Which world is ours? (thought experiment)

Imagine another world different from this one. There are all the same familiar objects there – people, trees, houses, airplanes, etc. – but there are fewer ‘rules’ governing how things work. Gravity works on things sometimes, but sometimes not, so occasionally people find themselves flying. Objects can morph into one another for no apparent reason, so sometimes someone will be talking with their friend, and then the friend will turn into a pirate ship, or maybe their mother. Also, objects and characters that we consider fictitious or remote are much more likely to pop up in this world, so Abe Lincoln or Dracula might just drop by from time to time. Other than that, things go along pretty well though. People live out their lives, engaged in strings of constantly morphing events that vary in the degree of their sensibility and coherence. Some days are totally senseless, others make perfect sense. They’re used to it though, and so react to these oddities as if they were perfectly normal, and apart from their world being prone to chaos, the people are fairly normal, conscious beings like us, with just two exceptions: 1. they sleep a lot more – like sixteen hours a day, and 2. whereas our minds, when dreaming, unleash themselves from the rules of order, coherence, and normalcy, these peoples minds impose coherence, order, and rules so that their dream states are simple, orderly, and often boring in their plots – they make coffee and read the paper, clean house, or work a boring day job in them.

By now it might have sunk in. The above world is just a description of our own experience of the world from a different perspective – our dreams. In the above world, our dreams are taken to be the “reality” and our reality the dreamd. Corny no? But here are the questions that I think make it interesting : 1. What sort of evidence could you possibly have to verify which of these two worlds you live in? 2. Is there any actual difference between this imaginary world and ours? Or does the difference between them lie merely in the description of them – that is, are they different only in the language we use to talk about them? 3. Think: if you met someone and they started describing their lives in terms of the above world, how would you react to them? Imagine someone telling you they’re dreaming now, and expect to wake up in several hours to live briefly in reality, where who knows what might happen. Are they insane? Foucault talks about insanity being a socially constructed category that’s often used to exert power over and marginalize people. With little evidence for one of these worlds being the ‘real’ world, are we justified in exerting any sort of force over this person (say to force him into therapy or something) via this label, insanity?


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