Center for Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Studies

Dr. Daniel Gregory (Philosophy), Australian National University, Australia: Can You Have Memories During Dreams?


Sometimes, we dream about events which actually took place earlier in our lives. Are these memories? It seems like the answer should be ‘yes'. But it cannot be so simple. Suppose you imagine some event while you are awake, and it turns out that exactly what you imagine actually happened to you in the past, but you do not realise this. Is this a memory? There is some disagreement between philosophers, but it is possible that the answer is ‘no’. Some philosophers think dreaming is just imagining that takes place when you sleep. If you think that dreaming is just imagining while you sleep, and you think that merely imagining an event from your past (without realising it actually happened) is not really remembering, then it would be hard to say dreaming of a past event should count as a memory. Then again, maybe the matter is different if you realise, within the dream, that the event did happen in the past. In that case, perhaps it should count as a memory. But is just dreaming that you realise that the event happened in the past enough? Or do you have to actually realise this? After all, maybe just dreaming that you know something does not amount to actually knowing it. In this talk, I will try to answer the question, ‘Can you have memories during dreams?’ Hesitantly, tentatively, reluctantly, I will say the answer is 'no’.



Daniel Gregory studied philosophy and law at the University of Sydney, before working as a lawyer for two years. He then did a PhD in the philosophy of mind at the Australian National University. He completed a Swiss Government Excellence Postdoctoral Scholarship at the University of Fribourg before being awarded a Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship. His interests are dreaming, the inner voice, and issues at the intersection of philosophy of mind and the law.