How close dreams are to waking reality is shown by the need we sometimes have to remind ourselves that something seemingly remembered was merely dreamt. I wake up from a dream in which an enemy has acted in a friendly and conciliatory manner. I remind myself that the conciliatory behavior was merely my dreaming mind's invention.
I had a lucid dream the other night in which I lost my cool to an extent I would consider morally reprehensible in waking life. But was there any moral failure in the dream? And then there are the dreams in which I am having sexual intercourse with a woman not my wife. I'm aware I am dreaming and I think to myself: "Well, this is just a dream; I may as well enjoy it." So on occasion I grant nocturnal permission to a nocturnal emission.
Was there real, not merely dreamt, moral failure in the dream? (Augustine discusses this or a cognate question somewhere in his pelagic pennings, but I have forgotten where.)
Lucid dreaming while asleep is not the same as fantasizing while awake. But they are similar. Suppose I am entertaining (with hospitality) thoughts about having sex with my neighbor's wife. That sort of thing, I have argued, is morally objectionable. I mean the thinking, whether or not it results in any doing. Jesus just says it (MT 5:28). I argue it here and here. (Of course if he is God, he doesn't need to argue it, and because I am not God, I do.) Does the similarity support the claim that the nocturnal permission is as morally impermissible as the diurnal permission?
On Certainty #383: The argument "I may be dreaming" is senseless for this reason: if I am dreaming, this remark is being dreamed as well and indeed it is also being dreamed that these words have any meaning.
What is senseless (sinnlos) here is not the dream argument, but what Wittgenstein says about it. It is a plain fact that people have dreams in which they know that they are dreaming, and in which they think to themselves, 'I am dreaming.' In those dreams they are not dreaming that they are dreaming, if dreaming that p entails that one does not know that p.
I once had an extremely vivid dream about my dead cat, Maya. There she was: as (apparently) real as can be. I saw her, I touched and petted her, I heard her. It was all astonishingly vivid and coherent. There was an ongoing perceiving in which visual, tactile, and auditory data were well-integrated. And yet I knew within the dream that she was dead, and I knew that I had buried her in April 2001 in the desert behind the house.
And so I began to philosophize within the dream: I know that Maya is dead and that I am dreaming, and so these perceptions, as vivid and coherent as they are, cannot be veridical. Coherence is no guarantee of veridicality. I did not dream that I was dreaming, I knew that I was dreaming; and I did not dream the reasoning in the second-to-last sentence, I validly executed that reasoning. And the meanings of the terms in the reasoning was in no way affected by their being grasped within a dream.
Wittgenstein seems to be assuming that, for any proposition p, if one becomes aware that p while dreaming, then one has dreamt that p in a sense that entails that one does not know that p. But this assumption is false, as Descartes appreciated. Becoming aware that 2 + 3 = 5 while dreaming is consistent with knowing its truth in the way that dreaming that one is sitting before a fire is not consistent with knowing its truth. So there is no reason to deny that one can become aware that one is dreaming while dreaming. To become aware that one is dreaming while dreaming is not to dream that one is dreaming in a sense that implies that one is not in reality dreaming. And to use words within a dream is not to dream the meanings of those words in a sense that implies that they do not in reality have those meanings.
As far as Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don't believe, or a legend, which I don't believe either. Or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics.
The thunder, lightning and blaring of a trumpet which the Book of Exodus says emanated from Mount Sinai could just have been the imaginings of a people in an altered state of awareness . . . In advanced forms of ayahuasca inebriation, the seeing of light is accompanied by profound religious and spiritual feelings.
These speculations of Professor Shanon raise some interesting questions. I take Shanon to be saying that Moses on Sinai (i) really did have an unusual experience, and that therefore there is nothing legendary about the report in Exodus of this experience, but that (ii) this experience was not supernaturally caused, but caused by Moses' ingestion of a psychotropic drug, and that the etiology of the experience shows that the experience was nonveridical. Thus God did not reveal the Torah to Moses on Sinai; Moses had a drug-induced nonveridical experience of God revealing the Torah to him.
One question concerns the validity of the inference from
1. Subject S under the influence of drug D experiences that p
2. S's experience that p is nonveridical.
Simply put, the question is whether one can validly infer the nonveridicality of an experience if the experience was had while the subject of the experience was under the influence of a drug.
Surely this is a non sequitur. Right now, under the influence of caffeine, I note that my coffee cup is empty. This is consistent with the perceptual experience of the cup's being empty being veridical, which it is. So from the mere fact that a subject is 'on drugs,' it does not follow that that any of the subject's experiences are nonveridical. Now caffeine is a very mild drug. But suppose I was I was on a combination of caffeine, nicotine, marijuana, and methampehtamine. Even then one could not infer that the perception in question was nonveridical. Even on a dose of LSD-25 most of one's perceptual experiences remain veridical. In the case of Moses, from the fact, if it is a fact, that he was under the influence of a psychotropic drug while on Sinai, it does not follow that his experience of being addressed by God and being given the Decalogue was nonveridical.
(And anyway, aren't we always on 'drugs'? The consciousness we enjoy in this life is brain-mediated, and the brain is the site of innumerable electro-chemical reactions. In this life at least, 'No consciousness without chemistry.' Our brains are always 'on drugs.' But we don't take this fact as ruling out veridical perceptions, valid reasonings, true judgments, correct moral intuitions, etc.)
Returning to the case at hand, if you begin by assuming that there is no God, then it is plausible to explain the Sinai experience by saying that it was drug-induced. But that simply begs the question against the theist.
The crucial point is that a subject's being on drugs is logically consistent with the veridicality of his experiences; therefore, one cannot infer from the fact, if it is a fact, that Moses was under the influence of a psychedelic or psychotropic drug that his experience was nonveridical. And that holds true for anyone's mystical or religious experience.
If, however, there were independent reasons for believing that a certain experience was nonveridical, then one could explain the occurrence of the experience in terms of the influence of the drug. But the occurrence/nonoccurrence of an experience is not to be confused with the veridicality/nonveridicality of the content of an experience. So questions about how an experience arose, whether by normal or abnormal means, are distinct from questions about the content of the experience. To fail to observe this distinction may lead one to commit the Genetic Fallacy. It is so-called to highlight the fact that questions about origin or genesis are logically independent of questions about truth and falsehood. If it has been antecedently established that the content of an experience is nonveridical, then it is legitimate to inquire into the origins of the experience. But one cannot demonstrate that the content of the experience is nonveridical by adducing facts about its origin.
So even if Shanon could prove that Moses and the people around him were under the influence of powerful drugs, that would not support his contention that nothing supernatural occurred on Sinai. It would not because it is consistent with theism. How does Shanon know that the drugs Moses supposedly took did not open "the doors of perception" (in Aldous Huxley's phrase) allowing him access to the transcendent, as opposed to shutting him up among figments of his own imagination?
There is a second question whose full discussion should be reserved for a subsequent post. It is clear that mathematical and other truths can be grasped whether one is awake or dreaming, sober or drunk, on drugs or not. Sometimes when I dream I know that I am dreaming. This awareness that I am dreaming is veridical despite the fact that I have it while dreaming. After all, I am not dreaming that I am dreaming. Or if a valid proof occurs to a mathematician in a dream, it is no less valid because the mathematician is dreaming. Why should not the same hold for moral truths? If it is true that it is morally obligatory not to kill human beings, then the experiencing of this truth is veridical whether or not the subject is awake or sleeping, sober or drunk, on drugs or not. So even if it could be proven that Moses was under the influence of powerful drugs on Sinai, what relevance would that have? At the very most it might cast doubt on the veridicality of Moses' perception of God, but not on the veridicality of his experiencing of the content of the Decalogue. If it is true that one ought not kill, then it is true whether or not God exists. And if it is true that one ought not kill, then one's intuiting that it is true is veridical whether one is awake of dreaming, sober or drunk, on drugs or not, or a brain in a vat as opposed to a brain in a skull.
Suppose that all of Moses' perceptions of unusual physical phenomena while he was on Mt. Sinai were hallucinatory and thus nonveridical as the result of his ingestion of a drug. Suppose there was no burning bush, etc. It could still have been the case that he had veridical insights into objective moral truths.