Dreams

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According to Merriam Webster's dictionary, a dream is a "succession of images, thoughts, sounds, or emotions which pass through the mind during sleep." Although different for everyone, dreaming is inevitable, and therefore has become inseparable from human nature. Consequently, this concept has been a boundless object of fascination and mystery since the beginning of time.  For this paper specifically, I will focus on separating reality from false perception so that self-knowledge may be understood and achieved through the process of dreaming.

In its entirety, Plato's Theaetetus is concerned with the question "What is knowledge?" Although the dialogue never offers a definitive answer, it does deal with several interesting proposals along the way.  More specifically, in keeping on track, Theaetetus offers the proposal that perception is knowledge: "It seems to me that one who knows something is perceiving the thing he knows, and, so far as I can see at present, knowledge is nothing but perception" (151d). According to class discussion, perception includes any sensory form of receiving data or external input, i.e. seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, or smelling.  For Theaetetus then, much like the Protagoras concept that "Man is the measure of all things" (152a), knowledge is the result of first-hand experience; whatever an individual collects by means of perception is true for him. Although this proposal is somewhat acceptable, Socrates is quick to point out the flaws.  Most importantly, he focuses on the question of dreams, "For in these conditions... it is far from being true that all things which appear to the individual also are" (158a).  According to Socrates, it would seem that dreaming is a clear objective to the theory that perception is knowledge because it makes reality impossible to locate; regardless of whether or not we think something to be true (or real), our perceptive abilities could be deceiving us.  Thus, as presented, there is no difference between perceiving something and seeming to perceive something, because we are unable to tell the difference.  For me, this statement is inaccurate, and while it does eliminate knowledge inclusively as perception, it does not eliminate perception as a source of knowledge.  Moreover, it suggests to me that we must learn to perfect our perceptive abilities in order to truly understand the process of obtaining knowledge.  More specifically, we must learn to distinguish false observations (dreaming) from reality through trial and error.  Once we have made the mistake of accepting falsehoods (dreams) to be true, we are more able to detect such situations in the future. In fact, we are eventually able to classify dreaming as completely separate from reality. Therefore, I believe that there is a distinct difference between perceiving something and seeming to perceive something, it simply takes time to figure out.  Once we have made this discovery, I believe that there is knowledge to be had from both true and false perceptions.  More specifically, I believe that knowledge comes from our interpretation of perceived information, and therefore, it is entirely possible to obtain knowledge from dreaming.

Regardless of whether or not we are aware of it, dreaming calls upon a part of our mind that is not active during our waking hours.  According to Socrates, it is difficult to tell whether "we are asleep and dreaming all our thoughts, or awake... in real life" (158c).  Mutually, I agree that dreaming can seem deceptively real, but I am yet to experience real life as deceptively dream-like. In other words, I accept that dreaming may seem like reality, and therefore perception alone cannot equal knowledge.  However, once we actually gain consciousness and wake up, the dream becomes an afterthought, and access to our subconscious mind is closed off. From here, the only way to further explore a dream is through conscious recollection.  Moreover, I believe that...
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