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Empiricism and Descartes' Dream Situation

Nature volume 155, page 106 (27 January 1945) | Download Citation



THE problem of determining the status of empirical propositions continues to exercise the minds and engross the attention of philosophers more than any other philosophical problem. The easy solutions of the logical positivists are being slowly torn to pieces by the more leisurely consideration of philosophers who, while sympathetic towards the general attempt to distinguish among propositions between the empirical sheep and the metaphysical goats, are yet suspicious of the ways of doing it. The attempt to find an empirical content for all genuine propositions gives rise to a number of problems. In the seventeenth century, Descartes had expressed the view that as the senses sometimes deceive, they might do so always. Therefore he concluded that he might be dreaming, no matter how wide awake he seemed to himself to be. Can one maintain this position without self-contradiction?

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