Philosophy of the Arts


Dreaming one’s future

…Dreams have psychological reality, but not by intentional design…

Dreams have psychological reality, but not like our behaviour has, not by intentional design. If dreams can be characterised as a neuronal storm in our brains, then what comes along during those storms will be remnant of previous events, or rather: it will cause the mind to “think” of elements and aspects of events from one’s own history of experiences. This allows philosophers to distinguish dreams from perceptions (pace Descartes) and, at the same time, to disengage from the point of view that we are consciously aware of our dreams, which, one can argue, we are not, as Wittgenstein, McFee and Malcolm argue.
So they have psychological reality, i.e. they belong to the person having the dreams. But only the person himself can make out where his own personal history of experiences comes in. Freud’s analysis of dreams corroborates this view (should be: I corroborate Freud’s views).

…Dreams predict one’s future, but not by saying what it shall be like…

What we dream feels very much as if it is ours only—and I argued above: it is. And if it is an unpleasant dream, the unpleasantness has something to do with events belonging to our psychological reality (see above). So if a dream strikes us with fear this fear concerns something that belongs to our psyche. But fears are future-directed. We fear things that come towards us. Hence, frightening dreams (and not just the frightening ones—there will be other kinds, too) install a fear in us which concerns what would be fearful in the future. We get ready to experience such fearful events. And this makes us attentive to such events, where perhaps without the dreamed warning we might have missed the opportunity. Dreams can be self-fulfilling, and in that measure only can they be taken to predict one’s future.


— Antrobus, John S. 2000. “How Does the Dreaming Brain Explain the Dreaming Mind?” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23:904–907.
— Gallagher, Neil A. 1976. “A Plea to Stop Dreaming About Dreaming.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 36:423–424.
— Malcolm, Norman. 1959. Dreaming. New York: Humanities Press.
— McFee, Graham. 1993. “The Surface Grammar of Dreaming.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 4:95–115.

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