The concept of dreams has eluded even the most renowned philosophers and psychologists, including Aristotle, Plato, and Sigmund Freud. Plato likened dreams to a presentation that we experience while sleeping (Hamilton, Cairns and Cooper 571). Modern psychology seems to have borrowed the definition of a dream from Plato’s, in that they have defined dreams as sequences of experiences borne of imagination during sleep (Dennett 129).
The aim of this statement of intent is to provide a more holistic definition of dreams from both a historical as well as a modern perspective. There is often a very thin line between “dreams” and “reality”. As such, it is indispensable to examine such a link.
Dreams: A Historical Perspective
Sigmund Freud commenced his psychoanalytical study on dreams in 1900 with a complaint that philosophers viewed his idea of dreams as second-rate and intellectually unworthy (Freud 5). In his article, ‘Dreams’, Manser opines that Freud had “littler to say about the nature of dreams which is of interest to the philosopher” (415). There appears to be little attention devoted to the concept of dream by philosophers, even as the topic puzzled such renowned philosophers as Aristotle and Plato.
There is a need to define what dreaming is, and how one may distinguish between reality and dreams. From a historical point of view, dreams are a frightening and puzzling phenomenon. Prehistorically, ancestors also viewed dreams as messages sent to them by demons and gods. To the fatalist, dreams are portents or omens of future events.
Ancient Greek philosophers adopted a rather rational naturalist approach to dreams. Aristotle provided the definition of dreams as that experience one has in his/her sleep (Ross 56). On the other hand, Plato defined dreams as the visions that we always recall in our waking hours (Hamilton et al 571). Modern psychology appears to have adopted the Aristotelian stance: dreams are sequences of experiences borne of imagination during sleep (Dennett 129).
Nietzsche’s argument blaming the belief in ghosts, gods, resurrection and life after death on the doorstep of the dream was sensible (LaBerge 231). Supposing that, the idea of soul-body arose from subjective experiences in the dream world, whether or not the soul was an objective reality depended on reality insight placed on the dream.
If, in ancient times, human believed that they had discovered a second real world in a dream, what did that mean? Was it a mere intuitively verifiable existence? Few possibilities exist in an attempt to solve the mystery of these questions. Whether dreams are real and if they are, how do they compare to physical reality in terms of the mental truths (LaBerge 231).
Two issues emerged – one was the extent to which an experience appears to be subjectively real. The second was the extent the experience appears to be objectively real (this was independent of the first). Simple logic affirms that something exists only if it can cause an effect on another thing (LaBerge 233). Therefore, since it is extraordinarily difficult to interact with a dream physically, proving that it existed in reality was exceedingly difficult.
Dreams Vs Reality
The line between dream and reality is often frightfully thin. Although one can hardly control the contents of their sleep compared with those of waken imagination and daydreams, on the other hand, dreams appear to have a stronger false impression of reality. Baudrillard opines that our cultural products do not distort or reflect a basic existing reality anymore; instead, the absence of reality seems to have been concealed (262).
The emergence of novel computer and media technologies presents yet another challenge to the reality vs. dream issue, because, through this interaction, we can immerse in virtual reality. Consequently, we cease being external observers per se and partake in a synthesis of “cyberspace” borne of our association with computer technology. Virtual reality has effectively ended the conventional technological dream of establishing an ideal illusion of reality.
From the historical perspective, it was understood that dream were mystifying, as human awoke to self-consciousness to consciousness of mortality. Many people came up with religious and magical explanations to explain the strange visions they experienced during sleep (Dennett 130). This introduced thoughts like the ability of the soul to depart the body and travel to other places. The possibility of the dead and the living interacting were a possibility. Some even believed that, dreams in sleep were messages from gods or destiny.
Philosophers like Plato emerged with rational naturalist approaches, characterizing dreams as visions in people (Plato 571), remembered in reality.
Aristotle, on the other hand, put it that dreams were some presentation or imagination, specifically those that occurred during sleep (Dennett 130). Aristotle affirms that dream were not God-sent neither did they present any future predictions (Ross 46). Yet, sometimes, dream could be an inspiration for future happenings.
Plato, being more imaginative, compared mad people with sleepers and found that, their thought were false, for instance, feeling of flying. Plato realized that, however much decent man appeared, there was always a low and licentious point of experiences during dreams (Plato 571). This thought anticipated that Freud’s idea of many-layered organization of human consciousness (Freud, “Introductory Lectures” 21).
Freud’s theory purports rest as a function of sleep, which could be well experienced in dreamless sleep. However, when control of the daytime consciousness was resting in sleep, the subconscious mental process continues to work on an immature level (Freud “Introductory Lectures” 21).
Therefore, dreams were regressive. They go back to visual images, more so the primary sexual desires (Freud, “Interpretation of Dreams” 67). An idea that Freud added to Plato’s theory of dream-work: dreams guaranteed sleep, blocked censorship, by revisiting the original latent dream idea, and then disguising its manifestation (Plato 571).
Sleeping and Dreaming
As people argue, we spend about one third of our lives in sleep, it is crucial to conduct extensive research to understand dream and sleep. Study of sleep and dream shows proof of principal experiences in sleep, for instance, the sleep-wake cycle, sleep disorders, sleep regulations and snoring among others (LaBerge 233).
Based on the nature of scientific studies, the studies of sleep often look at physical signs like body temperatures, eye movement, and blood pressure. philosophers cannot hence be able to use these data to draw conclusions. Philosophy is more interested in a dream while psychology deals with the sleeping process. Therefore, studying dreaming and sleeping will require the use of internal mental processes and reactions to interpret what happens in sleep in external viewpoint (Ross 49).
Connecting the internal and external features becomes intricate. Having no characteristics and stable variables to use for studying dreams, little research is available on the topic compared to other topics like reasoning, memory, Imagination and beliefs. Dreams still puzzle people since the times of Plato, and Aristotle. Concerns of how to identify dreams, individual and social function of dreams, and the logic behind dreaming, lead to metaphysics, mind philosophy, culture and epistemology. Dreaming hence remains fascinating.
Dreaming is a fascinating experience and rather under-researched. Dreams also challenge the real life experiences and the fact that human think they understand consciousness and conscious (Freud, “Introductory Lectures” 21). There are numerous theories of the mind that do not dream and reality.
Hence, they are incomplete. Scholars can be motivated to be more imaginative about dreaming, and to include it in a number of philosophical topics because of they will draw defined pedagogical utilities. The study of sleep and dreaming by use of inventive experiments developed by psychologist form an exceptional way of studying physiology and phenomenology, and experiential and conceptual approaches in the study of mind.
Despite the discovery of the fascinating rapid eye movement (REM) sleep relationship with dreams, there has not been much thoughtful derivative of the mind philosophy. Epistemologists still use dream concepts to address skepticism, has barely influenced the active self-image of mainstream philosophy of mind.
It is often difficult to measure dream for study especially when comparing dream and reality because, one has to do comparison against real-life events (Metzinger 528). However, the better way to study dream and reality is to compare dream metal event against wake mental events. A number of experiences can e improbable in physical reality but intensely easily to imagine in a dream. Only a broad perceptual (Hallucinatory) model of dreaming has compared dream and reality.
Accessing Physical Experiences
There is a new focus on lucid dreaming and lucid. Some evidence has indicated that, people experiencing lucid dream were also likely to fluctuate between viewpoints dream and mental life. A lucid dreamer always knows that the existing world of the dream was not real (Metzinger 530).
Metzinger suggested that a lucid dreamer understood the phenomenon they experienced did not vary with external physical reality in content. To the farthest, lucid dreamer can recollect full memory and remember at least some characteristics of phenomenology of agency (Metzinger 530).
In his study on children’s dream, Foulkes recommended research on the connection between dreaming and skills of imagination and manipulation of patterns (Foulkes 9). Probably, visual-spatial capacities somehow assisted in generation of continuous kinematic imagery typical of happier dreams.
Too young children had rather static dreams. Foulkes connects the continued production of spontaneous kinematics imagery. In a study lab of young adults, participants were to respond on whether they saw themselves the way another person would do, or whether they saw the dream in their own eyes (Foulkes 9). A remarkably small percentage saw themselves in the dream. They did not experience kinematic imagery.
However, seeing the dream in their own eyes saw the dreamers experienced much kinematic imagery. Research that explicitly question subjects to specify a certain perspective of their dream and memory experience is not a vital choice in this fascinating domain. Most people impulsively flip between perspectives and confidence retrospective judgment of the dream is not always high.
Our mental health depends on dreams. Through science, one can understand nature better is by first achieving harmony. However, perhaps we need not be so concerned with turning dreams into reality; instead, we should just let them remain dreams. Are Dreams Functional? Currently, there are many logical reasons of functional and the way dreams appeared different from sense of function.
Even though there are incredible adaptationist accounts for sleep and phases of the sleep-cycle itself, there is reason to perceive that mental activity that took place in sleep was an authentic example of byproduct of what was designed during sleep-wake cycle. If this was right, there would be a situation where dreaming was mysteriously an uncontrolled sequeale, a spandrel and exaptation.
Baudrillard, Jean. The Precession of Simulacra. New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984. Print.
Dennett, Dan. Are Dreams Experiences? In Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology. Brighton: Harvester Press, 1981. Print.
Foulkes, David. Children’s Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1999. Print.
Freud, Sigmund. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973. Print.
Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. London: Allen & Unwin, 1951. Print.
Hamilton, Edith, Huntington Cairns, and Lane Cooper. The Collected Dialogues of Plato: Including the Letters. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2005. Print.
LaBerge, Stephen. Dreaming, Illusion, And Reality in Lucid Dreaming. New York: Ballantine, 1985. Print.
Manser, Paul. Dreams, in P. Edwards (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Collier and Macmillan, 1967. Print.
Metzinger, Thomas. Being No-one: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. Print.
Plato, Aristocles. The Collected Dialogues. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961. Print.
Ross, William. Aristotle. London: Routledge, 1995. Print.