extent of reality – final draft

this is my final philosophy paper (yes, again about dreams)…enjoy 


Dreams…they have fascinated people for ages. Dreams are something we all have in common, no matter what our race or interests, or religion. They are something so bizarre and unknown that we have no choice but to wonder. Why do we dream? Is there a point of our dreams or are they just there for us to question their existence? All of us, at one point in our lives have sat around with friends or colleagues and excitedly rambled about how our dream the night before felt so real, you could swear you felt the wind, pain, or terror within it to the core of your consciousness. However, how can this be true? Is it logical that our body is really able to experience a dream in more than a psychological way? After all, it isn’t possible to be feeling the things we imagine…or is it? Not too long ago, a friend of mine suggested a movie I had never heard of that would forever alter my perspective on the role of dreams in reality. As it had been filmed in a documentary-like fashion, yet also using cartoon-like videography, it was unlike anything I had ever seen. However, it wasn’t just the visuals that captivated me so much as the philosophical context of it all. The independent film Waking Life by Richard Linklater is undeniably inspirational in the way that it shows the relevance of the dream state in our overall picture of reality. The few short excerpts relating to dreams are so clearly presented that I had soon become quite convinced that when it comes to reality, anything is possible.

It’s not that we should be questioning whether or not there is indeed a true reality, but rather how far does it extend? Is it indeed possible to be alive and to exist in more than one way – through both the waking and the dreaming life? It had been greatly researched, and eventually concluded that the response of the brain to images we see with our eyes, and images we see imaginatively in our mind is exactly the same. The same parts of the brain get triggered and give us the feeling of being alive, no matter if we are dreaming or awake. Just with this fact alone, it seems simple. There is no clear line between dreaming and being awake, and thus reality is limitless. In the great philosophical works of René Descartes such as Discourse on Method, he talks about this point precisely. Not only does he bluntly state that reality as we know it could very easily be an illusion, but more importantly he is one of the first to argue that there is absolutely no difference between our dreaming experiences and our waking experiences. Everything we know could potentially be one great lie simply because there is no way of knowing. We, as humans cannot be sure that everything we are going through is real. The only thing which we can always know for sure, is one of the most important phrases in all of philosophy. Congito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am. This is to say that we can always be sure of one thing – we all have the ability to think, and if there is nothing else we can be sure of in life, this is the only truth we need in order to know that we exist. The way in which we exist is thus of little importance because as soon as your existence is established, you have no limits of where and how you might want to exist. Our dreams are a real and direct proof of this.

If you have ever slept through your alarm clock because it was merely a blasting siren in a part of your dream, you know that our waking life and dream state can merge together. As easily as we can daydream, we also have the ability to wake walk through our dream world. The concept of lucid dreaming is by far not a new one, nor is it far fetched. The idea of lucid dreaming is that we can be completely conscious within our dream state. This is to say that we have complete control of our actions, as well as our surroundings. Everything from the colour of the trees, to the weather and sounds in your dreamland can be changed and manipulated by the dreamer. For myself, lucidity was more common as a child, at an age where I did not have a set idea on the principles of reality. As we get older, we tend to lose the ability to think outside of what we are comfortable with while awake. However, from “Lucid Dreaming for Dummies” to “Six Steps to Lucid Dreams” on youtube.com, we have the chance to achieve this lucid manner of dreaming. After concluding that such a thing as lucid dreaming is possible in the same way as daydreaming, it becomes even more clear that the division between “wake” and “dream” is nonexistent once we think beyond what society has claimed “real”. The reason why we are always taught this division is because it is an organized way for us to think of our lives using time –awake in the daytime, dreaming at night– and space – the world of our dreams is in an unreal fairytale-like place unlike the world that we live in. Nevertheless, the world is not ordered and divided in this perfect way, for if it were, we would not know of chaos.

Space and time are not issues of concern in dreams. This is the most incredible aspect of imagination. Our mind’s ability to give us something out of our world must mean there is a reason for its’ existence. Imagination is a sort of food for the mind. In the theory of many dualistic philosophers such as Descartes and George Berkeley, the mind is something completely separate from the body and needs fulfillment of its own. It needs a reason to keep functioning. That reason is to realize a greater potential, and exploring the potential of one’s dreams gives meaning to the part of our life in which we had never thought we had a say…our dreams. Doesn’t it only make sense that because our conscious mind is able to influence our body in our waking state, it should be able to do just the same – if not much easier – while our body is immobile in dream? Going with the Sartre-like ideals of making our own fate with the tools of free will and self-control, once we see that we can choose and control what we are dreaming in the same way we can control our actions while awake, we can see precisely our ability to affect and initiate change even more so than before. Ultimately, the bigger the part of our lives we can control, the more social responsibility we have for each other, and the world as a whole, giving us a greater purpose for dreams, and imagination as a whole.

          Leaving out the whole part about sexual drive and obsession, Freud had a unique point regarding dreams. He points out that there are deep emotions buried in our subconsciousness, which are released during dreaming. It is for this reason that psychologists and dream specialists are able to extract meaningful metaphors about our mental psyche through our dreams. So if dreams were simply strange side effects of life, then why do people keep analyzing and trying so hard to find hidden meanings in them? If dreams are truly that important to comprehend, then it is true that they are a part of our lives, thus being a part of reality. However, it is difficult to seek and find ourselves and our essence while going through all the chaos of everyday life, and we must take the time to explore our waking self, as well as our dream self to find this essence, and reality. Ultimately, the purpose and trick you have to master is “…to combine your waking rational abilities with the infinite possibilities of your dreams…because if you can do that, you can do anything”, The Waking Life.


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