"Please consider the pubescent/stoner question 'what if life is just a dream?' This question and questions of its kind have given people quite a bit of trouble. But, as I see it, there is a fundamental problem with it. It is, in fact, only the illusion of a question.
First, asking the question presupposes that the person being asked understands what is meant by dreaming and what is meant by 'life' that includes more than dreaming (that is, being awake). Then, the question suggests that these two things, which must be understood in order for the question to make sense, are the same thing. However, the only reason we have two concepts instead of one is that there are two different states which we distinguish from each other, namely being awake and being asleep. That's why we gave them two names. Like a magician's slight of hand, the question tries to fool us into using something we definitely know (that dreaming and being awake are different) to call that very knowledge into doubt.
What does this have to do with common sense? It shows that, in order to address the question “what if life is just a dream”, one must use common sense even though the question is trying to destroy common sense itself. This is true of everything human beings do in thought. Common sense (reason) is the only tool they have to think with. Even their attempts to undermine that tool have to use that tool to do it.
By the way, there is a sensible question like this that one might ask. One could ask, “what if there is a state of awareness which is to consciousness as consciousness is to dreaming?” That is a question that might be considered. But, that question does not equate dreaming and waking, it hypothesizes some third state while acknowledging the existence of the other two.
If we don't trust the tool we have to work with, we have no reliable means of learning anything, including learning that our tool is defective. So, education must be a matter of refining our ability to use the tools we have (common sense) if education is going to mean anything or do anything at all.
We should at least be willing to bet on common sense, because its the only bet we've got."
© 2015 John Hiner III