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Stewart, D. (2004). Dreaming: From Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1792). Am. Imago, 61(3):305-317.

(2004). American Imago, 61(3):305-317

Dreaming: From Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1792)

Dugald Stewart

The powers dependent on volition suspended during sleep. From a consideration of these facts, it seems reasonable to conclude that in sleep those operations of the mind are suspended which depend on our volition; for if it be certain that before we fall asleep we must withhold, as much as we are able, the exercise of all our different powers, it is scarcely to be imagined that, as soon as sleep commences, these powers should again begin to be exerted. The more probable conclusion is that when we are desirous to procure sleep, we bring both mind and body, as nearly as we can, into that state in which they are to continue after sleep commences. The difference, therefore, between the state of the mind when we are inviting sleep, and when we are actually asleep, is this-that in the former case, although its active exertions be suspended, we can renew them, if we please. In the other case, the will loses its influence over all our powers, both of mind and body; in consequence of some physical alteration in the system, which we shall never, probably, be able to explain.

In order to illustrate this conclusion a little further, it may be proper to remark that if the suspension of our voluntary operations in sleep be admitted as a fact, there are only two suppositions which can be formed concerning its cause. The one is that the power of volition is suspended; the other, that the will loses its influence over those faculties of the mind, and those members of the body, which, during our waking hours, are subjected to its authority. If it can be shown, then, that the former supposition is not agreeable to fact, the truth of the latter seems to follow as a necessary consequence.

1. Volition itself not suspended during sleep.

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