Author: Peter Virant Publisher: The Neural Surfer Publication date: 1996
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'DREAM' by Peter Virant **[In response to the anti-Skeptic argument of "How could one come up with the idea of a 'waking' experience if all one has had is a 'dreaming' experience."]** When one speaks of an "out of body" experience, it is often assumed by the speaker, that though the listeners may not be personally familiar with this "experience," or believe that this experience is not distinct or separate from a "natural" experience, they know enough about the subject in general to understand the concept. If, however, I were one of the listeners and were ignorant as to this subject, I would imagine that there are quite a number of resources available that would provide me, or any other skeptic (used here, not in the same sense as the philosophical approach bearing the same name), with significant amounts of information and accounts of the "supernatural" occurrences to which the speaker, mentioned above, refers so as to furnish me with an understanding of the concept. But the mere fact that a, as of yet, *supposed* phenomenon (namely, the "out of body" experience) has a denoting term, does not in and of itself make that phenomenon a "reality." Similarly, in relation to the issue of "dreaming" and "waking," though there exists a term, waking, to denote an experience, it does not follow that this experience actually exists. It is conceivable, in fact likely, that what one would consider a "waking" experience, another would consider a manifestation of the dreaming experience. Surely I have the intellectual capacity for the abstract, an abstract that allows me to draw distinctions between "out of body" or "supernatural" and "natural." I can, through no experience of my own, understand, to some degree, the notion of a "supernatural" occurrence without having actually been witness to it myself. I can even study enough about the topic of the supernatural to know what kinds of experiences and/or sensations are associated with it. However, my understanding of a concept does not make the claims of that concept true. Identically, my understanding of the that which is called "supernatural," does not prove the supernatural's existence. It is in much the same way that Stroud addresses the waking vs dreaming experiences. By way of the plane spotters analogy, he suggests that though there are both those who are careful and careless in reaching the conclusion regarding a plane's identity, and though the careful spotters exercise more caution and deliberation before making a determination as to the type of plane they are viewing, both spotters, whether due to ignorance or irresponsibility, never KNOW that the plane in question is an F plane because the alternative that it is a G plane has not and in fact, based on the limits of their knowledge, can not be ruled out. It is quite possible that the experiences the critics of the Skeptics label as waking are simply an example of a dream experience and that the recognition that this experience is distinct in some way, thus giving rise to the term "waking" itself, does not make lame the alternative that the Skeptics would suggest. Again, as in the plane spotter's analogy, there are two different terms and situations (namely "I know that is an F plane" and "I do not know that is an F plane"); but, to quote Stroud, "the difference drawn between those two sorts of situations within that practice was not the difference between knowing and not knowing. Even...what the careful spotter said was false; 'He knows it is an F' is never true under the conditions described." To know that there exists a waking experience simply because one has come up with such a concept, is to not know at all. A designation alone, does not provide evidence or verification for the existence of something. We designate, classify and categorize based on distinctions we perceive to be true or existent and yet these distinctions are based on a *model* of reality rather than the reality itself. The plane spotters determine identity based on their model; a model that we, in our detached position, know to be incomplete; a model that is representational of a (limited) reality and not the reality itself. Suppose, for instance, the "out-of-body" proponent I mentioned earlier were to attribute his experiences to something supernatural or superconscious and were to say, in justification of his belief, "I know there exists an 'out-of-body' experience based on the fact that there is just such a designation." And suppose, he has experienced this phenomenon personally so that he can not only rest his position on his general awareness of the term, but on his first hand involvement with it as well. Now let's suppose that I, an expert in the field of neuro- science and brain/body interaction (remember, this is purely hypothetical!), were to sit down and address the experiences the speaker cited as "out-of-body" and were to provide charts, graphs, laboratory reports and "spiking" neuron schematics that gave instructions as to how (through the reproduction of spiking frequencies in the brain) these supernatural experiences could be duplicated. I could, with a fair amount of success, provide evidence that counters and refutes the claims of the "supernaturalist" by offering a viable and perhaps more believable explanation for his "out-of-body" experience than the explanations he offered himself. This is how one might approach the issue of the existence of a waking experience. By applying one such method, the argument used in support of the waking experience (based solely on the existence of corresponding terminology) can be found greatly lacking in areas of its logical conclusions. It is in this way that the critics of the Skeptical approach, armed with the tactics discussed, can be silenced. I do not know that there is a clear difference between the plane spotter's analogy and the case of dreaming vs. waking, however I would not be so bold as to suggest that such a difference does not exist. Merely, I would submit that the premises and foundations for the anti-Skeptic's approach, are incomplete and/or misdirected. While there may be tactics that do counter the posits of the Skeptic, I do not know that I would consider the "because I can come up with the idea of a waking experience" one of them. --P.V. June 1996
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