What is the dream argument? What role does it play for Descartes?


In this paper, you must (a) explain (briefly, no more than 250 words) what Descartes’ general foundationalist project is (making Descartes’ conception of knowledge explicit), (b) what role does the dream argument play in the project, (c) explain the dream argument, making sure that you explain (d) that we cannot always tell that we are dreaming. (e) What is the conclusion of the dream argument?


Descartes is one of the fathers of the modern foundationalism. The philosopher has sought to show that knowledge is not based on senses, but on strong foundation devoid of scepticism. His aim is to show that foundations are contained in the mind and not in one’s senses as was postulated by the philosophers before him. Foundationalism is all about stating that the senses cannot be relied on to learn new things because they are full of scepticism. He compares the information obtained from the senses with the knowledge of geometry. Descartes argues that geometry provides clear, true and distinct information, while the information obtained by the senses is incoherent, unclear as well as vague (Descartes 16). On this basis, Descartes embarks on a project to find clear and distinct truth as the unquestionable foundation of knowledge. To achieve this, he has to question every belief in the society until he can come up with a clear and distinct truth which can be regarded as the indubitable foundation of the belief at hand. Through this process, Descartes shows that knowledge based on the senses can be doubted after one is exposed to some external factors. His aim is to free his followers from sensory influences, while analyzing certain aspects in the society. The dream argument is important to help him explain his findings.