In his celebrated “Dream Argument,” Descartes maintained that we should not trust any test that purports to distinguish dreaming from waking states. For any test you can think of, Descartes argued, you can never know whether you actually performed the test (and so have in hand useful test results) or whether you merely dreamed that you performed it (and so do not have any test results — the test never took place because you merely dreamed that you performed it!).
Your assignment this week is to apply Descartes’ argumentation to the “pinch test,” according to which if you pinch yourself hard right now and feel a sharp stab of pain then you know that you are awake. Please be sure that your essay addresses the following:
- What would what would Descartes conclude about the reliability of the pinch test?
- Exactly why would he conclude this?
- Do you agree with Descartes’ reasoning and conclusion? Why or why not?
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