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Dream and Reality in the Eye of Formal Ontology

A man is a being of the world and exists partly without knowledge where he or she belongs. Having cognitive abilities helps to evaluate certain significant issues. Attempts to realize and describe what is known to be life is a major part of the humankind history. People used to fail to describe even their bodies’ location in the universe, living in terms of geocentric and heliocentric models. There has always been a fixation on the matter of reality and dream that concerns the questions of whether people dream about reality, why they include dreams in reality etc. This is a main bipolar opposition that determines the representation of life. The present essay is devoted to a discussion about dream and reality.

To establish an argument, we have to give definitions of the key notions of the topic. We acknowledge that reality relates to all lifeless things and living beings. This means that reality is tangible. Dream is represented in the paper as an abstract knowledge such as an illusion that people are believed to perceive.

The thesis statement of the paper finds its particularization in the idea that there are no conclusive ways to distinguish between dream and reality. The dream argument is based on the notion that the process of dreaming corresponds to the state of being awake in reality if to take preliminary evidence (activity of perception senses) into consideration. Therefore, any condition that we determine by brain work should not be taken a priori as the true one, and requires examination to establish whether it is reality. We adopt different philosophical theories in order to assess the matter of dream and reality.

The question under consideration has a history of philosophical studying. In China, for example, the book Zhunangzi that was written in the third century BC addresses the issue. It is thought to be one of the first references concerning the question. The author, Chuang Tzu, argues that “in the dream, you don’t know it’s a dream. In the middle of a dream, you may interpret a dream within it. Only after waking do you know it was a dream. Still, there may be an even greater awakening after which you know that this, too, was just a greater dream.” Chuang Tzu brings attention to the point that it is our mind that we live in, and the mind could be dreaming all the time, thus, has no connection to reality. We may only guess what the push for this assumption was. A human being spends a great part of his life in dreaming. Perhaps, this influenced the accepted opinion about reality and dream and made two notions interchangeable in philosophy.

The dream and reality theme had been discussed by a Greek philosopher Plato even earlier (approximately 380 BC). In the “allegory of the cave”, Plato gives a vivid example that illustrates how mind can be deceived and people trust in no more but mere reflections of reality. According to Plato’s story “the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.” The philosopher states that people see only what they expect to see and this they interpret as reality, while other things slip off their minds as glimpses of dream.

The bipolar opposition dream/reality is based on common ground which makes it harder to differentiate between the given notions. There are two main points that enforce the argument. The first thing that makes a boundary between dream and reality invisible to mind is that people can always change the direction of their dream (if they want to) or reality. One is able to concentrate on something and achieve it. A possibility to modulate something brings us to the other opinion. The second point is that dream and reality can be interrupted or ended either by awakening (for a dream) or death (for both). This suggests taking into consideration the theory that dream and reality may be products of brain. We also have a suggestion that the brain had to find its ways to somehow translate reality for a human being so that it could be perceived. This is how senses of perception gained their functions. They are a mirror of reality that can be taken into dream.

The matter of dream and reality has a history of development even in the present time. Philosophical ideas have been successfully embraced by the popular culture. For the sake of the argument, we should mention an input made by cinematography. For instance, a cult movie The Matrix produced in the year 1999. There is an interesting dialogue between two main characters that involves an audience in the debate. In the begging of the film one asks the other “What is real? How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” We used these examples in order to draw a link through the history. In Zhunangzi, Republic (the allegory of the cave), and The Matrix there is a critical representation of what people consider to be real and what real could turn out to be. Since people’s basic beliefs about the world they live in and their ideas of reality are formed via the senses of perception (hearing, sight, taste, smell, and touch), one can never be sure about either of the approaches.

In philosophy, apart from discussion, there is also another course to determine the issue of dream and reality that involves a variety of thought experiments. It is a branch of philosophy that is known as skepticism (evolved in works of Diogenes La?rtius, Ren? Descartes and Immanuel Kant etc.) that describes hypothesis in scientific terms. For example, there is a work that argues ontological skepticism. A new way is a test that is based on the debate about dream and reality. The experiment that is called “brain in a vat” aims at showing what could happen if there were a way to keep a human brain disembodied and operational in a vat. According to this option, a brain would be constantly exposed to a set of electrical signals that would produce false sensory information for a brain to read. This is how the brain would appear to be in a real world formed by the data given by the senses of perception. This work might be rudimentary but the point is “the assumption that the mind has no access to external things or properties apart from that provided by the senses”. This and above-mentioned philosophical theories rely on the notion that what we consider to be the domain of reality may simply be projection of dream. The experiment defends the thesis that there are no ways to distinguish between the opposition dream and reality in life. We can describe what we feel but feelings may be a trick of our mind, so empirical method is not the ultimate way to get the knowledge.

The matter of the discussion is considered from different philosophical approaches. It is ontology that defines basic notions. The emphasis is placed on the thought that reality can be described by saying what something or someone is like and giving details about it. In other words, we can define something because it exists. This is one way to see the argument. Some modern philosophers like Ludwig Wittgenstein and Norman Malcolm argue that the theory that one may have deceptive experiences instead of reality is a senseless one. They treat the “dream argument”, making references to Descartes and Zhuangzi, as a false conception to follow. Malcolm declares that in order to experience different kinds of things and emotions one has to be aware of them. Awareness is acheived by conscious perception of the world that cannot be stimulated, but is reality.

Taking this view into account, we may argue that reality in its pure form could be above our senses and thoughts. This is the space for conclusion that people may have different realities as senses of perception are active on various levels (some see more colors, some catch a wider spectrum of smells etc.). Philosophy (including ontology) may be perceived as a form of specification of multiple perspectives. Thus, we come to the conclusion that we can only interpret experiences and the main thing is to find sources of these experiences and knowledge. We should establish whether, figuratively speaking, knowledge is gained in reality or dream. In order to enable this, philosophers codify information mixed with facts and logics, rationally taken it for reality. The paradox of this situation is that people may believe reality to be dream while it is indeed reality far from illusion. This is how we may reject reality by making it dream and look for reality where there are nothing but dreams.

The paper discussed the bipolar opposition that shapes views about life: dream and reality. The difference between these notions has been a subject of debates for centuries. In Chine and Greece, for example, Tzu and Plato argued that people depended on their senses of perception when they described reality, as a result, they could be deceived. Later, Diogenes, Descartes, Kant, Malcolm, Putnam and other philosophers considered this issue from different points. Some questioned reality, while others assumed dream to be reality (skeptical theories in ontology). The main point is shaped in the idea that philosophically we do not have conclusive evidence to either deny or state that reality we live in is dream. It could also be a matter that we have been in a dark room searching for a black cat for centuries; meaning that people philosophically discard reality in the name of dream. We outline that this debate takes different forms (philosophical theories, manifistations in popular culture, and experiments on a brain). There is a fundamental is a notion that one way or another, senses of perseption are cognitive architectures of both reality and dream. In our opinion, brain may not be deceived by senses, but it has to adjust itself in order to be able to interpret reality, thus, senses of perception become no more than a useful instrument. The question does not resolve itself neither in the “allegory of the cave”, nor in the “brain in a vat” experiment nor in philosophical volumes of the brightest thinkers. The research shows that reality could be simulated and experiences could deceptive, but it is not a point to prove, but just an option to consider.

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