Philosophy�Pain - Trevor Halle Phil 101 Assignment...

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Trevor Halle Phil 101 Assignment #1 Eklund, M. Pain: A Touch, A Thought, and A Place As hard as we might try to avoid it, pain is one of the most common feelings that humans feel, fortunately just behind some of the more positive feelings that we experience. When asked to define pain, though, most people would come up with unique answers. The truth is that pain means different things to different people. Even so, we will try to develop a universal definition that is at least applicable on some level to everybody. To begin, we will define pain strictly biologically: a nerve is triggered and sends specific chemical signals to the brain to be interpreted as pain. Most with some anatomical understanding would agree that this definition is, although simplified, true. So we propose this definition as a place to begin: (1) Pain is the activity of nerve cells and specific chemical reactions in the brain. Right away, though, this definition is insufficient as it fails to account for other feelings that are the result of “nerve cells and specific chemical reactions in the brain,” such as pleasure, which could come from tickling or sexual contact. The converse of statement (1) cannot hold as written. From these assertions, we clarify our definition of pain to specify discomfort felt from these reactions: (2) Pain is the activity of nerve cells and specific chemical reactions in the brain that cause one to feel discomfort. Even with this revision, the definition lacks the desired specificity. What about the discomfort felt after being tickled for a long time? It is most definitely uncomfortable, but most would be hesitant to call this feeling pain. The discomfort felt from this kind of activity, though, is throughout the body, not necessarily in the specific spot where the nerves are being stimulated. Therefore, we must again add some specification: (3) Pain is the activity of nerve cells and specific chemical reactions in the brain that cause one to feel discomfort in the specific part of the body where the nerve cells are stimulated. But what of this word “discomfort,” for some would argue that it is still not the same as pain? One can have a limb fall asleep, or wish that a piece of furniture had a few more cushions, but is he experiencing pain? It seems then, that pain lies in some deeper form of discomfort. It brings the definition of pain to a point of interpretation: even though hardly anyone would say that the discomfort from sitting in a hard chair is as “painful” as, say, breaking an arm, I would argue that it is still pain. Imagine, for a minute, an achy muscle, envision that pain as a sphere, and then mentally shrink that sphere until it is almost nonexistent. As the sphere shrinks, so does the pain, until it is just barely detectable. It is from this barely detectable pain that discomfort stems, causing us
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to fidget in that chair or cringe at the sleeping limb. Therefore, although it is not what
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This note was uploaded on 03/30/2008 for the course PHIL 1101 taught by Professor Weatherson,b during the Spring '06 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Philosophy�Pain - Trevor Halle Phil 101 Assignment...

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