Truth suffers from too much analysis

“How did you get here?”

Posted by allzermalmer on January 19, 2012

In the movie Inception, Cobb is talking with Ariadne at a coffee table. He is talking about dreams, and about how you just find yourself right in the middle of the dream while not remembering how you got there. And later, after they wake up, he brings up that dreams were very real until you wake up and realize that something strange happened.

This brings up, what seem, to be two interrelated problems. One of them seems to be the problem of the past and the other about comparison. For each of these we can rely on two quotes to summarize these two problems. Bertrand Russell brings up the problem of the past when he said “the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that “remembered” a wholly unreal past’.” George Berkeley sums up the problem of comparison when he said “Two things cannot be said to be alike or unlike till they have been compar’d’.”

Now you’ll notice that the problem of the past deals with “remembering”, which means it deals with memory. The point of the hypothesis, it seems, is to point out that the past is really known by the memory. For I would have to compare the present with the past. But how can I compare the past with the present when the past is nowhere to be found? So it seems I would have to rely on something, and this would seem to be memory comes into play. I have a “mental image” of something, and this event itself isn’t a “sensory” type of experience. And this “sensory” type of experience is the “present” world. But the memory seems to carry much of the content that is found with the “sensory” type of experience that helps to form what the memories are about.

Now here is another point that would seem to bring in the problem of comparison and the problem of the past. Now imagine that you just pop into existence, and you come to our planet and notice  this volcano. You decide to jump into it, and you find that your body melts. The point is, most of us wouldn’t do this because we have memory of things going into the volcano to catch fire. And we’re taught certain things about it that help to form an idea of what happens. Memory plays an important part, like it does in telling us not to walk in front of an oncoming freight truck or train. We compare what has happened in the past, which is contained in our memory, and what is happening now in the present. We can notice if either something is similar or different.

Part of what goes on in this is comparison. Is the content of this memory similar to what is going on now in the present? Do they compare up in some parts or disagree in some parts? When you wake up from the dream, you have a memory, at least right when you wake up, of what happened. But you also have this present experience which seems to be at odds with the memory of your dream. Thus, you can say this present experience is different from what I have memory of. The comparison tells you that something is different between the two. But it doesn’t tell you which one is “real” and which one isn’t. Either of them could be the real or not. When you find yourself in either one, they both seem real at that moment when you find yourself in it.

Did you wake up into “real world” or did you wake up into a “dream world”? From what experience would you tell the difference? The senses don’t the tell the difference between “real” or “dream”. Looks like you would have to use something else besides the senses to differentiate between the two. What would you use? Memory looks like the best thing to use.

But the point would also be that memory is based on what the senses, if we want to exclude “imagination”, presented to us. However, the senses don’t differentiate between the “real world” and a “dream world”. Which would mean that memory wouldn’t help us differentiate between the “dream world” and the “real world”. But we have more memories that fit this “real world” than we do of the “dream world”. We find that we often forget much of our “dreams”, and remember more of the “real” world. The point, might be, that “real world” gives us more memories which form a coherent whole. And what doesn’t fit this coherent whole, we consider to be a “dream”. And so when we wake up from a “dream”, we find that our experience fits with what we have more memories of usually going on.

But here is the question, “how did you get here?” How did you get to this “real world”? When you find yourself in a dream, you don’t remember how you got there. But how did you get to this “real world”? Did you just find that you woke up into it as well, or did you just fall into a dream?

Think back to your first memory of the “real world”. You had some sort of experience, but this experience didn’t differentiate between real and dream itself. And it couldn’t have been memory either when you had no previous memories to use to help differentiate between dream and real, or experience. So maybe now you’ve just started to collect memories of a dream that you just fell into, and thus, all those points that were made to help us think that we woke up into the “real world” is just us “dreaming”. In other words, when we think we wake up from a dream, we are just falling into the dream again. Vice versa, when we go to sleep and dream, we are actually waking up into the real world.

As Immanuel Kant once said, “the senses do not err – not because they always judge rightly, but because they do not judge at all.” And the senses don’t judge between “dream” and “real”, and memory based on the senses wouldn’t differentiate between “dream” and “real”.

“How did you get here?”


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