Are we only dreaming?

The Year 7 Scholars began their first exploration into the world of philosophy this week. Examining the proposition that we may all be existing in a dream and that what we consider reality is an illusion, the students came up with an array of tests that might be deployed to test this proposition.

There was much interesting discussion about the nature of dreams , the extent to which they are driven by underlying hopes or fears, or perhaps replaying of recent events. One student talked knowledgeably about lucid dreams and the experience of being aware of being in a dream was quite a common one.

Of course the idea about what constitutes reality is a very important one in philosophy but is also very much to the fore because of the current popularity of consciousness studies and the growth of Artificial Intelligence. Theories of a multiverse have been around for a long time but have been more prominent since the development of quantum mechanics and the “many worlds” interpretation. One of the leading contemporary philosophers David Chalmers has recently published a book called Reality + which centres on the idea of virtual reality being a genuine reality. He also writes “we can never prove we’re not in a computer simulation because any evidence of ordinary reality could be simulated.”

The students are fortunate therefore to be debating an ancient philosophical problem which has been given a very contemporary context.