Tuesday, June 17, 2008

the lecture of my dreams

That was really weird.

I'll be lecturing on personal identity this afternoon. I've taught this material twice before, although it's been about a year since the last time. So the prep consists basically of straining to remember how I presented it before (since most of my lecture notes were lost in the Great Harddrive Failure of 2007). As I fell sleep last night, I had started to think about this...

So in my last dream of the night, I was walking into the lecture hall. This itself is odd, since the class only has 10 students. But in my dream, there were now several hundred people in a two-tiered lecture hall. And apparently I hadn't done any preparation. So I had to give the lecture off the top of my head.

This is where it just gets fascinating. I actually did a half-decent job for awhile. I was genuinely giving this lecture, in my dreams. But all of a sudden I could not remember some technical terms ('numerical identity' was one) and I could actually feel myself mentally straining to recover the words. Even odder, I announced the name of some important Principle, but then couldn't remember what it actually says. (It had something to do with Parfit. But now I can't remember what the name was, and I suspect it doesn't actually exist.) Gradually the focus of the dream narrowed from the giant lecture hall to a sheet of paper on the lectern, where I repeatedly tried and failed to write down the forgotten concepts.

Then the cats woke me up, demanding breakfast. Immediately upon waking, I thought numerical identity! and a few other answers. Very quickly, a rough sketch of the lecture structure popped into my mind.

I find this incredibly interesting. I think I actually got to watch my brain recover explicit memories!