PHI 105 Week 3 DQ 2 Recent

PHI 105 Week 3 DQ 2 Recent

PHI 105 Week 3 DQ 2 Recent

Descartes famously argued that he could not rely on his body, senses, and even his idea of reality because he did not know if he was dreaming or not. Sometimes, he wrote, he would think he was awake, only to realize that he was just having a very realistic dream. People who have lost touch with reality, he further argued, seemed to think they were someone they weren’t and that reality was something it wasn’t. How did he know he wasn’t dreaming or hallucinating?

This idea of what is reality and what is dream is something we continue to be fascinated by. Think of The Matrix or Inception, for example, which both hinge on the question of what is real and what is a dream.

However, this link between dreaming and reality is not limited to European thought. The famous Chinese Daoist philosopher Chuang Tzu (also known as Zhuangzi and Chuang Chou) also thought about this question. He wrote:


Last night Chuang Chou dreamed he was a butterfly, spirits soaring he was a butterfly (is it that in showing what he was he suited his own fancy?), and did not know about Chou. When all of a sudden he awoke, he was Chou with all his wits about him. He does not know whether he is Chou who dreams he is a butterfly or a butterfly who dreams he is Chou. Between Chou and the butterfly there was necessarily a dividing; just this is what is meant by transformations of things. (Graham, 2001, p. 61)

Graham, A. C. (Ed.) (2001). Chuang-Tzu:  The inner chapters. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.   

How do you know you are not dreaming right now? What reasons might you have for thinking you are or are not dreaming?  What if you woke up and realized all that had come before that moment was just a dream?

From Matt Lawrence, Philosophy on Tap: Pint-Sized Puzzles for the Pub Philosopher (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 74-77. Adapted with permission.