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Aristotle on Sleep and Dreams

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Aristotle on Sleep and Dreams

Michael Alexander

Philosophy 1301

T - TH 11:30 - 12:50

Alexander 1

Aristotle's philosophy covered a broad range of topics including the existence of God, politics, and ethics. These subjects in particular, sleep and dreams, were less glorified than others yet critical topics Aristotle proceeded to explain. Aristotle discusses dreams and sleeping in three treatises: On Sleep and Dreams, On Sleeping and Waking, and On Divination through Sleep. His concepts of mind and imagination explain his ideas about dreaming.

Aristotle states that any one that is awake is conscious and is aware of external and internal stimulus and that the state of being awake or asleep is attributed to both the body and the soul. He explains that if sleeping is due to excess of waking and vice versa, then every being capable of waking is capable of sleeping since it cannot always be awake or asleep and neither of these are permanent states. He goes on to say that certain organisms, such as plants, are not capable of sleeping, waking, or dreaming because they lack a perceptive aspect (Hett, p.323). Aristotle states that while every sense has a particular function, there is a "common sense" that every sense is associated with and that sleep is only capable through the sensitive faculty and that which sleeps must possess this sensitive faculty. He adds that sleep is the immobilization of these sensitive faculties that give us sensation. Given, if one is asleep, it is impossible for them to access these senses and is incapable of sensation. Aristotle concludes that sleep is logically necessary due to excess in waking (Hett, p.327). The lack of sense perception Aristotle explains is present during sleep

Alexander 2

helps to give a better understanding on where dreams come into play when sleeping.

When it comes to dreams, Aristotle argues that the employment of the auditory faculty is hearing and the visual faculty is seeing, and generally, that of sensitive faculties is perceiving. Also, if the eyes are closed when we are asleep, we have no perception during sleep. He states that it is not by sense perception that we see our dreams and that dreaming is neither perception nor opinion. Although some form of perception is necessary and is closely connected to the imagination (Hett, p.353). He also explains that when we are awake we are able to tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined, but while we are dreaming we cannot. This is what gives dreams the extreme sense of reality and the feeling and vividness that what we are experiencing in our dreams is real.

Much like the body and soul, the imagination is the same as the sensitive faculty although they are both different



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