In “Certainty,” G.E. Moore addresses our perception of reality. Moore addresses the skeptics argument that “I do not know that I am not now dreaming.” Moore’s conclusion to this argument is that “I really cannot now know for certain that I am not dreaming.” (363) Later in the paper, Moore aims to discuss sensory experiences and dreams. This is what I will be focusing on in this post.
Moore admits that a premise is true: “Some at least of the sensory experiences which you are having now are similar in important respects to dream-images which actually have occurred in dreams.” (363) From this premise, we reach the conclusion that if we admit this to be true, we must then have the ability to know that dreams have occurred. If we know that dreams have occurred, then can we also claim to know that we are not in a dream right now? I agree with Moore by saying we cannot. If we claim the first fact is true (that we can experience sensory experiences within a dream and “outside” of a dream), and can admit to knowing a dream occurred, we have an inconsistency in our argument. We cannot claim that we know we are “awake” if we could still be in a dream holding normal sensory experiences. What if we are dreaming inside a dream?
To support this argument, I would like to provide you with an example: Imagine you are dreaming of eating cotton candy. You have the sensory experience of the taste of cotton candy in your mouth, the smell and sticky consistency of the candy. You also could see yourself holding the cotton candy in your dream. After you wake up, you realize that you have been dreaming. If you can admit to having the sensory experience and to having the dream itself, then, how can you say that you are not in a dream at this very instant and you simply have not woken up yet? You cannot. If we are not aware of our dreams while they are occurring, then we could be in a dream our entire life and never truly “know” if we are dreaming or not.
I would like to create another example for better understanding this argument. In a computer, we can open up the Internet. Within the Internet, we can open up tabs, pages and windows from one (what I am calling) “mother page”—the page that we start out by opening first. This is similar to an ancestor simulation within an ancestor simulation from Bostrum’s argument or a dream within a dream from Moore’s argument. As we keep clicking links from other links and tabs, we dig a deeper tunnel as to where the pages started (imagining that each link is a new dream of the mother page.) The page (assuming it has consciousness in this scenario) only knows of its current state. If it “woke up” from its current reality, only then would it be aware that it was “dreaming.” This is similar to the dream scenario that Moore presents. In a dream, we only know of our current reality, not that we could be in a dream. We can only know if we are dreaming if we wake up and realize it.
Lastly, I would like to leave with you a question: Do you believe we are in a dream, and will we ever know? Please view the link attached at the bottom of the page. It is a video that lends some more information about the idea from popular TV shows/movies/interviews.