Presentation on theme: "Markku Roinila Philosophy of Dreams and Sleeping: Contemporary philosophy."— Presentation transcript:
Markku Roinila Philosophy of Dreams and Sleeping: Contemporary philosophy
Some guidelines As is the case with all philosophy, difference between analytical and phenomenological philosophy is clear. The development of brain research and experimental psychology started to provide challenges to philosophy of dreams and latest philosophy of dreams is trying to find philosophical ways to discuss the results of brain-research-orientated modern psychology. The most important event in the philosophy of dreaming was Norman Malcolm’s Dreaming (1959) which rejected traditional views. It was in many ways counter-intuitive and received a lot of criticism. In addition to discussing the essence of dreams, the topic of morality in dreams and creativity in dreams have gained some attention.
Dream-argument: early 20th century views The central problem in 20th century philosophy of dreams is related to Descartes’s dream-argument. Some early 20th century reactions: Henri Bergson ( )holds that contrary to waking life, dreams are a peculiar union of memories and sensations, combined with the dreamer’s lack of will. Jean-Paul Sartre ( ) argues that Descartes incorrectly suggests that dreams occur as an apprehension of reality. For Sartre, the dream is more like the composing of a story: ”The dreams is not fiction taken for reality, it is the odyssey of a consciousness dedicated by itself, and in spite of itself, to build only an unreal world” F. H. Bradley ( ) is questioning whether the ”real” world is real. We assume that the waking world is real because it is more rational and the wider and more comprehensive of possible worlds and he accepts this assumption for practical purposes. But philosophically we have no good reason to deny that there are other, more real worlds that we might enter when dreaming. Bertrand Russell ( ) believes we have experiences in dreams, but that the sense datea of these experiences are privata, having no objetive correlate, as opposed to the public data of experiences in waking life. It was common among analytic philosophers to think that it is useless to study dreams as they cannot be verified by objective means (private sense-data), that is, dreams are not experiences which can be shared. The phenomenologists, on the other hand, tried to describe dreams as what they are, peculiar sort of expriences.
Norman Malcolm on dreams Norman Malcolm ( ) is the most influentical (and controversial) analytic philosopher of dreams in 20th century. Malcolm was a student of Wittgenstein and he is clearly influenced by Wittgenstein’s later philosophy – his approach is to study how language is used to describe events. In the book Dreaming (1959) Malcolm opposes the Cartesian dream argument. Malcolm’s view was the paradigm view of the analytic philosophy until 1970’s, but then he started to receive a lot of criticism – a whole collection of articles called Philosophical Essays on Dreaming, edited by Charles E. M. Dunlop (1977) was published to critisize Malcolm. Starting from Malcolm, there is a decline in the interest to dreams – the reason for this is partly the development of modern psychology and partly because Malcolm’s devastative take on traditional problems of philosophy of dreaming.
Malcolm’s criticism of the dream argument in a nutshell Malcolm’s starting-point is the dream- argument by Descartes. He thinks Descarte’s argument, according to which one has deceptive experiences while asleep, is senseless. Following Russell, Malcolm argues that dreams cannot be experiences, deceptive or otherwise, because experiences require awareness, that is, conscious experiences. Furthermore, conscious experiences require language (the capacity to declare ”I am having this experience”), and the use of language also shows that the speaker is awake and therefore not dreaming. Thus there can be only waking experiences. Ergo: because dreams are not experiences which can be shared, there is nothing interesting in them and they are not worth studying.
Malcolm’s challenge to traditional view Malcolm’s most important influence in his criticism is Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (1953) where he says ”…must I make some assumption about whether people [when telling their dreams] are deceived by their memories or not; whether they really had these images while they slept, or whether it merely seems so to them on waking? And what meaning has this question? – And what interest? Do we ever ask ourselves this when someone is telling us his dreams? And if not – is it because we are sure his memory won’t have deceived him? (And suppose it were a man with a quite specially bad memory?)” Malcolm’s article ’Dreaming and scepticism’ (Philosophical Review 65 (January):14-37 (1956))was the starting-point of the book Dreaming where he continues to elaborate the argument in short chapters. I will go through the basic arguments by following the presentation of Ben Spriggett (http://www.iep.utm.edu/dreaming/#SH3b) and some other sources. Spriggett divides Malcolm’s criticism into three arguments: 1) dream reports are unveriable 2) sleep and dreaming have conflicting definitions 3) communication and judgements cannot occur during sleep
One cannot verify dream reports We cannot trust dream reports – they are insufficient to show that there is conscious dreaming taking place during sleep. The dream reports are not the same as the dreams themselves, but there is no other way to check the claim (of Descartes) that dreams are consciously experienced during sleep. The most important criterion to tell us that we have been dreaming is that one awakes with an impression of having dreamt (memory of dreaming) and then tells about the dream. However, there is no way to verify that the memory actually corresponds with the conscious experience of seeing the dream. We can only believe what the dream reports tell us.Therefore dreams are only grammatical illusions – they do not really exist. The only way to verify the dream reports would be observe behavior during the sleep, but that is insufficient to show that one is having a conscious experience in the sleeping state. In fact, it would not suffice to show that there is any mental activity in the sleeping state. In sum, one cannot claim ”I dreamed that I was flying” because that would mean that I had a conscious experience in the dream that I was flying (I believed in the dream that I was flying). So we really cannot know if we are dreaming during the sleep at all. Also, we cannot know how long the dream would take > dreaming does not take place in space and time. According to Malcolm, Descartes’s view is founded on the idea that when we remember dreams we recall the same content of the earlier experience: ” Descartes thinks not only that a man might have thoughts and make judgements while sleeping, but also that if those thoughts are clear and distinct they aretrue, regardless of thefact that he is sleeping.” (Here he was wrong – Descartes is saying that our memories of the dreams is fragmentary – he is not saying that we can recall the dream exactly; he is also not saying that we can have conscious dreams; that is, make judgements – in that case the dreams would be coherent).
Sleep vs. dreaming The Cartesian claim that dreams could consciously occur during sleep is incoherent or even contradictory. Sleep is defined as lacking experiences; dreams are said to involve conscious experience. This contradiction is seen when verifying the dream reports: if one can show that one is having a conscious experience, one is not sleeping. Objection: there is a storm and the dreamer reports hearing thunder. Malcolm: one was not fully asleep if one was able to perceive the environment. So Malcolm is referring to being sound asleep by his concept ’sleeping’ where we do note what happens around us.
Making judgements during sleep For Malcolm, communication is required for verifying that the mental state has been exprienced. This argument is related to two others – if we are making a judgement in sleep that I am now flying (I believe that I am now flying) and communicate it to others, I can show that I am having a conscious experience. But I cannot say ”I am asleep” without the statement being false. If one talks in sleep and says I am asleep, this is a co-incidence, not an assertion. If the person was actually sleeping, then he would not be aware of saying the assertion. And if he was aware of saying the assertion, he would not be sleeping. Thus Malcolm concludes that communication between a sleeping individual and individuals who are awake is logically impossible. Therefore Any talk about mental states that could occur during sleep is meaningless. Behind this view is Wittgenstein private language-argument – there cannot be a mental state which only one individual could privately experience and understand. And since men cannot communicate during sleep, they cannot make judgements in sleep. One cannot judge that I am now sleeping. (compare lucid dreaming – for Malcolm that would not be proper, sound sleeping). In a way, Malcolm is continuing Locke’s argument: there cannot be thinking in dreams like Descartes says.
Criticism of empiricist dream science Malcolm discusses a study by Dement and Kleitman where they try to show that people woken from a REM-dream could remember accurately the duration of the dream. He thinks dream science has a wrong starting-point: ”The interest in a physiological criterion of dreaming is due, I believe, to an error that philosophers, psychologists and everyone who reflects on the nature of dreaming that a dream must have a definite location and duration in physical time.” (p. 75) Even if dream is an event, it does not have to be in time and place in the physical sense. The times and places in dreams are very obscure and they are superadded to to events when people wake up (”just before”, ”right after”) Sometimes there seems to be a time-structure, but this can be explained by somatic reasons – for example, blanket is taken away would introduce ”then it became very cold”.
A few quotes from Dreaming p. 7 ”It would not occur to anyone to conclude that a man is sleeping from his saying ’I am asleep’ any more than to conclude that he is unconscious from his saying ’I am unconscious’, or to conclude that he is dead from his saying ’I am dead’. He can say the words but he cannot assert that he is asleep, unconscious or dead. If a man could assert that he is asleep, his assertion would involve a kind of self-contradiction, since from the fact that he made the assertion it would follow that it was false.” p. 37 ”No physiological phenomena will be of any use as evidence that a man made a judgement while asleep. If it were established, for example, that whenever a person makes a judgement the electrical output of a certain region of his brain rises or falls in some characteristic way, the occurence of this electric phenomenon in a sleeping person would not provide any probability that the sleeper was making a judgement.” (> compare Hobson – the content of dreams is irrelevant). p ”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.”
Problems for Malcolm To sum up, Malcolm thinks that what we do when awake and when we are sound asleep are two different things and they cannot be compared. In sleep we do not have the same experiences, images, impression, thinking etc. as when awake. Dreaming was thought to be a major work, but it created a lot of opposition. If its doctrines were taken for real, philosophers should forget dreams altogether. But they are a major part of our lives – why should we not think about them?
What are experiences? For many who claim to have experiences in dreams, Malcolm’s claims were simply counterintutive. This is in fact included in the dream reports where we run, chase, are having romantic encounters etc. Are these not experiences? In dream reports there can also be conversations and their content is remembered. In addition, there are strong images related to these dream-images. Thus one main counter-arguments is that even if I am not able to communicate the dreams to another person, that does not mean that I am not having them. There are even scientific evidence on behalf of this view (EEG-graphs).
More problems Dream reports have also their problems. As we discussed in the beginning of the lecture series, some are better at describing their experiences than others. Dunlop also objects that if there are no states of consciousness in dreams, the dream reports are not descriptions of experiences at all (as Malcolm seems to think they are). When we tell about the dreams, they usually seem to concern experiences where we have been conscious (dialogue, for example). Malcolm would reply perhaps that he is trying to say what dreams are not instead of saying what they are. Malcolm would say that the question ”What is dreaming?” is simply unintelligible. > Malcolm’s Wittgensteinian background. We can, of course, follow Malcolm’s advice and just quit: ”If we cease to ask why it is that sometimes when people wake up they relate stories in the past tense under the influence of an impression, then we will see dream-telling as it is – a remarkable human phenomenon, a part of the natural history of man, something given, the foundation for the concept of dreaming.” (Dreaming, p. 87) So dreams are like stories to be told (compare Sartre). Another kind of objection is that one should not relate dreams with epistemology since discussion about dreams is appropriate in the context of philosophy of mind (mental events, mental function, mental content).
Putnam on the Conceptual Analysis of Dreaming Hilary Putnam: “Dreaming and ‘Depth Grammar’,” in Butler (Eds.) Analytical Philosophy Oxford: Basil & Blackwell, According to Malcolm’s charge, supporters of the traditional view do not understand the concept of dreaming. This was crucial for his attempt to undermine all empirical work on dreaming. Instead of relying on an individual’s waking report scientists may now try to infer from rapid eye movements or other physiological criteria that the individual is asleep and dreaming. For Malcolm, these scientists are working from a new conception of “sleep” and “dreaming” which only resembles the old one. Putnam objects to Malcolm’s claim, stating that science updates our concepts and does not replace them: the traditional view seeks confirmation in empirical work. In general, concepts are always being updated by new empirical knowledge. If Putnam’s attack is successful then the work that scientists are doing on dreaming is about dreaming as the traditional view understands the concept, namely, conscious experiences that occur during sleep. If Putnam is right that scientists are not invoking a new conception of sleep and dreaming, then we can find other ways to verify our understanding of dreaming and the traditional view is continuous with empirical work.
David Rosenthal & Consciousness David Rosenthal: “Explaining Consciousness” in Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings, (eds) David Chalmers, Oxford University Press, Distinction between ”creature consciousness” and ”state consciousness”: “Creature consciousness” is what any individual or animal displays when awake and responsive to external stimuli. “State consciousness,” on the other hand, refers to the mental state that occurs when one has an experience. This may be either internally or externally driven. Malcolm evidently thinks that any form of state consciousness requires some degree of creature consciousness. But it does not seem to be conceptually confused to believe that one can be responsive to internal stimuli (hence state conscious) without being responsive to external stimuli (hence creature unconscious). If, by “sleep” all we have meant is creature unconsciousness, then there is no reason to believe that an individual cannot have state conscious at the same time. An individual can be creature unconscious whilst having state consciousness, that is to say, an individual can be asleep and dreaming.
Dennett: Are Dreams Experiences? Most objections to Malcolm tend to critisize his views rather than offer alternative versions of philosophy of dreaming. But there are a few. The best known is Daniel Dennett in his article ’Are Dreams Experiences?’(The Philosophical Review, vol. 82, 2 (1976), As we remember, the received view (the traditional view) is that dreams are experiences that occur during sleep, experiences which we can often recall upon waking. And Malcolm denies this. Dennett is more or less defending the traditional view with some new arguments while agreeing with Malcolm in some points.
Dennett’s approach Dennett is trying to link philosophy of dreaming to the brain research: ”The most scandalous conclusion that Malcolm attempted to draw from his analysis of the concept of dreaming was to the effect the contemporary dream research by psychologists and other scientists was conceptually confused, misguided, ultimately simply irrelevant to dreaming” (p. 151; Malcolm p. 82). His starting-point is to see how would the traditional view cope if it was seen from the perspective of the modern scientific psychology. First, it is clear that EEG patterns show that there are dreams during the sleep. (and everyone has them). Dennett is optimistic that there are even some signs that in this method there can be some understanding of the contents of the dreams [Hobson is more careful in this respect]. ”…we might be able to predict from certain physiological events observed during sleep that the subsequent dream reports would allude to, for example, fear, falling from a height, eating something cold etc.” (p. 152)
Cassette-theory of Dennett Dennett is interested in cases where the dream merges into the waking life (for example, looking for a goat, finding one and the the Baa-aa-a of the goat changes into the buzzing sound of the alarm clock. Perhaps there is a library of dreams with various themes: ”Perhaps…dreams are composed and presented very fast in the interval between bang, bump, or buzz and full consciousness, with some short delay system postponing the full ”perception” of the noise in the dream until the presentation of the narrative is ready for it. Or perhaps in that short interval dreams are composed, presented and recorded backwards and them remembered front to back. Or perhaps there is a ”library” in the brains of undreamed dreams with various indexed endings, and the bang, or bump or buzz has the effect of retrieving an appropriate dream and inserting it, cassette-like, in the memory mechanism.” (p. 158) According to the cassette-theory, our pre-cognitive dreams are never dreamed at all, but just spuriously recalled on waking.
Nature of experience Dennett present one of these views as an alternative to the traditional theory. If that is right, ”dreams are not what we took them to be – or perhaps we would say that it turns out that there are not dreams after all, only dream ”recollections”” (p. 158) If the ”cassette-theory” is accepted, the nature of experience would change. Dream-recall is like déjá vu- it only seems that I have experienced it before. Once this is believed, it would no longer seem as strongly that I am really recalling the dream. I only have a feeling that I have experienced something.
A generalization ”Suppose we generalize the cassette theory to cover all dreams: all dream narratives are composed directly into memory banks; which, if any, of these is available to waking recollection depends on various factors – precedence of composition, topicality of waking stimulus, degree of repression and so forth.” (p ) If this is supposed, there is no representation. The dreams are just composed and showed. Composition of dreams can take place during waking hours during a long time, even before our birth.But more probable is that the composition takes place during the REM- phase of the sleep where there is clearly a lot of brain activity. The latter would be supported by that fact that often dreams include recent events, so the composed dreams would have to change often. Dennett’s explanation for lucid dreams: although the composition and recording processes are entirely unconscious, on occasion the composition process inserts traces of itself into the recording via the literary conceit of a dream within a dream. Dennett thinks that this view can be challenge for the received view: it is compatible with modern brain-research and avoids most of Malcolm’s criticism.
Cassette-theory and experience The cassette-theorist would say that we do not consciously experience our environment, but our unconscious experiences are recorded for later use (for short-term memory or composing dreams, that is). (> compare Locke’s theory of memory traces mixed together). One can discuss whether these are experiences or not and indeed it is not clear (on the basis of sleep science) whether dreams are experiences at all or not. If this recording is unconscious, dreams would not be experiences. Recurrent dreams – this would fit well to the cassette-theory; but also in these cases the process seems to be unconscious. Deciding whether dreams are experiences or not is a theoretical question and cannot be solved by empirical data. Thus Dennett leaves the question open.
Problems for Dennett Dennett takes the empirical view and does not really discuss the relation between theoretical and empiral theories. Also, he does not allow experiences to be conscious during sleeping, but he seems to accept it in the sense that there are dreams. Main problem: how to distinguish the cassette-theory from the traditional theory? Dunlop: ”If ”the dream one ’recalls’ on waking was composed just minutes earlier”, then we still have the question of how dream content managed to merge with the waking stimulus…one possibility is that an environmental stimulus can come to represent many different things as it is worked into dream content.” (Dunlop (ed.), Philosophical Essays on Dreaming, p ) Lucid dreaming: empirical tests by Stephen La Berge show that Dennett’s explanation of lucid dreaming is not accurate – test persons were giving certain eye-movement signs when they were having lucid dreaming and this worked in most cases. Thus one can communicate without language contra Malcolm.
Eliminative materialism According to Paul and Patricia Churchland,terms like belief, imagination, experience, desire and dream belong to our everyday ”folk psychology”, which will eventually be replaced by scientific neuropscyhology. Thus the concept of dream will be eliminated by science in the long run. Instead, we start thinking about certain kind of brain activation or something like that. The concept of dream is like the concept of witch – it will belong to past times. In a way this project comes to the same conclusion as Malcolm – science should not be interested in dreams. Against this one could say that dreams are subjective, experienced events independently from whether they are conscious experiences or not.
After Malcolm Norman Malcolm’s attack to traditional views was provocative and objecting his claims seems to have taking strength from the philosophy of dreaming. After this discussion died down in the end of 70’s, there are only a few new beginnings. Sutton lists as reasons for the ongoing decline of philosophical studies in dreaming the following: widespread suspicion of Freud, ongoing obsession with Cartesian doubt (dream-argument), fragmentation and professionalition of the sciences of sleep physiology (Hobson and his team etc.), which encouraged their divorce from the psychology of dreaming, and the uneasiness about consciousness which long characterized the cognitive sciences. Sutton reflects that in addition the problem may just be the difficulty of the whole enterprise. Integrated, multilevel theories of dreaming are unsusually hard to develop because our access to the phenomena is unusually indirect, so that it is unusually difficult to manipulate postulated mechanisms and identify the causally relevant components of the dreaming mind or brain system. Owen Flanagan is hoping for interdisciplinary studies for this reason and he has a larger scale than Sutton: all kinds of different sciences can contribute to the philosophy of dreaming.
Owen Flanagan’s Dreaming Souls Flanagan’s monograph Dreaming Souls (2000) is the only philosophical book on dreams so far to utilize the empiral sleep science. He says: ”My theory is neurophilosophical one. I have tried to follow out the implications of recent work in the sciences of the mind on the nature and function of sleep and dreams while at the same time trying to fit dreams into a general philosophical theory of the conscious mind and the nature of persons.” (p. 8) Flanagan is especially interested in the function of dreams with respect to consciousness and its evolution. Thus he takes a fresh start from the Malcolm-orientated problems. Flanagan adopts a holistic approach: he combines the neuroscience to both analytical (development of consciousness) and phenomenological tradition (creativity in dreams).
Holistic theory of dreams Flanagan is calling out for a holistic theory of dreams in his natural method of dreams. ”Anthropology, sociology, and social psychology are also important in providing a complete picture of dreams. This is because the uses, if any, to which dreams are put depend on local customs and habits.” (p ) ”A robust theory of the nature and function of dreams will need to bring into equilibrium insights from philosophy, phenomenology, neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, evolutionary biology, sociology, and anthropology.” (p. 17)
Pluralist evolutionary view In contrast to Hobson and his colleagues, Flanagan thinks that sleep and consciousness are products of evolution. Dreams, however, are not directly products of evolution, but consciousness during sleep (dreaming) is merely an accident of nature, a side effect of sleep and consciousness. ”Can dreams fail to have an adaptationist evolutionary explanation but still make sense…and thus worth attention in the process of seeking self-knowledge? The answer is yes.” (p. 25) Thus for Flanagan, dreams do not really have any biological purpose per se, but they are useful to human life all the same. They are a side-effect of adaptation that human beings have learned to use in creative and helpful ways. Dreams do matter, for they sometimes possess meaningful structure, are sometimes self- expressive, and sometimes provide insights into one's own mind and one's relations with others. Dreams reflect and reveal our inner selves in ways that waking thought and behavior cannot. In dreams, we experience memories, thoughts and emotions that might never come to the surface in waking life. Thus dreaming can be an important tool for self-discovery and self-understanding. Flanagan critisizes Freud in that dreams are not disguised signs, they have to be taken at face value.
Flanagan’s physiological theory According to Flanagan, brains work both during when we are awake and when we are sleeping. During sleep, the brain stocks up neurotransmitters that will be used the next day. By accident, pulses that originate from this stockpiling chore (coming from the brain stem) also reactivate more or less random parts of memory. Unaware that the body is actually sleeping, the sensory circuits of the cerebral cortex process these signals as if they were coming from outside and produce a chaotic flow of sensations. With an analogy from architecture Flanagan show that dreams are just the noise the brain makes while working overnight. Dreams can be compared to heartbeat which does not really have a biological function. Like Malcolm, Flanagan seems to think that dreams are pointless from the point of view of science.They are just redundant effects of brain activity. In this sense Flanagan continues the doctrine of Locke where dreams are a product of waking state activity. Contra modern neurophysiological view by Hobson, where dreams are seen to fullfill a purpose of restoring the brains for the waking state, Flanagan sees them as just noise, leftovers.
Objection by Revonsuo Antti Revonsuo: “The Reinterpretation of Dreams: An Evolutionary Hypothesis of the Function of Dreaming,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (2000), pp. 793 – ) Flanagan’s view is opposed by Antti Revonsuo who thinks that dream is an adaptation. His threat simulation theory argues that dreams fulfill a practicing purpose in human life – we practice for difficult situtations in waking life. According to Revonsuo, the actual content of dreams is helpful to the survival of the organism because dreaming enchances behaviors in waking life such as perceiving and avoiding threat. This requires that dreaming is similar to waking life and is experienced as waking life at the time of the dream. Threat simulation theory is well supported by empirical tests – during REM-phase anxiety is the most common emotion and anger third. Flanagan answers by asking why animal-like instincts have to be continually rehearsed by humans, but Revonsuo is emphasizing that the instinct rehearsal concerns animals (like lab-rats). Flanagan also objects Revonsuo in arguing that if the instinct-like rehearsal is important, why is there so few sexual dreams? Revonsuo says that survival dominates over reproduction.
Creativity and dreams Dreams are wellsprings of creativity. This because dreams are produced by activity originating in the brainstem that awakens stored or semi-stored thoughts and memories that are then put into some sort of narrative structure by higher brain sectors that are designed to make sense of experience by light of day, but continue to work, less efficiently, when the lights go out. While dreams sometimes don't mean much of anything, the images and memories activated in our sleep are our own, and it is we ourselves who give them narrative shape.
Dreams and self-expression Since the content of our dreams comes primarily from within, dreaming is in some sense the purest form of self-expressive action. Thus some dreams are self-expressive. Self-expression is not directly related to personal identity. According to Flanagan, “it is perfectly plausible that I might dream about flying to the moon without that desire’s being a strong, central, or standing desire of mine – perhaps without its being a desire I possess at all, just mere noise.” (p. 134) Rather, self is conscious fiction (compare autobiography) whereas in dreams associations are free and uncontrolled. While many dreams are just noise, some dreams are meaningful, interpretable and self-expressive. Although Flanagan does not agree with Freud, some dreams can be difficult to interpret (which is in fact why they can promote our creativity).
Morality & Dreams St. Augustine thought that dreams are happenings, not actions and one is not responsible for involuntary thoughts in dreams. Flanagan tends to say that only behavior can be seen as morally problematic. It does not make much difference whether a morally evil is voluntary or involontary. This view would avoid excessive moralism. Problem is that I can commit evil actions if no one notices them. Flanagan thinks that dreams can be volontary. It is common to try to continue a nice dream or stop an unpleasant dream. But there may be problems. Flanagan tells about his pleasant dream involving Marilyn Monroe which he could continue by will. Problem is, while it was pleasant, it also involved a notional adultery. This kind of one’s influence to one’s dreams takes place in lucid dreaming. Certain people can actually work on plot revisions as the dream occurs and the action unfolds. Therefore lucid dreams are robustly voluntary. Voluntariness marks a moral accountability or moral evaluation. Thus, we can be immoral in dreams.
Indirect approach In addition, there can be morally objectionable states of mind like hatred, jealousy, anger etc. These can be influenced indirectly, by developing one’s character (comp. Plato & Augustine), work on oneself and these character traits. Thus, “if dreams express aspects of my personality or character that I helped form or could have worked to transform, then don’t I bear some responsibility for my dreams? I think the answer is “yes”.” (p. 182)
John Sutton on dreaming Sutton: ‘Dreaming’ (https://www.academia.edu/313903/Dreaming) In his encyclopedia-article, Sutton presents the latest psychological theories on dreaming. He also calls for original new viewpoints, of which he mentions the learning in dream-theory of David Foulkes. Sutton asks good questions, of which I mention here two: 1) Do individually and culturally variable beliefs about dreaming only influence dream reports, or is the form of dreams themselves in certain aspects also malleable? In other words: do cultural differences influence the content of dreams? In philosophical accounts this is not usually thought to be a problem. Sometimes the age of the dreamer can be an issue or the quality of memory, but not ethnical or racial background. Would need more study. 2) Most broadly, is dreaming a quasi-perceptual hallucination or an imaginative construct? Sutton’s other question gives the dividing-lines between analytic and phenomenological approach which he reflects a bit.
Sutton on perceptual and imaginative approach to dreaming John Sutton asks: How clear a consensus can we obtain about the details of the phenomenology of dreaming? How good is our access to our own experience? And of course, how well can we remember our dreams? Sutton argues (p. 538) that the imaginative dreaming has even more gaps and is more fragmentary that the perceptual view. According to some experiments by Foulkes, only a small number of dreams were experienced in a “see-oneself-mode” where “I” is the one who wittnesses or experiences. Often in dreams we see images from other person’s point of view (‘field memories’ vs. ‘observer memories’). These perspectives can often change during the dream, especially in lucid dreaming. As we saw, lucid dreaming can be learned which enables us to change viewpoints at will.
Dreaming as hallucination/perception In psychological litterature dreams are thought to be hallucinations (> Descartes). As the content of a dream reveals, we are always on the move. Apart from the bodily paralysis, physiologically the body acts as though it perceives a real world, and continually reacting to events in that apparently real world. The claim that dreams are hallucinations can find support in the further claim that dreaming replicates waking consciousness. Empirical evidence suggests that pain can be experienced in dreams, which is perceptual in nature and which the imagination can arguably not replicate. So dreams must be hallucinatory, according to this line of reasoning. We seem to have real emotions during dreams which are the natural reaction to our perceptions. According to the percept view of dreams, we dream that we are carrying actions out in an environment, but our accompanying emotions are not dreamed and play out alongside the rest of the dream content. The intensity of the emotions, actually felt, is what the percept theorist will take as support for the content of the dream not being merely imagined, but the natural response of realistic, perceptual-like experience.
Dreaming as imagination Some philosophers (Ichikawa, Sosa, McGinn) believe that dreaming is just the imagination at work during sleep (> Aristotle, Hobbes). Any conscious experiences during sleep are imagistic rather than perceptual. McGinn: The Observational Attitude: if we are perceiving (or hallucinating), say, two individuals having a conversation then we might need to strain our senses to hear or see what they are discussing. During dreams of course, the body is completely relaxed and the sleeping individual shows no interest in his or her surroundings. Dreaming is the natural instance of shutting out all of our sensory awareness of the outside world, arguably to entirely engage the imagination. This suggests that the dreamer is hearing with their mind’s ear and seeing with their mind’s eye. They are entertaining images, not percepts. Recognition in dreams. In dreams we seem to already know who all of the characters are, without making any effort to find out who they are (without using any of our senses). This might suggest that in dreams we are partly in control of the content (even if we fail to realize it) because we allegedly summon up the characters that we want to. We recognize who dream characters are, such as relatives, even when they look drastically different.
Revonsuo on modelling dreams Revonsuo: Inner Presence (2006) Visual awareness has been used as the model system in consciousness research. Revonsuo argues that dreaming should also have a place alongside visual awareness, as a special instance of consciousness and therefore a worthy model to be studied. The dreaming brain also captures consciousness in a “theoretically interesting form”. Agreeing with Hobbes and Locke, Revonsuo argues that dreaming is an unusually rare example of “pure” consciousness, being as it is devoid of ongoing perceptual input and therefore might deserve special status in being scientifically investigated. Lucid dreams are an exception, but they are rare.
Dreaming as pure conscious experience But it is clear that subjectivity is pure in dreams. They reveal the especially subjective nature of consciousness: the creation of a “world-for-me”. Thus there is a phenomenological aspect to them – one can see here an attempt to combine the analytical and phenomenological approach to dreaming. Modelling dreaming can also help brain research. During dreaming the phenomenology is demonstrably not ontologically dependent on any process missing during dreaming. Any parts of the brain not used in dreaming can be ruled out as not being necessary to phenomenal consciousness. Malcolm had argued that dreaming was worthy of no further empirical work for the notion was simply incoherent, and Dennett was sceptical that dreams would turn out to even involve consciousness. The radical proposal now is that dreaming ought to be championed as an example of conscious experience, a mascot for scientific investigation in consciousness studies. It is alleged that dreams can recapitulate any experience from waking life and for this reason Revonsuo concludes that the same physical or neural realization of consciousness is instantiated in both examples of dreaming and waking experience. A dream of a dream? Despite suggestions from Revonsuo and others, dreaming being used as a model has simply not yet taken place. But his book is fairly new.
An alternative view on dreaming and consciousness Windt, J. M., & Noreika, V. “How to Integrate Dreaming into a General Theory of Consciousness—A Critical Review of Existing Positions and Suggestions for Future Research,” Consciousness and Cognition, 20(4) (2011), pp – Windt & Noreika reject dreaming as a model system but suggest it will work better as a contrast system to wakefulness. This is because there are many views on dreams, but wakefullness is pretty self-explanatory. In addition, Scientists do not even directly work with dreams themselves, but rather descriptions of dreams. Revonsuo simply assumes his conception of dreaming is correct. He believes that dreaming can be a model of waking consciousness because dreams can be identical replicas of waking consciousness involving all possible experiences. Windt & Noreika believe that dreams tend to be different to waking life in important ways (compare analytical vs. phenomenological approach) > Windt & Noreika have similar suspicions as Malcolm.
A modest approach The contrast analysis does not ignore dreaming, but proposes a more modest approach. With research divided between waking consciousness, dreaming and a comparison of the two states, this more practical approach will yield better results, argue Windt and Noreika. By using the proposed method, we can see how consciousness works both with and without environmental input. Both are equally important. After all, both are genuine examples of consciousness. This approach also means that the outcome will be mutually informative as regards the two types of consciousness with insights gained in both directions. It is important to compare dreaming as an important example of consciousness operating with radically changed neural processing to waking consciousness. With the contrastive analysis there is the prospect of comparing dream consciousness to both pathological and non-pathology waking states, and there is thereby the promise of better understanding how waking consciousness works and how it can also malfunction.
Phenomenological/Existential views on dreaming Prelude: Marcel Proust: Rememberance of Things Past 2, p – dreaming life is very different from waking life. “Perhaps every night we accept the risk of experiencing, while we are asleep, sufferings which we regard as null and void because they will be felt in the course of a sleep which we suppose to be unconscious.” ”[sleep] has noises of its own…the time that elapses for the sleeper, during these spells of slumber, is absolutely different from the time in which the life of the waking man is passed.” ”From these profound slumbers we awake in a dawn, not knowing who we are, being nobody, newly born, ready for anything, the brain emptied of that past which was life until then.”
Husserl: World as a dream Edmund Husserl ( ) continued the Cartesian tradition. Descartes’s scepticism provided a model of how to suspend our natural commitment to our epistemic beliefs in order to bring to light the fundamental features at work in belief as such. Descartes’s hyperbolic doubt which puts in question the very existence of the world is the most radical of these forms of suspension of belief. Similarly, for Husserl, phenomenology must be able to cope with the most radical denial of the world, with the challenge of the most radical hyperbolic doubt which sees the whole world as a dream or even as non- existent, what Husserl calls ‘empty seeming’ or the ‘nullifying illusion’(Phänomenologie des nichtigen Scheins).
Surrealists and dadaists The surrealists and dadaists were consciously using the characteristics of dreams (such as irregularity, unpredictability, space-time discontinuity) in the theoretical writings and artistic experiments. Andre Breton’s Manifesto (1924) argues that dreams are more intersting than waking life and one can express oneself more freely when dreaming: ”Within the bounds in which they operate (or are thought to operate), dreams, to all appearances, are continuous and show signs of order.” “When will there be sleeping logicians, sleeping philosophers!” “Can the dream not also be applied to the solution of life’s fundamental questions?” “They say that every evening, before he slept, Saint-Pol- Roux (the Symbolist poet) used to have posted on the door of his manor house at Camaret, a notice which read: POET AT WORK.”
Jean-Paul Sartre A similar view of dreams as free expression was maintained by Jean-Paul Sartre ( ) in his L’imaginaire (1940). Against Descartes, Sartre argued that unlike perceptions, dreams are associated with a special type of ”belief” or ”fascination without existential assumption”. Dreams are adventures like stories in novels, close to consciousness without an essential relation to reality. ”The dream is not fiction taken for reality, it is the Odyssey of a consciousness dedicated by itself, and in spite of itself, to build only an unreal world.”
Merleau-Ponty on temporality in dreams In Le problem de la passivite Maurice Merleau-Ponty ( ) discusses the time in dreams in a little same way as Malcolm: “The dream is not an act circumscribed temporally. Hence, the ubiquity of the dream, thanks to [its] symbolic matrices. But it is also trans-temporal. Awakened consciousness entails the time of consciousness and the time of its object. Oneiric consciousness … does not contain this cleavage. Concerning a dream, the question arises whether it is meaningful to say: it began at such a moment and finished at such a moment.”
Binswanger and Foucault on dreams and existence Ludwig Binswanger ( ) was a Swiss psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of existential psychology. In 1928 Wandlungen in der Auffassung und Deutung des Traumes (Transformations in the view and interpretation of the dream) was issued and in 1930 Binswanger published a short treatise Traum und Existenz (Dream and existence). Binswanger was an important early influence to Michel Foucault ( ) In an introduction to Binswager’s Dream and Existence, in an essay “Dream, Imagination, and Existence” (1952) Foucault thinks that Binswanger’s existential-psychological prioritizing of dreams is justified and completed in the two-fold operation of first prioritizing the imagination over perception, and then founding the imagination in dreams. We can only regain the rigorous goals of phenomenology if we recognize that dreams, rather than being an effect of the imagination, are the source of the imagination. Moreover, since dreams have a symbolic structure of their own, by analyzing dreams we analyze the fundamental structures of perception. However, the Malcolmian problem occurs: once Foucault has paired ontology with an investigation of the imagination through dream analysis, however, he has eliminated the possibility of the description and adequation of the contents of consciousness. The image, created in reflection and recollection, does not present us with truth, rather it isolates us from the expressive authenticity of the structured associations of the imagination. For truth we must turn to poetry, art, and the imaginative play of the id.
Postmodernist reality Some postmodernist thinkers like Jean Baudrillard ( ) have argued that reality has disappeared – there are only fleeting images which make up a dream-like hyperreality: neon-lights, tv-screens, social media, movies, videos, computer games etc. This can also be experienced in virtual reality where our perceptions are produced by computers and we live in synthetic cyberspace. However, these takes place when we are awake – the dream is produced artificially. Ilkka Niiniluoto has reformulated the Cartesian question: how do we know whether we are just living in the real world or in virtual reality?
Wolfson: A Dream Interpreted Within A Dream “In A Dream Interpreted Within a Dream, Elliot Wolfson guides the reader through contemporary philosophical and scientific models to the archaic wisdom that the dream state and waking reality are on an equal phenomenal footing--that the phenomenal world is the dream from which one must awaken by waking to the dream that one is merely dreaming that one is awake. Wolfson draws on psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and neuroscience to elucidate the phenomenon of dreaming in a vast array of biblical, rabbinic, philosophical, and kabbalistic texts. To understand the dream, Wolfson writes, it is necessary to embrace the paradox of the fictional truth--a truth whose authenticity can be gauged only from the standpoint of its artificiality. “
Malcolm and phenomenology Windt and Metzinger in their paper ’The Philosophy of Dreaming and Self- Consciousness: What Happens to the Experiential Subject during the Dream State?’ (2007) have tried to answer Malcolm from the phenomenological point of view. They argue that from a purely phenomenological point of view, dreams are simply the presence of the world. On the level of subjective experience, the dream world is experienced as respresenting the here and now. And even though it is a model constructed by the dreaming brain, it is not recognized as a model, but is experienced as reality itself. In philosophical terms, the reality-model created by the dreaming brain is phenomenally transparent: the fact that it is a model is invisible to the experiential subject. (p. 3) Dreams are very complex, not only fairytale stories as Malcolm argues. Dreams integrate several different types of imagery into a complex, multimodal, and sequentially organized model of the world (p. 4). They highlight lucid dreaming which gives a full phenomenal world. At the same time, it is conscious of itself, it realizes that it is, so to speak, in a vat.
Ethics of dreaming We have already seen that St. Augustine was concerned about sinful sexual thoughts in dreams. His views were in some respect shared by Owen Flanagan in Dreaming Souls. Are we morally responsible for our actions in dreams? Are we morally obliged to not entertain certain thoughts, even if these thoughts do not affect our later actions and do not harm others?
Consequentialism vs deontologism Empirical question for a consequentialist: are dreams, fantasies and video games are really without behavioural consequence towards others? (Driver: dreams do have consequences, but it is a different matter whether they can be evaluated ethically; one has to produce good systematically in order one’s actions to be ethical – dream actions do not do this.) Consequentialist theories may well argue that, provided that dreams really do not affect my behaviour later, it is not morally wrong to “harm” other dream characters, even in lucid dreaming. Deontological theories, in stark contrast to Consequential theories, believe that we have obligations to act and think, or not act and think, in certain ways regardless of effects on other people. According to Deontological moral theories, I have a duty to never entertain certain thoughts because it is wrong in itself. Deontological theories see individuals as more important than mere consequences of action. Since dreams are often actually about real people, I am not treating that individual as an end-in- itself if I chose to harm their “dream representative”. The basic Deontological maxim to treat someone as an end rather than a means to my entertainment can apply to dreams. Julia Driver: ‘Dream Immorality’, Philosophy 82 (2007), pp – supports consequentialism (in her terms externalism in contrast to internalism)
Virtue ethics on dreaming Follows the ancient/Augustinian view of developing one’s moral character. This moral approach considers an individual for his or her overall life, how to make it a good one and develop that individual’s character. The question “can we have immoral dreams?” needs to be opened up to: “what can I get out of dreaming to help me acquire virtuousness?” Has also a Freudian trait as dreams arguably put us in touch with our unconscious and indirectly tell us about our motives and habits in life (compare Flanagan) In order to achieve happiness, fulfilment and developing virtuousness we owe it to ourselves to recall and pay attention to our dreams. Certain changes people make in waking life do eventually “show up” in dreams. Dreams, as unconsciously instantiated, capture patterns of thought from waking life. Emphasis on lucid dreaming - new modes of thinking can be introduced and this is the process by which people learn to lucid dream. By periodically introducing thoughts about whether one is awake or not during the day, every day for some period of time, this pattern of thinking eventually occurs in dreams. By constantly asking “am I awake?” in the day it becomes more likely to ask oneself in a dream, to realize that one is not awake and answer in the negative. Lucid dreaming invokes our ability to make choices, often to the same extent as in waking life.
Future of philosophy of dreaming? Christopher Dreisbach (’Dreams in the History of Philosophy’, Dreaming 10, 1 (2000)) distinguishes three ways to pursue philosophical study of dreaming: 1) Historical // we can set the past views on dreaming into context with the help of other disciplines and examine contemporary thought about dreams in light of those developments. 2) Regard dreams in the context of main areas of philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, logic). Possible topics in metaphysics are, for example, whether God reveals himself in dreams, dream characters have minds, the dream world constitutes its own universe, dream characters have substance. In logic one could research ”dream-logic”
Interdisciplinary approach 3) Dreaming can be researched by co-operation of various discplines such as pscyhology, anthropolgy, theology, art and philosophy. Four basic questions to all disciplines concerning dreaming: a) What is the source of a dream? Is it the self or outside the self? If the self, is it the mind? The brain? The spirit? If it is outside self, is it God? Other minds or spirits? (cf. Rosen & Sutton, ’Self-representation and Perspectives in Dreams’, Philosophy Compass 8/11 (2003), ) b) What is the location of a dream? Is it the mind or brain? Is there a dream world to which the dreamer or part of the dreamer travels during the dream? c) What about the content of the dream? What is the stuff of dreams? Is it physical? Mental? What about the veracity of dreams? Are they real or ﬁ ction? How do dreams differ from waking life? d) What about the value of dreams? Do they have practical value, as many psychotherapists argue? Do they have moral or aesthetic value?