The Epistemic Uncertainty

A Midsummer Night’s Dream inevitably embodies Theory of Knowledge’s aspects on falsehood and truthfulness. Shakespeare, using both his wit and wittiness, implicitly but cleverly conveys that whatever we think is true has its basis on context and culture; the beliefs that we believe originates from a particular point in space and time. Hence, this is a valuable source of knowledge framework that somewhat educates the audience on the value of empathy.

René Descartes is one of the key philosophers who distinguished the difference between what we think is true and what is true. “Start thought with doubt” is his key philosophy. He may be certain that our minds exist—since to doubt is to think, and in order for doubting or thinking to be possible, our minds need to exist in the first place—but the body may be nonexistent. This is logically possible, but it is logically impossible to prove nor disprove. Here, he pointed out that fantasy vs. reality is based on what we think is true.

As in the case with Lysander and Demetrius, they both may think that life is both a fantastical dream or an actual reality, based on the context of who they love (and who they hate). As Lysander remarks, “Half asleep, half waking. But as yet, I swear, I cannot truly say how I came here. But as I think—for truly would I speak, and now do I bethink me—so it is.” As Demetrius responds, “Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream.

How do they know? They are ignorant that the supernatural world exists, because their culture does not do black nor white magic, but because their context does reflect marriage tradition and rebellion. Lysander wakes up loving Hermia back, and Demetrius wakes up loving Helena still. Therefore, ironically, they both think that their realities were fantasies, despite the fact that in actuality, they were the opposite.

They are biased towards naturalism, and biased against naturalism. It follows that passion towards assumptions distort reason.

Hermia and Helena also fails in pursuit of truth; Hermia condemned Demetrius by speculating, “Oh once tell true even for my sake… Has thou killed him sleeping? O brave touch!” Additionally, Helena denounced Lysander by theorizing, “[You] love Hermia… and now mock Helena—a trim exploit, a manly enterprise.”

These assumptions are paradoxically logical and illogical, since the women irrationally ignores mystical evidences, but rationally accounts personal experiences (on how both men had loved or hated in the past, i.e. Lysander loving Hermia and Demetrius hating Helena).

Overall, Shakespeare encourages the audience, through wit and wittiness—an interactive and entertaining approach to Theory of Knowledge—to think on whether we should trust the self (our intellectual, emotional, and volitional faculties) or trust the unknown (evidences not known to us).