Descartes’ Dream Argument
In this paper, I will be discussing Descartes' dream argument for skepticism about knowledge. I find this argument to be both valid, and sound due to its structure and its true premises. I will first explain the argument in simple terms, prove that it is in fact valid and sound, and finally provide counter arguments and then refute them.
Descartes wanted to know what true knowledge is by figuring out everything that could be doubted until he was left with something indubitable. He then planned on rebuilding all of his knowledge and beliefs based on this indubitable belief, which would serve as a foundation for all other beliefs. If something is indubitable, it cannot be doubted. Descartes’ dream argument was one of the methods through which he tried to accomplish this. The dream argument sets forth the idea that one cannot be certain of the senses when awake, because the mind is also capable of conjuring images when dreaming. These images exist as a product of the mind and are, as Descartes describes, like painted images. If it is so that the mind creates these images in our dreams, could it be that the mind also creates images when awake? In other words, if one cannot rely on what is seen to be certain when dreaming, how can one rely on what is seen when awake?
The dream argument states: 1. I often have perceptions very much like the ones I usually have in sensation while I am dreaming. 2. There are no definite signs to distinguish dream experience from waking experience. Therefore, 3. It is possible that I am dreaming right now and that all of my perceptions are false (60). In simpler terms, Descartes' first premise is saying that he often feels, or perceives and has experiences while he is awake which are like those he senses when he is dreaming. His second premise is simply stating that there are no reliable methods to determine whether or not he is dreaming. From these two premises, Descartes concludes that while he is...