Dreaming

Dreaming

Dreaming

Dreaming

Excerpt

Many philosophers and psychologists who have thought about the nature of dreams, have believed that a dream is both a form of mental activity and a conscious experience. Descartes held that a human mind must be conscious at all times, this notion resulting from his supposed demonstration that the 'essence' or 'principal attribute' of mental substance is consciousness, and that so long as a mind exists there must exist 'modes' of that essence, i.e. states of consciousness, mental occurrences and mental acts. He says in a letter:

I had good reason to assert that the human soul is always conscious in any circumstances--even in a mother's womb. For what more certain or more evident reason could be required than my proof that the soul's nature or essence consists in its being conscious, just as the essence of a body consists in its being extended? A thing can never be deprived of its own essence (Descartes (1), p. 266).

According to Descartes, a dream is a part of this continuous mental life. It consists of thoughts, feelings and impressions that one has when asleep. In Part IV of the Discourse on the Method , speaking of the 'illusions' of dreams, he says that 'all the same thoughts and conceptions which we have while awake may also come to us in sleep' (Descartes (2), I, p. 101). In the First Meditation he represents himself as at . . .

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