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The History Of Descartes Dream Argument

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1015 words Published: 24th Apr 2017

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In this paper, I will be discussing Descartes dream argument for which I will try to find reliable signs between being asleep and awake. When looking at Descartes argument I find it to be a valid argument due to its premises and structure. I will explain his argument, prove that it is factually sound and valid, and then discuss arguments against his argument and then refute them.

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Descartes attempts to find out what true knowledge was by finding everything something that was indubitable. His thought was to take the indubitable belief and build his knowledge and beliefs based on the indubitable belief. His dream argument was one of the ways he attempted to strengthen his theory. His dream argument states the idea that one cannot trust your senses when awake, because your mind is capable producing false images while dreaming. If the mind can produce false images while we are asleep dreaming, couldn’t your mind also create false images while you are awake? If you can’t fully trust what you have seen while asleep, how can you rely on what you see when awake? Descartes dream argument states that you can often have perceptions very much like the ones while dreaming. There are no definite signs to determine dreaming experience from a waking experience. Therefore, It is possible that I am dreaming right now and all knowledge I find while dreaming is false. In other terms, Descartes first premise states that when asleep or awake, the same type of perception and senses are found feel the same way no matter which state you are in. His second premise states that there are no reliable ways to determine if you are dreaming or not that would be able to work every time. With these two premises, Descartes finds that while you are asleep, you could be feeling similar things to what you might feel while awake. You can’t tell if you are dreaming or awake at any given time, which means you could be dreaming and everything which you would sense or feel would be based on false and untrue findings. This statement leads you to question whether at any given time are you awake or dreaming, or are you in a constant state of dreaming and anything knowledge you gained during your constant dreaming state, is true or not? This argument backs what Descartes is trying to prove, what real knowledge is, and that knowledge we find to be true could still be false, because of the state in which we received the knowledge. We cannot simply accept this argument without attempting to find ways to disprove it.

If we pretend that the feelings we have while we are asleep are like the feelings we have when we are awake, and if we can’t tell if we are dreaming or not, the only conclusion you can make from this is that it is entirely possible to be dreaming at this moment and all of our feelings are based on factitious things. We wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a dreaming state and an awake state, because they both feel the same to us. When are “dreaming” you can possibly feel everything you would while being “awake. This concludes that there is no way to know if you are curled up in your bed dreaming, or out in the real world awake. I believe that the first premise is true because everyone including myself has had a moment in a dream in which they felt like was reality. As long as you have had at least one small tiny moment in which you thought a dream was a reality, the premise holds. It doesn’t require all of our dreams to be this way, it requires just one small moment to put the doubt in your mind, if it happened once couldn’t it be happening right now.

A counter argument we will look at tries to go against what Descartes was trying to prove through his dream argument, which is can you cast doubt on knowledge that we would otherwise deem truthful. The ideas in your dreams are based off of things or experiences you have had or felt in real life, which would mean you could trust what you felt in your dreams, because it is based off of the real world. In the real world you can come across a picture of a unicorn which we know doesn’t exist. A unicorn is merely a horse with a horn on its head, both things which exist in the real world, and even though the picture is factitious it comes from experiences in the real world. Which would mean anything we dream up would come from things we have already seen in real live. A way to disprove this argument would be modern video games. For example the video game Skyrim which has you running around in a factitious world hunting down dragons. Dragons are a completely fictional creature which leads us to show that someone at some point dreamt up the creature of a scaled, flying, fire breathing beast. Whom ever dreamt up the fictional character of a dragon would have done so without any previous experience of what characteristics a dragon would possess. Which in turn leads us to believe people can make things up without ever having a dragon like creature imprinted in his mind before dreaming it up.

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Descartes’ argument was found to be both sound and valid. We can conclude that at any given time we cannot determine if we are dreaming or not. I believe Descartes was right with his findings. I do not believe that there are any valid signs to determine whether you are awake or asleep. Granted you may be able to argue that the pain you felt while you where awake such as getting punched in the face could only happen while you were awake that there was no way that you could be dreaming. But you can always go back to that one dream or moment when you were in an sleeping state and you felt a pain that felt so real you could have sworn you weren’t dreaming. All it takes for Descartes’ argument to work is for you to be able to think of that one moment in which a part of your dream felt so real that you could have sworn it really happened. This goes to show if it happens once even for a split second, it could be happening right now and you would never know it.


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