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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Aristotelian Doctrine on Dreams

Regarding the divinations which are closely related to dreams, Aristotle suggests that neither the belief in these nor their rejection is an easy task, for substantial and positive reasons. The doctrine that dreams are God’s mandates is overruled, because these are not only forseen by wise men, but also by the simple and the uneducated. The fact that some dreams come true is a matter of coincidence, although certain movements during the sleep result in certain options of awareness. It has been observed that some acts during the day are repeated in the dreams during the night. About the nature of chance, Aristotle believes that actions due to be performed cannot be realized as expected, because of the interference of various reasons. In fact, dreams are not conceivable by the senses, the opinions or discursive reason, but only by the imaginative power. For imagination, as an exclusively performative power, deserves in itself images and forms of daily life, which it continues to keep, in order to contribute to their recognition during sleep and also to their expression through mental actions. The sense-datum is recorded in perception, even when the object which has been grasped by the senses cannot be observed. Thus, the senses are easily deceived, if the object is conceived through a strong feeling. For this reason he who is fearful believes that his enemies are ante portas. Water and dreams reflect reality alike: if the water is moved suddenly, the image of the object is broken to pieces and cannot be distinguished. Also in dreams, if the internal feeling is too strong, the vision is shattered and takes an unnatural form. Aristotle and Hippocrates consider the subjective mood and inner life of the dreaming person as extremely important, rejecting the view of the objectivity of dreams as fallacious.