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Harris takes an elusive subject and writes about it with rigor and precision, reminding us of specificities, contexts, and changing attitudes through history. William V. His wide learning gives him the ability to see the important intellectual contributions made by some ancient theorists even as he goes against the grain of contemporary thought. This is classic Harris.

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With dreams, Harris has come into a world of mirrors and uncertainties, where traditional boundaries between truth and fantasy, reality and fiction, reportage and invention have all but disappeared. I cannot think of any other ancient historian who would have dared to undertake a book like this. Its undoubted success is due as much to the clear thinking and crisp exposition of the author as to the vast erudition that underlies it.

In Dreams and Experience in Classical Antiquity , William Harris takes on the whole culture of ancient dreaming with characteristic wit and erudition, against a background of modern scientific, psychological and psychoanalytical theories. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly.

Usually ships within 1 week. Overview From the Iliad to Aristophanes, from the gospel of Matthew to Augustine, Greek and Latin texts are constellated with descriptive images of dreams. About the Author William V.

Show More. They were also asked to estimate the passing of 10 seconds without counting see fig. LaBerge has concluded from his experiments that experience in dreams happens roughly at the same time as in waking life. This second experiment carried out by LaBerge further blunts the Dennettian objection from unconsciously uploading the task.

For, it seems to require agency rather than unconscious processing to negotiate how much time is passing before carrying out an action. There is still room for scepticism towards dreams being consciously experienced during sleep. For, the sceptic could bite the bullet and say that lucid dreams are a special, anomalous case that does not apply to ordinary dreaming. Indeed, there is evidence that different parts of the brain are accessed, or more strongly activated, during lucid dreaming pre-frontal brain regions, pre-cuneus and front polar regions.

It might be useful to look at one report of the memory of a lucid dream:. In a dangerous part of San Francisco, for some reason I start crawling on the sidewalk. I start to reflect: this is strange; why can't I walk? Can other people walk upright here? Is it just me who has to crawl?

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I see a man in a suit walking under the streetlight. Now my curiosity is replaced by fear. I think, crawling around like this may be interesting but it is not safe. This only happens in dreams. Finally, it dawns on me: I must be dreaming! Notice that this is not just the memory-report of a lucid dream. Rather, it is the memory-report of an ordinary dream turning into a lucid dream. The report demonstrates an epistemic transition within the dream.

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With this in mind, it is difficult to maintain that lucid dreams are anomalous, or that lucid dreams bring about conscious experience. For, there is a gradual process of realization. We might want to also thus accept that the preceding ordinary dream is conscious too because whenever individuals gain lucidity in their dreams, there is a prior process of gradual realization that is present in the dream report.

When an individual acquires lucidity in a dream, they are arguably already conscious but they begin to think more critically, as the above example demonstrates. Different parts of the brain are activated during lucidity, but these areas do not implicate consciousness. Rather, they are better correlated to the individual thinking more critically.

The gradual transition from ordinary dream to lucid dream can be more fully emphasized. It is possible to question oneself in a dream whilst failing to provide the right answer.

One might disbelieve that one is awake and ask another dream character to hit oneself, apparently feel pain and so conclude that one is awake. It is important here to highlight the existence of partial -lucid dreams in order to show that dreams often involve irrationality and that there are fine-grained transitions to the fuller lucidity of critical thinking in dreams. A lucid dream, unlike ordinary dreams, is defined strictly in terms of the advanced epistemic status of the dreamer — the individual is having a lucid dream if they are aware that he or she is dreaming Green, p.

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Lucid dreaming is defined in the weak sense as awareness that one is dreaming. Defined more strongly, lucid dreams involve controllability and a level of clarity akin to waking life. As stated, individuals can come close to realizing they are dreaming and miss out — they might dream about the nature of dreaming or lucid dreaming without realizing that they are currently in a dream themselves. Hence the norms of logical inference do not apply to ordinary dreams. In another dream an individual might intend to tell another person in real life, who is featured in the dream, something they have learned just as soon as they wake up.

The dream here involves awareness of the dream state without controllability over the dream for they still seem to be going along with the content as though it were real. There is another type of common, partial-lucid dream in which people wake up from a dream and are able to return to it upon sleeping and change the course of the dream. This type of dream seems to involve controllability without awareness — they treat it as real and do not treat it as an acknowledged dream but are able to have much more control over the content than usual.

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Lucid dreamers used in experimental settings are much more experienced and have lucid dreams in the strongest sense — they are aware they are dreaming and can maintain this awareness for a significant duration of time , have control over the content and have a level of clarity of thinking akin to waking life. If we can gain the same level of agency we have in waking life during lucid dreaming, then it might be the case that even ordinary dreams carry some, albeit reduced, form of agency.

We might want to believe this new claim if we accept that agency is not suddenly invoked during lucidity, but is rather enhanced. Work on communicative lucid dreaming might also open up the possibility to test further phenomenally distinguishing features between the two states via individuals communicating statements about these features.


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Dennett had cited an interesting type of dream report where the ending of the dream was strongly implied by the stimulus of awakening. For example: having a dream of getting married end with the sound of church bells ringing, which coincides with the sound of the alarm clock. Though they are remote from scientific investigation, the mere existence of the anecdotes at all caused trouble for the received view and requires explanation.

On the other hand, if there is enough evidence to claim that dreams are consciously experienced during sleep then the anecdotal data of dreams will not be a powerful enough counterexample; they will not warrant a paradigm shift in our thinking about dreams. The biggest challenge the anecdotes represent is that on occasion the memory can significantly deviate from the actual experience.

On this view, false memories overriding the actual content of the dream does occur, but these experiences are the exception rather than the rule. The existence of the anecdotes blocks one from drawing that conclusion. But these anecdotes can be explained on the received view. It is already known that the human species has specific bodily rhythms for sleep.

Further, there is a noted phenomenon that people wake up at the same time even when their alarm clocks are off. Dennett himself says that he had got out his old alarm clock that he had not used in months and set the alarm himself Dennett, p. If the subconscious can be credited with either creating a dream world on the received view or a dream memory on the Dennettian view and the personal body clock works with some degree of automaticity during sleep, one may well ask why the dream's anticipation and symbolic representation of this need be precognitive in a paranormal sense. Had Dennett woken up earlier, he may have lain in bed realizing that his alarm clock was going to go off, which is not considered an act of precognition.

Had he thought this during sleep, the received view would expect it to be covered symbolically via associative imagery.