Date of Award
Master of Philosophy (MPHIL)
Prof. ROWBOTTOM Darrell Patrick
In his Meditations On First Philosophy, Descartes (1641/1911) points out the awakedreaming indistinguishability problem, which calls into question the reliability of our knowledge about the external world. The argument can be understood as follows:
P1) Nothing can rule out the subject being duped into believing she is in X when she is actually in Y.
P2) A person can know that she is in Y only if there is something to rule out her being duped into believing she is in X when she is actually in Y.
C) Hence, the subject cannot know that she is in Y.
The problem can be interpreted in the form of A1 where X represents a dream state and Y represents an awake state. It can also be interpreted in the form of A2 where X represents an awake state and Y represents a dream state. I define the problem in the form of A1(X: a dream state; Y: an awake state) and A2(X: an awake state; Y: a dream state). The problem also involves an epistemological aspect and a phenomenological aspect. The epistemological aspect concerns the question of whether dream states and awake states are fundamentally indistinguishable. If so, the problem would be irresolvable in principle and result in a great epistemic threat. The phenomenological aspect concerns how the experience appears to the subject and affects the judgment she makes about her current state. In order to fully resolve the problem, as I will argue, we need to show that both A1 and A2 are unsound and resolve both aspects of the problem.
McGinn (2004), Ichikawa (2008, 2009), and Sosa (2005) try to resolve the awakedreaming indistinguishability problem by defending (different versions of) the imagination view of dreaming. Among the three, Ichikawa holds the strongest version, where he denies that percepts and beliefs occur in dreams; McGinn denies percepts occur in dreams while Sosa denies beliefs occur in dreams. I argue that their arguments, namely drawing a sharp distinction between percepts and images along with denying beliefs occur in dreams, are misguided. They fail to resolve any form or any aspect of the indistinguishability problem. My goal of this research is to reinvigorate the imagination view of dreaming. Instead of holding a sharp distinction between percepts and images along with denying belief occur in dreams, I attempt to bridge the gap between lucid dreaming and non-lucid dreaming to defend this view. I contend that the imagination view of dreaming, upon modification, can resolve the problem.
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Mok, K. Y. (2020). Can the imagination view of dreaming resolve the awake-dreaming indistinguishability problem? (Master's thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from https://commons.ln.edu.hk/otd/92/