Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, November 23, 2015

Aimee Wilson Section 12 First Post on Sleep

Why do we sleep? In my three posts I will be discussing several philosophical ideas that attempt to answer this question. Below are links to videos that discuss the neuroscience of sleep and different modern theories as to why we sleep to get an overview of this topic.

My first post will be on René Descartes thoughts on sleep. Some people believe that when one sleeps the mind takes an “existential pause” meaning the mind is temporarily destroyed while asleep and is brought back into existence upon waking up (Hill). Descartes disregards this theory using his doctrine of substance. He believed the mind to be a substance which is anything that can exist independently of activities done by any other thing (Hill). If the existential pause where true than that would mean that the existence of the mind would rely on activities of others, therefore it would not be a substance. If the mind is in existence and conscious during deep, dreamless sleep then why doesn’t one remember the thoughts that he or she had during this period? His response to this question was:
“So long as the mind is joined to the body, then in order for it to remember thoughts which it had in the past, it is necessary for some traces of them to be imprinted on the brain; it is by turning to these […] that the mind remembers. So is it really surprising if he brain of […] a man in a deep sleep, is unsuited to receive these traces?” (CSM II 247;   AT VII 357)
What I interpreted from this answer is that the brain is unable to “lay down” new memories, thus upon waking the brain has nothing to remember because nothing was stored. Descartes went even further saying that the reason no new memories can be formed is because the soul “withdraws” from the body (Hill). This means that the thoughts never even enter the brain. This brings up the question of what are the brain and the mind and are they one thing or separate, which is a good place to stop. In the next post I will be discussing a different philosophers ideas on sleep.


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