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Example research essay topic: Feet Tall First Premise - 978 words

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Question # 1 - Evaluate the following argument for validity and soundness: 1. There are no sure signs by means of which my being awake can be distinguished from my dreaming. 2. If there are no such signs, then I don t know that I m not dreaming. 3. So, I don t know that I m not dreaming.

To check the argument for validity it must be made sure that the first two premises reasonably lead to the conclusion that I don t know that I m not dreaming. We are not dealing with whether the three statements are true but merely whether they follow the simple equation: 1. P 2. If P then Q 3. Q This argument is a very straightforward case of a valid contention because all of the statements are consistent with each other and the statements are undoubtedly in accordance with the preceding equation. Next the argument must be checked for soundness.

To do this it must be determined that the first two premises are true independent of the conclusion. If the conclusion is needed to argue a premise then we are arguing in a circle and the argument is not sound. If any of the premises are untrue then the argument is equally unsound. I will begin by evaluating the second premise first. If there are no sure signs by means of which my being awake can be distinguished from my dreaming, then I don t know that I m not dreaming. This does not require much defense.

If there are no such signs then there are no internal or external means to prove that I am not dreaming, so I can not be sure that I m not dreaming. This is a sound premise. The first premise can not be proven with the same ease. There are no sure signs by means of which my being awake can be distinguished from my dreaming.

I will begin by debating the truth of this claim. There are, in fact, several signs by which being awake can be separated from dreaming. For simplicity s sake I will stick to the most calculable such as elevated blood pressure and heart rate and increased brain activity. These facts prove the first premise to be untrue and therefore unsound. I will next concede to the idea that these facts do not prove the first premise unsound. For example, if these signs were merely products of our dream then they would not be sure signs.

However if we argue that these signs are not concrete because we are dreaming them, then we are using the conclusion to prove the premise. We cannot prove that the signs are untrue unless we argue in a circle. As a result, the first premise is unsound either by virtue of the fact that it is untrue, or because it can only be proved by arguing in a circle. Question To dream something is not for that something to be real. Let us take reality to be what occurs in the waking state and dream-induced to be what our mind projects while we are dreaming. If, in her dream, someone were walking on the moon, it would not mean that she was really walking on the moon.

In the same way if, in a dream, someone believed she could fly, it would not mean that she really believed that she could fly. From this we can see that dreaming a belief is no different from dreaming an action. This premise holds true for all things that the dreamer might believe or appear to experience. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (b. Vienna 1889, d. Cambridge, England 1951) writes: Someone who, dreaming, says, I am dreaming even if he speaks audibly in doing so, is no more right than if he said in his dream it is raining, while in fact it was raining. [On Certainty, s. 676 ]Wittgenstein makes a valid point here.

If someone dreams that it is raining, it does not make it an actual occurrence. He dreams of rain while in reality it may be sunny, raining, snowing or hailing. He has no real knowledge of what is occurring; he only knows what is dream-induced. It is possible that while he dreams of rain it simultaneously begins to really rain, however, the dreamer has no awareness of the real rain, only the rain in his dream. In a dream someone may say, I am five feet tall. Having this statement spoken in a dream, or even muttered aloud, does not make it true.

He may be five, or he may be six feet tall, but he is only aware of his dream-induced five-foot stature. His knowledge is not real, whether or not it is accurate. In the same way, if he were to say, I m dreaming his knowledge of that fact, while accurate, would not be real. When Wittgenstein says that the dreamer is not right when she says, It s raining he means that her awareness of the rain is not real. Even if she is dreaming something similar to actual conditions she does not know what the actual conditions are. Wittgenstein never denies that the sentence the dreamer utters may be true, nevertheless, the dreamer doesn t know the truth.

It follows from this premise that no one truly believes that he is dreaming, when he is in fact doing so. The reason for it is as follows: If a person is dreaming they can not have any true beliefs because anything they believe is merely their dream s projection. Whether they believe they are walking on the moon, or they believe it s raining, or they believe they are dreaming is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that they are dreaming which means they are having beliefs that are no more real that the dreams themselves.

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