Is this all a dream?

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Philflipsnor
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Is this all a dream?

Postby Philflipsnor » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:39 am UTC

I was asked the question today: how do we know what we view reality isn't our dreams, and what we view our dreams isn't reality? Is there any sort of test that we can administer to make this check?

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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Daojia » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:43 am UTC

Patently, no. Any test you make within a real or false framework of reality can just as easily be rendered invalid by the false stimuli of the dream-world. Descartes spent a lot of time discussing these things, and if I remember right, only made his way out of the conundrum by "proving" the existence of a just God who would never lie to us. That said, any attempts made by me to bend a spoon have so far just resulted in headaches.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby meatyochre » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:44 am UTC

Sounds like someone watched Inception and it totally changed their life. :roll:

The movie was interesting and food for thought. It was even maybe a very good movie. But come on, people. It's not a way of life.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Lazar » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:45 am UTC

One standard that I've thought of is coherence: dreams tend to contain things that later strike us as grossly incoherent, whereas the real world appears to have a certain logical consistency to it.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Daojia » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:48 am UTC

Lazar wrote:One standard that I've thought of is coherence: dreams tend to contain things that later strike us as grossly incoherent, whereas the real world appears to have a certain logical consistency to it.

Tends to is not enough. Dreams have coherence in them too - in my dreams a square still has 4 sides, and time proceeds from cause to effect in a largely similar way.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Lazar » Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:04 am UTC

I'm not saying dreams have no coherence, just that they have less.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby uncivlengr » Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:27 am UTC

You typically don't recognize how incoherent a dream is until you wake up, though - you might have a dream in which your house is attached to your elementary school and even if you recognize that that's strange, you don't think, "gee, this is impossible, there's something wrong with this reality".
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby meatyochre » Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:28 am UTC

Lazar wrote:I'm not saying dreams have no coherence, just that they have less.

But while you're dreaming your mind fills in the incoherent gaps. I have had some crazy nonsensical dreams, but while I was dreaming it seemed to make sense. Enough sense that I didn't just declare "this is a dream, time to wake up now."

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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Josephine » Tue Jul 27, 2010 2:11 am UTC

this is very anecdotal, but I've failed to recognize a dream as a dream many times because physics worked properly in it. There's no reason dreams must have less coherency than 'reality'.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby podbaydoor » Tue Jul 27, 2010 2:28 am UTC

This is pretty much the same as the "are we in the Matrix?" or "are we just pawns in a cosmic game?" questions. There's apparently a possibility that it's actually the future and we're just experiments in a sophisticated simulation being run by one of the humans' descendants in the 30th century or whatever.

In the end, you can't prove it - and even if you did, you'll wind up going in circles trying to prove that your proving it wasn't just another illusion on top of an illusion. So the solution is to ignore the whole thing - for your intents and purposes, your perceptive reality is reality. So just go and live it.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Briareos » Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:01 am UTC

As usual, Wikipedia has some introductory material on the question.

EDIT: except I guess we're talking about dreams here. Disregard, unless you like tangential material.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Cloud Walker » Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:21 am UTC

Philflipsnor wrote:I was asked the question today: how do we know what we view reality isn't our dreams, and what we view our dreams isn't reality? Is there any sort of test that we can administer to make this check?


We call this reality because it is consistent and consistently corroborated by other humans. That's all there is to "objective reality." There isn't any way to get anything more, and there isn't any need to.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Sarr » Tue Jul 27, 2010 4:10 am UTC

Does it really matter if it is or isn't? Either way, as far as we know, this is all we've got. Stop agonizing over pointless philosophical questions and go enjoy yourself.

...Wow, I think I just summed up my life philosophy.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby SomeFloridaKid » Tue Jul 27, 2010 4:26 am UTC

*insert "Inception" pun here"

but really, that is a good question, a bit too phylosophical for my taste. i just live life.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Tue Jul 27, 2010 5:20 am UTC

In your dreams you don't ask the question is this a dream while that other time is reality.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby tastelikecoke » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:52 am UTC

I'm those people with bouts of false awakenings (I have the ability to induce them somehow)

But upon entering the endless loop of awakening, every time I feel "Yep, this is the real world" but suddenly my senses fail me and I suddenly found myself waking up again, and still thinking "Now this is definitely the real world." until my dreams end.

I doubt this is the dream world I'm stuck with. Dreams are very magnificent, but they rarely reflect reality, other than looking just like it.

Okay, that sounds wrong. One particular dream I had was my classmates waking me up for a party inside my house. I vividly remember how I accepted this happening, It imitated my house very accurately, but dreams are only relying on your acceptance on the incoherent world, upon realizing it's all a dream it would fizzle out, (or you get a lucid dream)

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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:04 am UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:In your dreams you don't ask the question is this a dream while that other time is reality.

Sure you do, you just don't always remember it. And in your dreams, the nature of reality is that fish swim around in the air and are caught by butterfly nets. Because that's perfectly normal. Whatever's going on in your dreams is accepted as factual and real, which makes the whole lucid dreaming thing such a pain to get going - because your brain just accepts whatever it's random neuron firing displays for it. After all, the brain only knows what it's inputs tell it, and if it's inputs tell it that we travel around in boats that float on helium balloons like some aerial Venice, then by god we travel around in cloudboats.

Now shut up and eat your sky fish.



But yeah, back to the OP, you're asking philosophy 101 questions, for the record. Not saying that's a bad thing, just pointing out that the question's been asked and, for the most part, has an answer (which is also debatable. But that's philosophy. You often have to figure out if both sides mean the same thing when they say "thing" or "mean" before you can get anywhere. Philosophy's fun). As others have already said, it doesn't matter if this is a dream or not, as all of the actors are accepting it as reality and acting in a more or less consistent manner, so for some actions you take, you can have predictable results - ie if you kill or steal, you can expect to be investigated and prosecuted, with various penalties depending on how much and where you did it, and so on. Whether or not this is real is debatable but ultimately unprovable and unimportant.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Zarq » Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:14 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
mmmcannibalism wrote:In your dreams you don't ask the question is this a dream while that other time is reality.

Sure you do, you just don't always remember it. And in your dreams, the nature of reality is that fish swim around in the air and are caught by butterfly nets. Because that's perfectly normal. Whatever's going on in your dreams is accepted as factual and real, which makes the whole lucid dreaming thing such a pain to get going - because your brain just accepts whatever it's random neuron firing displays for it. After all, the brain only knows what it's inputs tell it, and if it's inputs tell it that we travel around in boats that float on helium balloons like some aerial Venice, then by god we travel around in cloudboats.

Now shut up and eat your sky fish.



But yeah, back to the OP, you're asking philosophy 101 questions, for the record. Not saying that's a bad thing, just pointing out that the question's been asked and, for the most part, has an answer. As others have already said, it doesn't matter if this is a dream or not, as all of the actors are accepting it as reality and acting in a more or less consistent manner, so for some actions you take, you can have predictable results - ie if you kill or steal, you can expect to be investigated and prosecuted, with various penalties depending on how much and where you did it, and so on. Whether or not this is real is debatable but ultimately unprovable and unimportant.


Unless offcourse, you start lucid living and change reality as you please. But I wouldn't try it. Since nobody has ever done it.
Offcourse, if this was a dream, then I'm the only real person and everything else is in my imagination.

But sometimes you can apply real world-logic to dreams. That's how people induce lucid dreams. One day, my watch broke, so for a period of time I wasn't wearing one. Then, in a dream, somebody asks me what time it is. Intuitively, I look at my watch but while turning my arm I realize I was not wearing one. Yet in my dream I was so instantly I knew it was a dream.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby uncivlengr » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:20 pm UTC

I'm guessing Inception will generate the same amount of speculation on dreaming that that movie with Angelina Jolie and curving bullets had on ballistics.

(I actually haven't seen either)
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:31 pm UTC

Zarq wrote:
SexyTalon wrote:... so for some actions you take, you can have predictable results - ie if you kill or steal, you can expect to be investigated and prosecuted, with various penalties depending on how much and where you did it, and so on. Whether or not this is real is debatable but ultimately unprovable and unimportant.
Unless offcourse, you start lucid living and change reality as you please. But I wouldn't try it. Since nobody has ever done it. Offcourse, if this was a dream, then I'm the only real person and everything else is in my imagination.
Sure, sure.. but once you start shifting your own body to different forms at your whims or adjusting how spacetime works or whatever, the penalties for lawbreaking will also be adjustable to you, so in the end, so long as you know what the penalties are and how to adjust them, go wild with whatever.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Belial » Tue Jul 27, 2010 4:58 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:In the end, you can't prove it - and even if you did, you'll wind up going in circles trying to prove that your proving it wasn't just another illusion on top of an illusion. So the solution is to ignore the whole thing - for your intents and purposes, your perceptive reality is reality. So just go and live it.


This is, by the way, also the answer to the "Free Will vs Determinism" question.

That is, both of them come to "it doesn't really make a difference, even if the answer is "it's a dream/the universe is deterministic" you basically have to live your life like it was reality/free-willed. So it's irrelevant.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Jul 27, 2010 5:42 pm UTC

You could always use the old-school insanity concept. If you're insane, you wouldn't ask yourself the question, "Am I insane?"

If you're lucid, you're lucid. If you're alive, you're alive. But dreaming, like insanity, is not binary.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Lostdreams » Tue Jul 27, 2010 5:52 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:You could always use the old-school insanity concept. If you're insane, you wouldn't ask yourself the question, "Am I insane?"

If you're lucid, you're lucid. If you're alive, you're alive. But dreaming, like insanity, is not binary.


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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Internetmeme » Tue Jul 27, 2010 9:38 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
mmmcannibalism wrote:Whatever's going on in your dreams is accepted as factual and real, which makes the whole lucid dreaming thing such a pain to get going - because your brain just accepts whatever it's random neuron firing displays for it.

Which is why I have always had much more consistent success with methods where you retain consciousness while your body goes to sleep, rather than waiting until the middle of a dream to figure out "Wait, I'm dreaming!"
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Josephine » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:02 pm UTC

Internetmeme wrote:
SexyTalon wrote:
mmmcannibalism wrote:Whatever's going on in your dreams is accepted as factual and real, which makes the whole lucid dreaming thing such a pain to get going - because your brain just accepts whatever it's random neuron firing displays for it.

Which is why I have always had much more consistent success with methods where you retain consciousness while your body goes to sleep, rather than waiting until the middle of a dream to figure out "Wait, I'm dreaming!"

It's got a higher chance of working, but it's damn hard to do.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Cloud Walker » Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:43 pm UTC

The only time I've dreamed lucidly is when a nightmare scared me awake. Not enough awake to not be able to go immediately back to my dream, but enough awake that I realized it and kept that consciousness with me as I went in.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Midnight » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:53 am UTC

A better question is, why does it matter? Shit's fun regardless, yo.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:01 am UTC

Shit's fun, yes.. but can shit be more fun?
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby pooteeweet » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:45 am UTC

I've always been afraid that I'm actually 98 years old with severe dementia/alzheimer's, sitting in a nursing home, hallucinating old memories of my life at age 24. These hallucinations would make my 98-year-old self act really inappropriately. What if when I'm going to the bathroom, or flirting with someone, or masturbating, I'm actually an elderly lady acting cuckoo and gross?

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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby meatyochre » Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:06 am UTC

pooteeweet wrote:I've always been afraid that I'm actually 98 years old with severe dementia/alzheimer's, sitting in a nursing home, hallucinating old memories of my life at age 24. These hallucinations would make my 98-year-old self act really inappropriately. What if when I'm going to the bathroom, or flirting with someone, or masturbating, I'm actually an elderly lady acting cuckoo and gross?

I used to think that all the time. But hey, it's gotta be better to hallucinate I'm 25 than to actually be living in the moment at 90.

At least that's what I tell myself, it might make me feel better in case I develop alzheimer's later in life.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby tastelikecoke » Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:28 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:Shit's fun, yes.. but can shit be more fun?

I chortled on the second panel, because that's what philosophy looks like, and why they are still unclear about Zeno's paradox.

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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby quantumcat42 » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:27 pm UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:In your dreams you don't ask the question is this a dream while that other time is reality.

I can remember at least two instances when, while dreaming, I wondered if I was dreaming -- and came to the conclusion that I wasn't. Dozens of other times I recognize that things are weird but don't think to wonder if it's a dream (generally get sidetracked trying to remember how I got so drunk...). Maybe 5-6 times I've realized I was dreaming.

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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Bakemaster » Wed Jul 28, 2010 10:03 pm UTC

What's with all the philosophy-flavored nerd sniping in General recently?

Great way to fuck with a friend who thinks they have a far better grasp of philosophy than they actually do: Inform them that you are god, and they are simply one of your creations. In fact, you're a pretty fickle god, and yesterday they were taller but you decided that was lame so you made them shorter (or pick a change). Challenge them to prove you wrong. If they get the idea to turn it around and have you prove yourself right OR claim that they're god and you're a figment, simply shake your head and tell them what a shame it is that your creations lack the ability to sense absolute objective truth, to the point where they believe it to be fundamentally impossible. If your friend hasn't given up by now, they probably never will.

I milked this with a particular friend all the way through junior high school and most of high school.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby podbaydoor » Thu Jul 29, 2010 4:39 am UTC

I have a friend who does a similar thing - he claims he's infallible. If there's an argument, he ends it with a variation on, "Nope, I'm right, because I'm infallible." Everything you say after that is invalid because he's infallible. And so on.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby she-ra » Thu Jul 29, 2010 1:02 pm UTC

I quite like the idea that in my dreams I live with my parents and have a boring desk job but in reality I live in a castle by the sea and can fly.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby swibbub » Sat Jul 31, 2010 7:17 pm UTC

"what we view as reality"

I don't even think all our realities are equal...

Especially not in the case of most visitors of xkcd! ;)

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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Woopate » Sun Aug 01, 2010 8:56 am UTC

Most of the dreams I remember, I tend to know are dreams while in them, but I don't let it be a big deal or anything, so I get to see the rest of the story. Y'know. Act casual. The tell for me, is usually my own state of mind. I don't know how, but I can definitely identify when I'm not thinking straight. Though, sometimes I wake up rather poorly, and the "not thinking straight" of dreaming bleeds over into being awake, and I forget how to read, or can't remember any nouns, or some shit for about ten minutes. That's entertaining and very very frightening.

As for the philisophical debate, I have to jump on the bandwagon of "does not matter". This is what we've got, real or not. Exploit it. If I were an NPC in a video game, I'd milk selling Potions and giving quests for all it was worth.

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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby CombustibleLemons » Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:08 pm UTC

I've had this idea that what if reality is a dream that we can dream in but as we are about to die we wake up.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Chfan » Sun Aug 01, 2010 10:58 pm UTC

Of course not. Why would dreams be reality anyway? You'd be randomly reappearing into the other world for only short periods of time, most of which is inconsistent with itself. And if this is a dream, how would you WAKE UP? I mean it's not like you can WAKE UP from reality or anything. To WAKE UP from the real world? You've never been able to WAKE UP, have you? So don't even try to WAKE UP.
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Re: Is this all a dream?

Postby Cloud Walker » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:18 am UTC

Woopate wrote:...the "not thinking straight" of dreaming bleeds over into being awake, and I forget how to read, or can't remember any nouns, or some shit for about ten minutes. That's entertaining and very very frightening.


I've had that sort of experience on drugs before, and, yes, very frightening.

Woopate wrote:As for the philisophical debate, I have to jump on the bandwagon of "does not matter". This is what we've got, real or not. Exploit it. If I were an NPC in a video game, I'd milk selling Potions and giving quests for all it was worth.


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