DIALOGUE: THE DREAM DREAMS THAT MAYBE THERE"S A DREAMER: PART 1
SOCRATES: Only the dreamer exists - not the dreams.
ARISTOPHANES : What is 'the dreamer'?
SOCRATES: The dreamer is he or she that dreams.
ARISTOPHANES: Are you sure it is not the dreams that exist, after all they are projected images, and the dreamer does not exist? What complete image do you have of the dreamer? Do you not have the same 'assurance' while you are actually within the dream that events are real as you do in daily life, which raises the problem if the sense of reality is the same for both, differing only in that each thinks the other state too strange? Where is the sure point of certitude for either? And how can you demonstrate, within each context, which has greater certitude and which is poorly grounded?
SOCRATES: There is no way that I can show that a recent dreaming action of an actor has truly taken place of not. The only way action is truly demonstrable is to repeat the action, in this case dreaming. It is impossible to re-dream a dream. Verbal attempts at describing past action, whether that be Agathon's wine an hour ago or a dream I dreamed last Tuesday, is doomed to failure. Try describing a recent dream to somebody else. Mental images do not exist. Only the body exists. As to the suggestion we are all dreaming, at least one must exist in order to dream. Metaphysicians can to fool some of the people into the belief that they are dreaming all of the time, and all of the people into the belief that they are dreaming some of the time, but they cannot fool all of the people into the belief that they are dreaming all of the time.
AGATHON: I don't know if this is relevant to anything, but there are a few occasions
on which I have experienced 'lucid dreaming.' One particular occasion springs to mind, in which events were so outrageous that I became fully aware I was asleep and dreaming. There was no confusion about this. I knew I was dreaming. In this state one can achieve a certain degree of control over the dream itself. Though I have limited experience of this, it does convince me that there is a qualititative difference between dreaming and wakefulness, which I would loosely characterize as having to do with controlling some of the circumstances. We usually speak of a dream simply as 'having happened to us' but in normal circumstances wakefulness does not I think just happen to us. It is a state in which we interact and also make things happen as a result of clear decisions. I'm not sure one can demonstrate anything whilst dreaming. That state has to be distinguished from the momentary confusion and necessary reorientation we sometimes experience when waking, which itself belongs to wakefulness.
PRODICUS: Yes, Agathon, I agree. We seem to often have the ability to know some part of our mind is doing something "on its own" into which we can, infrequently I
think, intrude. I wish I could do more intruding. That might be quite enjoyable!
HIPPIAS: This is a very old conundrum. I have to ask, Does it matter? 'Certitude' is
a word I dislike with the same vigor I dislike 'perfection'. Dreams are workings no one clearly understands. If I am asked how I can know if I am dreaming this life, there is no possible way for me to prove I am or am not. Others maybe, but I can not. That in itself is a conundrum. What another says about their experience is only their personal observation. Others can see that I am sleeping, and that I seemingly am having a dream by my movements as if watching something or reaching for something or trying to walk on thin air. This is distinguishable from the way I act in my waking state. But can I possibly dream of my waking state in the same way. As Protagoras say, if we can imagine it, it is rationally consistent as an idea, and therefore possible. If, following this induction, I see a play about myself afterwards, I might claim that the entire activity is a dream. I think, in my every day life of course, that those who might believe this to be a few obols short of a drachma, that is, mad. But the mad guy will swear he is not mad . . . and believe it! So, one goes back to words like 'confusion' and 'reorientation' as used to justify knowing one is awake, and judging that there is no 'demonstration' or logic in a dream and think again what is happening here. Could 'reorientation' be a shift of prejudice of validity from one state called 'dreaming' to another state called 'wakefulness'? That this same prejudice would distort and devalue logical judgments made while dreaming so that the supposed 'wakeful' state is of superior value?
ARISTOPHANES: I think Socrates has actually struck at the root of the problem. There can be no experimental comparison because we are not dealing with present objects but memories and time. What one remembers is itself a judgment based on the values of the state one remembers within. From my experience which cannot apply to any of you, I remember different things in dreaming or the same things as in waking but from a different interpretation. A dream can only be a dream as past time. Protagoras has written that the only thoughts he knows are truly 'his' are his immediate experiences, and that in our soul the only thing we can be certain of is the succession of sensations without certainty of what they are or what they signify, much less as possessing any certain value. His memories from that place, that other-where of the presently imagined past are the memories of 'someone' and not necessarily himself. Since consciousness and its identity, his possession of 'his' immediate sensations, can only be of the immediate present, one can easily deduce that memory is not an obedient and accurate tool or servant. You are not its master, and, just as in a dream, you compare it to your present state and context which, as 'this' 'now', whether you like it or not, is arbitrarily, even involuntarily chosen. In both dream and memory, you 'feel' there is a familiar continuity giving it valid context just the same as being in the present and awake. As in lucid dreaming, you can feel you are in absolute control of the situation as if telling a story the same way as ruler or general, thinking they are awake and present, believe they have complete control over their situation. This is a terrible delusion we have experience through the arrogance of others in our lives to our great sorrow. But, if you are objective, you know your present state is dependent on matters, external or internal, that merely allow you to 'feel' that as if having that control. Of course the state you are in, whatever it may be, rejects all other states as
not as real, as whatever state you are in at the moment. So you are merely a crowd on a stage saying, "I'm the one that'd real!" No, I'm the one that's real!" "You're both full of it-I'm really the real one." "I'm drunk therefore I know that I am. I just don't know quite where." "Don't throw up on my shoes!" "I'm the one that's real because I've got the biggest muscles!" "Hey, muscle boy, do you have a date to the games?" "Get away from me or I'll make you into garlic paste." (POW) "Hey, I thought you weren't suppose to hurt when you were dreaming?" "You haven't the brains to know if you are dreaming." (POW) "O.k., o.k. I'm awake, don't hit me again!" etcetera. Protagoras says, "The mind is a kind of theatre, ehere several perceptions successfully make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away. And mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations. There is properly no simplicity in it at one time nor identity in different times. Successive perceptions only constitute the mind; nor have we the most distant notion of the place, where these scenes are represented, or the materials of which it is composed." Of course they are all going to disagree on who is the smartest, the strongest, the most awake, the most drunk, the most sleepy, and so forth. I would say, the play is the thing to find the thread that ties it all together. The play brings the past and future and wakefulness and dreaming together to produce a plot, get a good laugh or tear out one's eyes, and maybe run off with the appropriate maiden, or not, as you wish. Of course there would be no certitude, and every state thinks it has control of the situation involving the others, or at least is being 'objective' about it. But does it matter? Yes, but not by the way one is wholly right and others are wholly wrong. This is so because there is going to be a result from the whole situation just as there is a resolve in each state. They must concur because at any point you are making judgments of what state which experience is in. You make these judgmen
state you are presently in, which, for the moment, is the 'valid' one. And what is the result? Of course, the state one is not within at the time of judgment will be inconsistent with the continuity of one's present state and is therefore 'false'. What you really have, though, are several plot lines that have not come together yet. The old miser hides his gold and is suspicious of everybody. The father is desperate to get his daughter married. The warrior waking up from his drunk thinks he might have raped someone that night. A young girl feels she has had the most ecstatic experience of her life during the sacred orgy. The old miser's slave is tired of his skimpy rations and is looking for an opportunity to improve his situation. His friend, the slave next door, had to clean up after the festivities last night and is still asleep, but dreaming of the wild things his betters got away with, and the thought is slowly creeping into his dreaming mind that his friend is sly enough to find a way to blackmail these people. It will tie together with the proper writer, but how? All these viewpoints are distorted by desire, regret, ambition, and greed. Why, here I have my self then! A comic situation!
PRODICUS: Let me try to be a bit more controversial. What if I supposed for instance
that not only do 'events' and 'actions' not exist, but that 'occurrences' do not occur either, including mental events, actions, and dreams whereby that which occurs is wrongfully perceived. That which we really think to occur is actually that which exists. Then that which happens, the humanly perceived actions that take place on earth and in the cosmos are either correct or incorrect apprehensions of actual things existing simply in the way they exist. In this situation, mere consistency determines what 'reality' is. If you are consistent in your present situation, you are 'real' for whatever that counts.
ALCIBIADES: "What you see is what you get." (loud belch)
SOCRATES: Therefore, for me, Protagoras got it the wrong way around. No such thing exists in the cosmos as sensations, events, actions, or occurrences. There is only that which senses. Therefore to say: 'I assume you mean the proper applications of words to sensation' is erroneous. for that is the same as saying: 'I assume you mean the proper applications of words to the speaker?' Therefore I agree. It is self-consistency that counts. Let us forget about statement of grandiose 'reality'. It is just a word.
ALCIBIADES (looking around with unfocused eyes): Who's speaking? Is that you, Aristophanes? No, no, wait . . . It was you Socrates! You seem to have grown horns . . .
ARISTOPHANES: Ignore him. The most significant change is from "what is the state that becomes familiar with things" to "what are the states in which one gets to know things". "Familiar" is an emotional and comforting term that fits very well with "state". Related to that is the change from singular to plural means there are plural states (hexeis), different kinds of states in which 'to know'. And the "states" are 'havings' or 'graspings'. That 'what are the states in which one gets to know them" gives us a clue. We normally consider 'state of being', which is being something, a statement which can be true or false, as an 'emotional state', but here it is associated it with knowing. This is perfectly acceptable to Protagoras but sounds strange to our inherited common sense 'ear'.
AGATHON: I seem to recall, though my memory is hazy here, that 'echein' refers to a very particular kind of having. One could 'have' several shirts, but 'echein' would only apply to the shirt one was currently wearing. In relation to that kind of having, to enquire about the 'having' that 'gets to know' these principles seems to require that we know these principles by 'wearing' them or 'using' them. A skill is a 'having' again in this sense of 'echein'-- it is a 'having' that is also at the same time a 'using.' Skill is then a kind of whole 'distinction making' that does not require a 'mental imprint' in the strict sense. A skill is learned through the repetition of a form of motion that follows exactly the circumspection of an eye in examining an unfamiliar object. They are both memories of a form, one held in the mind as a pathway of action, the other held as a concept that stays the same and can be referred to. Intuited truths are seen to be true because they work. We 'know' these principles by 'wearing' them or 'using' them. And therefore simply reflecting upon them is already in some sense to be 'wearing' them, so that we cannot get at them by this
means, that is, by a knowing of a knowing.
SOCRATES: Very good, Agathon! A cutting point! We only know something by doing it, getting adjusted to it, making small changes, and if that doesn't get it right, throwing it out!
Gary C Moore
Gary C. Moore
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