Pyrrho Versus Bill Nye the Science Guy

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12850

Do you ever wish life were just a big dream and you'll some day wake up and everything will be fine? How do you know it's not a dream, or know that you don't know it's a dream or not? Better read on!


World Cultures

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


What is one thing you know one-hundred percent for sure? Maybe your brain is in a laboratory vat and the world you know is a computer-generated fantasy. Whoa! Freak me out!

The great seventeenth-century thinker Rene Descartes (pronounced /day cart/) was bothered by something: He imagined that maybe the world was an illusion created by a demon, just to deceive him.

He felt like the world around him was real, like there were objects and people, events and feelings.

  • How could he be one-hundred percent sure about any of them, though?
  • How could he prove without any doubt that anything really existed?

Surely, we all notice times when our senses deceive us. Take a moment and make a list of experiences in which our mind plays tricks on us.

  • How many can you come up with?

It turns out the list of illusions is pretty long.

  • Dreams are a big example, and we have all experienced dreams that we were completely convinced were real. Sometimes, even after waking, it takes a few moments to accept that we were fooled by our sleeping mind.
  • The “colors” we see are only a tiny portion of the full range of the full spectrum of light, and not everyone perceives these colors to be the same.
  • In social situations, we can imagine a friend to be hostile or angry towards us, but it turns out to be completely untrue.
  • Then there is the old spoon-in-a-glass-of-water illusion in which the spoon appears to be split in two.

Here is a question to reflect upon; write your response in your notebook or journal:

  • How can you prove, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that you are not dreaming right now?

That is a tough question — and you may think a silly one — but it's one many philosophers have struggled with over the centuries.

In the Got It? section, discover an answer to that question that you can believe one-hundred percent without any doubt whatsoever.

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