Ernest Sosa is the man with the answers, or so he thinks.
Sosa claims to have solved the skeptical problem of dreaming: are we awake or are we dreaming?
The cogito is famous: "I think therefore I am."
The cogito tells us that we are a thinking thing... that we can rely on our conscious self as existing.
Another way of phrasing this type of problem is whether we are dead: "I think therefore I am alive."
But what about dreaming? How can we tell the difference whether we are alive and conscious or simply stuck in a highly realistic and coherent dream? Well, Sosa thinks he has the answer. Sosa believes that one cannot question (let alone affirm) whether one is dreaming while one is within a dream. I'm not convinced. He doesn't have any trouble with lucid dreaming as lucid dreamers know the difference between beliefs within the dream and propositions about actual reality.
However, Sosa says, "If one is only dreaming, then one cannot be pondering any such question as whether one might be only dreaming, and one could not possibly assent to any answer, whether affirmative or negative. Knowing this, how can one sensibly deliberate on whether one might be dreaming? On our conception of dreams, one is automatically, rationally committed to supposing that one is not just dreaming, whenever one inquires at all. It is hard to imagine a better answer to the dream skeptic. ... We can just as well affirm as ." (p.20)
I don't buy it. I'd like to invite Sosa around for dinner and watch The Matrix with him and then see what he says. I think that it is feasible to imagine a possible scenario where one is dreaming and yet believe existential facts about the current (imagined) reality that happen to be false in actuality. I think that Sosa only privileges his solution by assuming that one can't have a sufficiently advanced enough dream-illusion that allows for existential confusion. In this regard, brain-death or unconsciousness are poor analogies for dreaming.
Do you agree with Sosa? Does Sosa provide a convincing argument against Dream Skepticism?
Do you disagree with Sosa? What problems does Sosa fail to answer?
Want to read more?
Sosa, Ernest (2007) A Virtue Epistemology. Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Find it at Better World Books or Google Books.