Wilhelm Dilthey -or- The School of Athens

Academic Instincts -or- The Hermeneutics of the Dream

Marjorie Garber Academic Instincts tells us that in 1903 Wilhelm Dilthey delivered a lecture called "The Dream", in which he reported having a philosophical dream vision.

After an evening of conversation at a ‘friend's castle' Dilthey retired to his room. In the room was "an etching" of Raphael's School of Athens. Falling asleep, "he dreamt that the figures of the philosophers came to life. Not only did they come to life, they divided into three camps: on the right of the picture the materialists or the positivists, grouped around Archimedes and Ptolemy, who were joined by modern figures like Descartes and Leibniz; in the centre stood Socrates and Plato, the idealist of freedom, joined by Kant, Schiller, Fichte, Carlyle, and ultimately by Descartes who ‘separat(es) himself from the mathematical naturalists'; and on the left of the picture were Pythagoras and Heraclitus, the ‘objective idealists' including the moderns Schelling and Hegel (‘walking hand in hand as in the days of their youth') and, surrounded by his fictional creations, Goethe.

In the dream Dilthey was attracted to all three groups, he understood that each philosophical group was ‘true', but ‘onesided.' Dilthey ‘strove for the unity of thought' and in this hermeneutic struggle he awoke while attempting to reconcile the differing perspectives (World Views).

For Garber the dream represents an "interdisciplinary moment in which everything in intellectual life is in the process of being discussed, negotiated and remade-where the artist is present to watch and participate." In this sense, Garber sees the dream representing the ‘Great Conversation.' Dilthey interpreting his own dream said; "It seems to me, that the time is past when there can be an independent philosophy of art, religion, law, or of the state." It is in this hermeneutic sense and enterprise that the IIDR has used the medical humanities (read interpretation) as a vehicle to research and understand the human condition artistically represented in our dreams.


All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.