Many people think that dreaming has not much to do with reality. Sometimes people are classified as dreamers or as realists, implying that the former do not have an eye for reality, while the later have their feet firmly on the ground. Maybe there is some truth in it and I do not want to say that all dreamers are actually realists in disguise, but when I think of Martin Luther King Jr. (“I have a dream”) or Bertha von Suttner, the peace activist who dreamt of an International Court of Justice, I guess that dreamers are often as realistic as so-called realists are. For isn’t Barrack Obama in a certain sense the fulfillment of King’s dream and don’t we have several international courts of justice today? Sometimes I think that dreamers have a better eye for reality than realists have.
This idea was sustained when I started to read Thomas Metzinger’s Being no one. The self-model theory of subjectivity. It is a thick work about self and the first person view, about personal experience and consciousness. I still have a long way to go in it, but somewhere in the beginning Metzinger describes how we see the world, namely how we make a representation of what is around us. I know that the analogy is not completely correct, but let me explain it in my own words in photographic terms. If we want to make a photo, we can choose a black-and-white film or a colour film, for instance. We can also use filters on our lens in order to accentuate certain aspects in our picture or to bring about a certain effect and make the picture more dramatic, or softer, or just what we like. Usually we call only the plain colour picture real. This does not mean that we can call the colour picture “better”. For instance, a photo in black-and-white can show drama that a photo in colour cannot do and in this way it can impress us more than the same picture in colour. But we can value the worth of the black-and-white photos or the effect of a filter only if we know how the representation “really” is and then we take the colour picture as a measurement.
Continuing my photographic analogy of Metzinger, so it is also with our dreams and our view of reality. Our camera makes a picture of the world. The standard picture of this is the one in colour. Its function for us “consists in depicting the state of affairs in the real world with a sufficient degree of … precision” (p. 53; italics Metzinger). Only if we have such a basic idea of how the world looks like in our mind (the colour picture), we can accentuate its dramatic aspects (making the colour photo black-and-white), making it romantic (using a soft focus filter) or even change the photo with Photoshop in order to show how to situation on the photo actually should be (replacing houses by trees in a landscape, for instance, when we want to have more nature there). That is, we can express our dreams by changing the plain picture in one how we would like to have it. However, we can do that only if we do have a plain picture, namely the idea of how reality is like. Or, in Metzinger's wording, “Only those who can see can also dream” (p. 54). If we take it this way, I wonder whether dreamers do not have a better view on reality than so-called realists. For while realists take the reality as it is and simply try to live with it, those who have dreams do not only know reality is but they know also some of its weak points. And just that’s what they want to have changed in their dreams.