Friday, March 09, 2007

Pain.

According to this, there is a gene such that, if it is (in effect) "turned off", the individual in question does not feel pain. I wonder about this, on a number of grounds. First, is everyone's experience of pain dependent on this gene? Or are there variations on this score? Second, is this really inhibiting the experience of pain or the report of pain? Or maybe the awareness of pain? (Does it even make sense to say there is an experience of pain which I am not aware of? Well, if I am unconscious, certainly my body can respond to painful stimuli. Does that count?) And, third, does this work for all kinds of pain? Or just particular sorts of physical pain?

I don't claim to have answers to any of these questions. I know there's a growing philosophical interest in pain, though, and it seems to me that the central sorts of questions are left entirely untouched by this sort of result. (Unless your last name is Churchland, I suppose.)

2 comments:

Paladiea said...

"(Does it even make sense to say there is an experience of pain which I am not aware of? Well, if I am unconscious, certainly my body can respond to painful stimuli. Does that count?)"

It makes perfect sense. Everytime you look at yourself and notice a cut and go "hmmm how did that get there?" you're looking at an example of ignored pain.

ADHR said...

That's an ignored injury, certainly. But not all injuries cause pain. So, overlooking an injury doesn't quite count. This is why I was trying to think of examples of unconscious reaction: if there's a reaction of the body, even if the mind is unconscious, then there's some basis to say the pain systems have been triggered, and thus there is an experience of pain. I'm not sure, though, that the sense of "experience of pain" is right. There's something neurochemical going on, sure, but is that pain?