Descartes' Dream Argument.

Essay by kddollUniversity, Bachelor's May 2003

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Descartes' Dream Argument

Question everything. Descartes would like his audience to do exactly this when beginning his Meditations on First Philosophy. Urging the reader to do this, Descartes introduces an argument in "Meditation One: Concerning Those Things That Can Be Called into Doubt" regarding dreams vs. reality. Descartes argument concerning dreams in "Meditation One" seems to be correct. In this paper, I will first explain why Descartes presents the dream argument and the reasoning for placing it at the beginning of his Meditations, next I will explain the dream argument itself, and lastly, I will illustrate why Descartes' argument is true.

A question Descartes is determined to answer in his Meditations on First Philosophy is how one can know which beliefs he or she may hold are actually true. In an attempt to begin to answer this inquiry, Descartes ventures to get rid of all of his beliefs and start over with only certain beliefs.

To do this, Descartes will perform what he calls "methodical doubt" which is an organized and planned way of finding reasons to question one's beliefs. Descartes does this by attempting to attack the foundational beliefs that all of his beliefs rely on: his senses.

Descartes calls sensory perceptions into question so that his audience will be free from sensory influence. Once his audience is in the right mind-state, Descartes believes they will be able to understand what he has to say more easily. In an effort to make his reader question his or her senses, Descartes brings up dreams. He reflects upon dreams because of this: it is possible for one to figure out that he or she is dreaming, but some dreams are so realistic that the dreamer actually believes it is reality. So, if these "overly realistic dreams" exist and...