wakes does he know it was a dream. And someday there will be a great awakening when we know that this is all a great dream. Yet the stupid believe they are awake, busily and brightly assuming they understand things, calling this man ruler, that one herdsman ‑ how dense! Confucius and you are both dreaming! And when I say you are dreaming, I am dreaming, too. Words like these will be labeled the Supreme Swindle. Yet, after ten thousand generations, a great sage may appear who will know their meaning, and it will still be as though he appeared with astonishing speed.” Some schools of thought in Buddhism (e.g., Dzogchen), consider perceived reality literally unreal. As a prominent contemporary teacher, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, puts it: "In a real sense, all the visions that we see in our lifetime are like a big dream [...]". In this context, the term 'visions' denotes not only visual perceptions, but appearances perceived through all senses, including sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations, and operations on received mental objects.schools of thought in BuddhismDzogchenrealityChögyal Namkhai Norbu
More dimensions Many philosophically-influenced films or novels are related to the argument. Think Alice in Wonderland, Matrix (see http://matrix.cultzone.com.br/Philos ophy%20Dream%20Skepticism.htm), Inception, Blade Runner etc. http://matrix.cultzone.com.br/Philos ophy%20Dream%20Skepticism.htm Some litterature: Peter J. Markie: ”Dreams and Deceivers in Meditation One”, The Philosophical Review, vol 90, 2 (1981), pp. 185-209.; Robert Hanna: ”Descartes and Dream Scepticism Revisited”, Journal of the History of Philosophy, vol. 30, 3 (1992), pp. 377- 398; Brad Chynoweth: ”Descartes’ Resolution of the Dreaming Doubt”, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (2010), pp. 153-179
Distinction between dreams and waking life in the 6th Meditation ”For I know that in matters regarding the well-being of the body, all my senses report the truth much more frequently than not. Also, I can almost always make use of more than one sense to investigate the same thing; and in addition, I can use both my memory, which connects present experiences with preceding ones, and my intellect, which has by now examined all the causes of error. Accordingly, I should not have any further fears about the falsity of what my senses tell me every day; on the contrary, the exaggerated doubts of the last few days should be dismissed as laughable. This applies especially to the principal reason for doubt, namely my inability to distinguish between being asleep and being awake. For now I notice that there is a vast difference between the two, in that dreams are never linked by memory with all other actions of life as waking experiences are.” (CSM II, 61)
The solution and an example Thus whereas in the 1 st Meditation Descartes admits that dreams are sometimes difficult to distinguish from waking state, in the 6th Meditation he argues that in waking state we can trust that our memory connects things to each other, as we can trust the benevolence of God to such an extent that our perceptions are equivalent to reality. In dreams this is not the case and the things and event in the dreams are not connected to each other, making the dreams strange and bizarre with no apparent relation between cause and an effect and having no apparent connection to my life. This is why our memories of dreams are inconstant and fragmentary. Descartes gives an example: “If, while I am awake, anyone were suddenly to appear to me and then disappear immediately, as happens in sleep, so that I could not see where he had come from or where he had gone to, it would not be reasonable for me to judge that he was a ghost, or a vision created in my brain, rather than a real man. But when I distinctly see where things come from and where and when they come to me, and when I can connect my perceptions of them with the whole of the rest of my life without a break, then I am quite certain that when I encounter these things I am not asleep but awake. And I ought not to have even the slightest doubt of their reality if, after calling upon all the senses as well as my memory and my intellect in order to check them, I receive no conflicting reports from any of these sources.For from the fact that God is not a deceiver it follows that in cases like these I am completely free from error.” (CSM II, 61-62).
Remembering dreams Because the dream images are so scattered, bizarre and there seem not to be cause and effect, our memories of dreams are very fragmentary. We can remember just some vivid images which are often very different from our everyday experience. TÄSTÄ LISÄÄ
Objections by Bourdin and Hobbes According to Bourdin, even seemingly self-evident principles could be mere dreams. Descartes seems to think the kind of self-evident principles he regards essential to waking life are related to innate thoughts, that is, they are related to God. In his objections to Meditations (3rd objections), Hobbes gives interesting arguments against Descartes’s views.
Hobbes on dream argument Hobbes starts with the dream argument, doubting that memory and waking state are connected: ”Consider someone who dreams that he is in doubt as to whether he is dreaming or not. My question is whether such a man could not dream that his dream fits in with his ideas of a long series of past events. If this is possible, then what appears to the dreamer to be actions belonging to his past life could be judged to be true occurences, just as if he were awake. Moreover, as [Descartes] himself asserts, the certainty and truth of all knowledge depends solely on our knowledge of the true God. But in that case an atheist cannot infer that he is awake on the basis of memory of his past life. The alternative is that someone can know he is awake without knowledge of the true God.” (CSM II, 137) Thus one can, by using the coherence-method judge that one is not dreaming when in fact one is dreaming. A more serious objection by Hobbes concerns the validity of Descartes’s sceptical method. First Hobbes argues that if dream fits well with the history of the dreamer, that is, remembered events, one cannot distinguish between dreaming and waking state. Many dreams are not extravagant. What if one does not believe in God? Then God as the great connector of events to other cannot be brought to help and ends up to a situation where one cannot know if one is awake or not or one can know that oneis awake independently of God which would question the whole foundations of Descartes’s metaphysics.
Descartes’s answer Descartes answers to Hobbes that a dreamer can indeed connect the dream to his earlier experiences, but this is an illusion. The dreamer dreams about these connections and when he wakes up, he finds that he has made a mistake. In other words, one find that the dream images are so scattered that he infers having seen a dream. What about the atheist? An atheist can rely on his or her earlier memories and infer that one is awake – he is just no aware of the fact that the continuity and the consistency is actually God’s doing. But God is really the great connector.
Malcolm on Descartes’ argument According to Norman Malcolm, Descartes is in fact saying that if I can’t connect things I see in dreams to the events of my life, I have to conclude that I am dreaming. Against this one could say that it makes no sense to suppose that a person who is fast asleep to make judgements or connecting things. Ergo: Descartes’s solution is not valid. However, Descartes is not saying that the connecting things or judgement takes place in sleep. Instead, in the 6th Meditation he says that the deliberation takes place when we are awake and we recall the dream. When we are awake and we recall the dream, we note that there are gaps and incoherence and therefore one can conclude that it has been a dream. According to Bernard Williams, Descartes says that we can have judgements in dreams, but as a rule they are incorrect. But in waking state we are capable of valid reasoning and explain the sleeping state. But when we are asleep, we cannot do this. Therefore Malcolm’s objection is mistaken.
Leibniz’s admission Leibniz argues in De modo distinguendi phaenomena reali ab imaginariis that the distinction cannot in fact be demonstrated: “It must indeed be admitted that the criteria of real phenomena thus far offered are not demonstrative, even taken together, although they have the greatest probability, or popularly speaking, they provide moral certainty, but do not establish metaphysical certainty so that the contrary claim would imply a contradiction. Thus it cannot be absolutely demonstrated by any argument that bodies exist, and nothing prevents certain well-ordered dreams from being the objects of our mind, which we judge to be true and which, as regards practical matters, are equivalent to truth because of their accord with each other.” (A VI, 4, p. 1502) Thus there cannot be a demonstration of the distinction, but Leibniz does not see it as a serious problem.
Thomas Hobbes on Dreams Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was a British philosopher, most famous for his political theory (Leviathan, 1651). He was also perhaps the most profilic theorist of dreams in England. Besides writings the objections to Descartes, he developed his own views on dreams in The Elements of Law Natural and Politic (1640), especially in the first part (Human Nature).
Dreams as imagination Hobbes followed Aristotle in thinking that in sleep the dreams are products of imagination. In Hobbes they are a special type of imagination: “The imaginations of them that sleep, are those we call Dreams. And these also (as all other Imaginations) have been before, either totally, or by parcells in the Sense. And because in sense, the Brain, the Nerves, which are the necessary Organs of sense, are so benummed in sleep, as not easily to be moved by the action of Externall Objects, there can happen in sleep, no Imagination; and therefore no Dreame, but what proceeds from the agitation of the inward parts of mans body; which inward parts, for the connexion they have with the Brayn, and other Organs, when they be distempered, do keep the same in motion; whereby the Imaginations there formerly made, appeare as if a man were waking.” (Hobbes, Leviathan I.2) Thus Hobbes does not give dreaming a metaphysical role – sleeping is the lack of sense perception. Like Aristotle, he is arguing that the images in sleep are clear and vivid because the sense organs which cause confusion are shut down in sleep: “…the organs of sense being now benummed, so there is no new object, which can master and obscure them with a more vigorous impression, a Dreame must needs be more clear, in this silence of sense, than are our waking thoughts.” (Hobbes, Leviathan I.2) Whereas Descartes saw dreams as scattered, weak and illogical images, Hobbes considers the dream images as clear and powerful. We do not wonder strange images in dreams without a relevant cause because wonder requies comparision with past events whereas in dreams everything is as it were present at the same time. Hobbes also says that in dreams we always think that we are awake.
Physical causes of dreams Although Hobbes sees dreams as products of special kind of imagination, there is a physical cause behind it. Imaginations take place when the internal organs press the brains: “The causes of dreams (if they be natural) are the actions or violence of the inward parts of a man upon his brain, by which the passages of sense, by sleep benumbed, are restored to their motion.” (Human Nature, III, 3). Again like Aristotle, Hobbes saw dreams often related to illnesses and distempers in the body. Different distempers produce different kinds of dreams. “The signs by which this appareth to be so, are the differences of dreams proceeding from the different accidents of man’s body. Old men being commonly less healthful and less free from inward pains, are thereby more subject to the dreams, especially such dreams as be painful: as dreams of lust, or dreams of anger, according as the heart, or the other parts within, work more or less upon the brain, by more or less heat.” (Human Nature, III, 3). According to Hobbes, the bizarreness of dreams is not related to memory as in Descartes. According to Hobbes, there is no consistency in dreams and if there is, it is a co-incidence. The reason for the bizarreness is the fact when the internal organs press the brains, the parts of the brain do not return to motion at the same time during sleep. Thus there are powerful images, but are not usually consistent.
The somatic theory of Hobbes According to Hobbes, somatic impulses often affect the content of our dreams. Not only the illnesses, but also external conditions may affect the dreams. In Leviathan he says: ”...And seeing dreames are caused by the distemper of some of the inward parts of the Body; divers distempers must needs cause different Dreams. And hence it is, that lying cold breedeth Dreams of Feare, and raiseth the thought and Image of some fearfull object (the motion from the brain to the inner parts, and from the inner parts to the Brain being reciprocall:) And that as Anger causeth heat in some parts of the Body, when we are awake; so when we sleep, the over heating of the same parts causeth Anger, and raiseth up in the brain the Imagination of an Enemy.... In summe, our Dreams are the reverse of our waking Imaginations; The motion when we are awake, beginning at one end; and when we Dream, at another.” (Hobbes, Leviathan I.2) This somatic theory was influential for a long time, but the modern psychology has shown that it is incorrect. These conditions can affect our sleeping, but not the content of dreams.
Decaying sense As in Aristotle, Hobbes argues that imagination is an image or decaying perception which gradually changes more and more confused. Like in imagination, our memory decays with time, like when we are in a foreign city and our memories of it turn more and more confused when time passes. For this reason there is no criterion that will tell us whether we are dreaming or not. One can dream of doubting is this a dream or not [> lucid dreaming], but it is certain that images are much more detailed and clearer in dreams than in waking life.
Apparitions According to Hobbes, men often describe their past dreams as apparitions if the dream concerned ordinary things. Hobbes seems to think that we can remember dreams better than waking life images – the dream-images are experiences that are powered-up by the ceasing of other senses. In Leviathan Hobbes has a long discussion on apparations [lucid dreaming] and visions. He says that sometimes, for example, when we are full of fearful thoughts, we do not observe that we have slept. We sleep clothed, nod off in public. Often in these cases there are apparations or visions. For example, Brutus tells about Philippi who in the night before a great battle saw a fearful apparation which is often thought to be a vision (happening while awake), but Hobbes thinks it was a short dream caused by the anxiety of the battle. Philippi thought he saw a vision. God can make unnatural apparitions, but this is so common that there is nothing to be feared for in these. Hobbes uses the distinction between apparition and vision to critisize past primitive religions who believed in fairies, ghosts etc. He thinks withches are invented to glorify the crosses, holy water etc. of the holy men. Utilizing superstition, some use apparations to mislead common men. In other words, he rejects the Stoic divination-tradition. ”If this superstitious fear of spirits were taken away, and with it, prognostiques from dreams, false prophecies, and many other things depending thereon, by which, crafty ambitious persons abuse the simple people, men would be much more fitted than they are for civill obedience.” (Leviathan, II, 7)
Pascal on dreams In Penseés (1658-62) Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) argues that if we saw similar dreams each night, we would get used to them: ”If we were to dream every night the same thing, it would probably have as much effect upon us as the objects which we see daily…but because our dreams are all different, what we see in them affects us much less than what we see when we are awake, on account of its continuity…”
Malebranche on remembering dreams Malebranche has a more positive attitude to remembering dreams than Descartes and he is especially concerned by sinful visions: ”It is fairly common for certain people to have dreams at night vivid enough to be exactly recalled when they awake, even though the subject of their dream is not in itself very terrible. And so it is not difficult for people to persuade themselves that they have been to the witches’ sabbath, for it is sufficient for this that their brain preserve the traces caused there during their sleep” (Malebranche, The Search After Truth, II, 3, 6) However, his basic view is similar to Descartes: ”The chief cause that prevents us from taking our dreams for reality is that we cannot connect our dreams with the things we have done while awake, for this is how we recognize that they are only dreams. Now imaginary witches cannot recognize by this means that their witches sabbath is a dream, for they go to the witches sabbath only during the night, and what happens at the sabbath cannot be connected to other actions during the daytime. Hence, it is morally impossible to disabuse them in this way…” (Malebranche, The Search After Truth, II, 3, 6)
Spinoza on dreams Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) had a necessitarian metaphysical system where the mind and the body are attributes of God or nature. As in many other respects, he followed Hobbes’s views on dreams. However, he argues that when we are dreaming, we are more adventurous and do things which we would not do when we are awake (especially sleepwalkers). Despite necessitarianism, the decisions made in dreams seem to be free to the dreamer although they are actually not free.
Spinoza on dreams and body Spinoza seems to follow the somatic theory of Hobbes. For example, as we remember, he explained the cause of seeing in dreams a black brazilian as a consequence of a delirium or sickeness of a body. According to Spinoza, when we are asleep, the body does not register or react to our decisions (for example, decision to go to the lecture). A problem follows: if memory is connecting those ideas that are outside of the body or affects of the body (Ethics II, p18, scholium), it would seem that there cannot be memories about dreams as without the body we cannot remember anything (E5p21). Yet in his letter Spinoza argues seeing a dream. Perhaps the problem can be helped by arguing that we can remember some vivid images but not decisions (on the other hand, Spinoza says that there is no thinking in dreams, either).
Dreaming & Thinking Contra Descartes, Spinoza does not allow thinking while sleeping. But in the Ethics III, p2, note he says: ”Does not experience…teach that if…the body is inactive, the mind is at the same time incapable of thinking? For when the body is at rest in sleep, the mind at the same time remains senseless with it, nor does it have the power of thinking, as it does when awake.” In E IIp49 he discusses dreaming in more detail. He says that we should conceive a child imagining a winged horse and not perceiving anything else (that is, dreaming). This would mean that the child regards the horse as present although he cannot be sure that it exists. Spinoza says that we find this kind of situation daily in our dreams: ”We find this daily in our dreams, and I do not believe there is anyone who thinks that while he is dreaming he has a free power of suspending judgment concerning the things he dreams, and of bringing it about that he does not dream the things he dreams he sees. Nevertheless, it happens that even in dreams we suspend judgement, viz. when we dream that we dream.” What is he saying here? Apparently dreams and imaginations in general just come to us, we cannot help seeing them. A winged horse is a vivid image (although it does not exist) and we cannot question it. The child lacks the knowledge that would tell him or her that this image could not possibly exist. As an exception, he mentions lucid dreaming (dreaming that we dream).
Leibniz’s fragment on dreams Leibniz (1646-1716) had a large project in his early years called Demonstrationes catholicae, including a short fragment on dreams (it is to appear in Finnish with an introduction in Niin & Näin 4/2013) In the fragment (1668?) he seems largely to agree with Descartes, but also presents his own views on dreams. The fragment is published in Leibniz, Philosophical Papers and Letters (ed. Loemker), pp. 113- 115.
Leibniz on lucid dreaming Leibniz has a comment on lucid dreaming: ”…now and then the dreamer himself observes that he is dreaming, yet the dream continues. Here he must be thought of as if he were awake for a brief interval of time, and then, once more oppressed by sleep, returned to his previous state.” Related to this is the phenomenon of trying to wake oneself up: ”Some men can wake themselves up, and it is a familiar experience of mine that, when some pleasing vision presents itself, I notice that I am dreaming and try my eyes and pull them open with my fingers to admit the light.” // here Leibniz is probably referring to the Augustinian problem – the pleasing vision is related to sense pleasure which is related to sin.
Other sinful problems of sleep Related to the same Augustinian question is the phenomenon of falling out of bed which, according to Leibniz, are popularly ascribed to lapses into sin. ”Sometimes when this has happened to me, I can scarcely persuade myself to fall asleep all night. For in the first moment of falling asleep, I suddenly recollect myself, and sensing this fact, leap up.” Leibniz also comments the so-called wet dreams: ”Nor ought we to overlook the spontaneous ejection of semen without any contact in sleep; in wakers it is expelled only when they are strongly agitated, but in sleep [animal] spirits are moved internally by a strong imagination alone and without any rubbing of members. I have also heard this confirmed by a physician.”
Cartesian argument According to Leibniz, when we are awake all our actions and thoughts are directed at least impilicitly to the ultimate goal, that is, perfection, but when we are dreaming ”there is no relation to the whole of things”. Waking up is to remember oneself, that is, to connect the present state to our other events in life. In this sense Leibniz differs from Descartes: not only memory, but also self-consciousness is required to be awake. For a general criterion between sleeping and being awake Leibniz presents that we can be certain of our waking state only when we remember how we have arrived to our present state and see how the things that appear to us are connected to each other. In dreams we cannot see these connections and the causes of our present state and we are not surprised by the lack of them. To Bayle Leibniz wrote: “God could have given each substance its own phenomena, independent of all others; but in so doing he would have made as many unconnected worlds, so to speak, as there are substances – rather as we say that when dreaming one is in a world of one’s own, and one enters the common world on awakening.”
Comment on Hobbes Leibniz also comments the remark by Hobbes where he says that in dreams everything seems to appear without our finding them not at all strange or bizarre. Objection: ”But, you say, surely we often experience judgment or reflection in dreams, or at least a knowledge of the past which involves judgment, for we both deliberate and remember.” Leibniz: This is because making judgements requires memory and if we do judgements in our sleep, it is founded on our previous experiences although we are not always aware of it. ”For entire conversations occur to us which are certainly not without judgements about them, but because judgements already made recur with the experiences themselves.” Therefore in dreams our judgements are founded only to impressions received therein ja all the memory-images are blocked out. Because of this we accept everything as normal – we cannot compare the dream images to waking images.
Content of dreams Leibniz is especially interested in the bizarre content of dreams. ”There is one very remarkable thing in dreams, for which I believe no one can give a reason. It is the formation of visions by a spontaneous organization carried out in a moment – a formation more elegant than any which we can attain by much thought when we are awake.” In dreams our imagination is more free than in waking state: ”To the sleeper there often occurs visions of great buildings which he has never seen, while it would be difficult for me, while awake, to form an idea of even the smallest house different from those I have seen, without a great amount of thought.”
Inspired by dreams Leibniz brings out the creative effect of dreams – which we often do not remember: ”I wish I could remember what marvellous discourses, what books and letters, what poems beautiful beyond all doubt, but never previously read, I have read in dreams without my shaping them at all, just as if they had just been composed and offered to my sight.” These seem to arise without effort whereas when one is awake, a lot of work is needed to produce them. Even such monstroties as flying man are more difficult to picture when one is awake: ”They are sought by the waker, they offer themselves to the sleeper”. Leibniz speculates that there must be some architectural or harmonious principle in the mind which, when freed from separating ideas by judgement, turns to compounding them. Finally, Leibniz says: ”A reason must be given why we do not remember waking expriences in dream but do remember the dream when awake.” On this, Locke disagreed, as we will see next.
Leibniz’s letter to Sophie Charlotte 1702 Leibniz gives a special case concerning dreams. He argues that if in a dream one finds a demonstrative truth (for example the Pythagorean theorem where in a right triangle the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides), it would be equally certain than if we were awake. According to Leibniz, this shows that a distinct truth is independent of the sensible and material things outside of us. Although the dream images are, as a rule, fragmentary, some distinct truth can hit us in dreams and because it is so vivid, we can remember it once we wake up.
John Locke on Dreams John Locke (1632-1704) was the founder of British empiricism. He argued that our mind is like an empty drawing-table (tabula rasa) when we are born, so we learn everything about the world through experience. For Locke, dreaming is illogical: images following each other as in Hobbes or Descartes. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding II, I, §16-17 he sees dreams perceptions as incoherent series of images. However, contra Descartes, we do not think when we are sleeping and therefore we cannot be happy or in misery during sleep as this would require consciousness. “Thus, methinks, every drowsy nod shakes their doctrine, who teach that the soul is always thinking” (E II, I, §13).
Dreaming and thinking Locke discusses a case when we the soul thinks during the sleep, but we just do not remember it. But he is very sceptical of this: ”For who can without any more ado, but being barely told so, imagine, that the greatest part of men, do, during all their lives, for several hours every day, think of something, which if they were asked, even in the middle of these thoughts, they could remember nothing of it?”(E II, 1, §14) Locke argues that most men pass a great part of their sleep without dreaming. He presents a different criterion than Descartes dream-argument: in the waking-state we use the materials of the body when we think and our thinking leaves memory traces in the brain, but in the sleeping state we do not use the bodily organs and therefore there is left no memory traces in the brain and consequently we cannot remember the thoughts in the dreams > there is probably do thinking in the sleeping state Instead, we can remember some of the perceptions of the dreams. Joining party with Descartes, he says: ”How extravagant and incoherent for the most part they are; how little conformable to the perfection and order of a rational being, those who are acquinted with dreams, need not be told.” (E II, 1, §16). As on example of this he mentions duration: we very seldom have any ideas of duration in dreams.
Dreams as waking man’s ideas Because the soul does not think during sleep, dreams are really fragments of our waking life: ”The dreams of sleeping men, are, as I take it, all made up of the waking man’s ideas, though for the most part, oddly put together.” (E II, 1, §17) The idea looks to be the following: in the waking state we think and employ the organs of the body in this thinking. They leave memory traces to our brain. When we are sleep, these traces are mixed together and produce the dreams but as they are only traces, not the original thoughts, the dreams can be strange.
Dreaming as having ideas In the end, Locke’s theory of dreams is not too far from Hobbes: ”Dreaming itself, is the having of ideas (whilst the outward senses are stopp’d, so that they receive not outward objects with their usual quickness) in the mind, not suggested by any external objects, or known occasion; nor under any choice or conduct of the understanding at all. And whether that, which we call Extasy, be not dreaming with the Eyes open, I leave to be examined.” (Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding II, 19, §1 As there is no thinking in the sleeping state, the dreams are ”leftovers” from the waking state which are more vivid in the sleeping state as bodily sensory organs are closed. Locke is not continuing Aristotle’s view of dreams as product of imagination as Hobbes did, but rather dreams are memory traces or memory fragments mixed together. Locke also agrees with Hobbes that external things can affect our dreams: if we hear a bell sound off, it can become part of the dream, likewise our movement during the sleep (although there is no memory trace of these, so they are exceptions although not a result of thinking while sleeping). This can happen also in another direction: when we dream having a fight, we can ”feel” a punch although there is not one in the first place and according to Locke, we cannot feel pleasure or pain in the dreams.
No criterion Although Locke in certain aspects agrees with Descartes, he does not admit that there is a general criterion to distinguish dreams from the waking state. He seems to think that the ideas or memory traces we have in dreams can be of various strength and for this reason, more or less vivid. Because of this, he cannot agree with Hobbes that the waking experience is in principle similar with the sleep experience. Supposing this would only make us suspicious towards our own senses. Locke’s view of dreams as a sort of puzzle of material from the waking state has a striking similarity to some contemporary brain-research-orientated psychology. Robert Stickgold who is part of Allan J. Hobson’s team has showed through his experiments that during the REM-phase of the sleep the brains are activated and dreams consist of memory fragments. In other words the memory in a way reorganizes itself during the sleep. This has interesting relations to learning: we can learn in dreams without being conscious of it – thus Stickgold would hold against Locke (and agree with Descartes) that we in fact ”think” in dreams. Sofar, there is no certain knowledge of this, but it is probable that there will be in few years. So someone should tell Hobson and Stickgold about Locke’s views!
George Berkeley on Dreams Bishop Goerge Berkeley’s (1685-1753) views on dreams have to be looked in the framework of the Descartes- Hobbes-discussion. Like Malebranche, he largely agreed with Descartes. In his Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous (1713) Berkeley argued that images produced by imagination are weak and confused and are wholly dependent on the will. The ideas which are perceived by the senses are much more vivid and clear, because they are brought to us by a separate entity from us (God) and they are not dependent on our will. In some sense, for Berkeley, life is a dream as he supports a view, according to which only that exist that we perceive (esse est percipi). Compare, for example, the difference between dreaming that one is looking at the sun and really looking at the sun. Therefore it is easy to distinguish the waking images from dreams which are incoherent and strange. Berkeley does not comment on remembering dreams. Thus the real thing is always better than the dream- version of the same thing.
Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous Hylas. But according to your notions, what difference is there between real things, and chimeras formed by the imagination, or the visions of a dream, since they are all equally in the mind? Philonous. The ideas formed by the imagination are faint and indistinct; they have besides an entire dependence on the will. But the ideas perceived by sense, that is, real things, are more vivid and clear, and being imprinted on the mind by a spirit distinct from us, have not a like dependence on our will. There is therefore no danger of confounding these with the foregoing: and there is as little of confounding them with the visions of a dream, which are dim, irregular, and confused.
Hume on dreams David Hume (1711-1776), a famous sceptic and Scottish Enlightenment thinker had some interesting remarks on dreams. In Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779) he says that popular religion is « sick man’s dream » In an essay «Of Suicide » he continues this theme: a superstitious man is miserable in every scene, in every incident of life. This concerns even sleep itself, which banishes all other cares of unhappy mortals, affords to him matter of new terror; while he examines his dreams, and ﬁ nds in those visions of the night, prognostications of future calamities. Thus for “normal” people dreams are helpful in restoring their strength, but for superstitious they are terrible, predicting future horrors. In an Essay ”Of the immortality of the soul” he says that sleep which is a very small effect on the body, is attended with a temporary extinction, that is, a great confusion in the soul. By this he probably means epistemic confusion.
Early Modern natural explanations of dreams All early modern thinkers seem to agree that dreams really occur in sleep; thus they are not errors of memory, as some recent philosophers suggest. The problem is what brings about such events. The traditional received view claims that there are exceptional dreams of supernatural origin, but that most dreams are naturally caused: they either have simple organic or physiological causes, or they result from recent mental states. In this they follow Aristotle. There are some exceptions, however. Supported by biblical evidence, there persisted a more or less occultist faith in the possible supernatural information of dreams. For example, the Rosicrucian Andreae wrote: “Finally, I took my usual and surest way of escape, and went to bed, after true and eager prayer that divine providence would let my good angel to appear, and instruct me in this troublesome case, as had many times happened before, and this, praise God, also took place to my best and to the true and hearty warning and improvement of my neighbours.” (Andreae, Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz)
Bodily causes of dreams The Galenic tradition doctrine of four humours was still influentical and in general Early Modern Thinkers were interested in physiological causes (such as diets and bodily humours) and dreams. Books of dream interpretation were popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and ancient works of Galen, Artemidorus and Synesius were consulted for that purpose. One good example of this tradition is Thomas Nashe’s The Terrors of the Night (1594): “A dreame is nothing els but a bubbling scum or froath of the fancie, which the day hath left undigested, or an after-feast made of the fragments of idle imaginations.”
Dreams and mysticism As we saw, in his tale of his dreams Descartes includes some mystical elements, not far from Rosicrucians. Very often, religious mystical writers affected the Early Modern conception of dreams (this continued in the era of Romanticism) – dreams were seen as ecstatic visions where truths are disconcealed. Sleepwalking had a special role. It was thought that the soul leaves the sleeping body and travels about, often in the form of an animal, fighting the evil spirits. This views was held, for example, by Henry More in his Antidote Against Atheisme.