Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience

The Dream Present as a ‘Time Island’

Among those philosophers who accept the common sense view that our dreams involve conscious experiences, one central area of dispute turns on the question of whether it is appropriate to categorise our dream experiences as perceptual experiences that are akin to waking hallucinations. Many of those who deny this, propose instead that our dream experiences should, rather, be regarded as acts of imagination. An associated dispute turns on the question of whether we should regard dreaming and waking states as constitutively different. In this talk I shall be exploring how these debates can be illuminated by considering the following question: what, if anything, is peculiar about temporal awareness in dreams, in contrast with wakeful consciousness? In particular, I shall be considering the proposals that (a) as you dream, you cannot refer to your actual present as ‘now’. In that respect, when you dream, you are cut off from your actual present, i.e. the actual time at which you dream; and (b) when you dream, you do not have access to a temporal perspective on your actual past and your actual future.